Chamomile

Chamaemelum nobile, Anthemis nobilis

Chamomile has been used for centuries, (maybe even longer) as a refreshing tea that will calm the nerves and stomach. It is one of the safest plants to use when dealing with normal childhood complaints like teething and colic. While it is not the best to use with a colicky baby, it does work quite well for children with “nervous stomachaches” and teething at any age.

The fern like leaves allows you to tell Chamomile from the many Aster varieties that have white blooms and are in flower at the same time as Chamomile.

Some people do not like the taste of chamomile, which can be spelled camomile, some consider it bitter. It has an earthy smell to me. Only the flower heads are used for medicinal purposes. They are tiny to start with and once dried are even smaller. Chamomile is only in flower for a week or so during late May or early June. Only a few flowers open at a time so gathering it can be quite tedious. The value of Chamomile makes the daily gathering worthwhile.

Today there are two widely accepted varieties of Chamomile. German Chamomile, Matricaria recutita, and English Chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile. A third scientific classification is Anthemis nobilis. The uses are the same regardless of which “species” you find or grow it in the garden. Chamomile seeds are very tiny. Dust would describe them accurately. Chamomile if protected from harsh winter conditions will return in the spring. When the flower petals fall off you can drop the entire seed head on the ground and cover with a small amount of dirt. This will help your Chamomile to increase annually.

Chamomile is not very tall. Here it is growing next to St. John’s wort under the shade of Comfrey.

The early leaves of Chamomile can be used in soups or stews. The slightly bitter taste does not allow them to be used exclusively as a green. However combined with sweeter greens their taste can provide a change. The flowers are used primarily for medicinal purposes.

Medicinally Chamomile can be used as a mild pain reliever, as an anti-inflammatory preparation externally and to calm nerves. It will open up blood vessels allowing it to be added to other plants to help control migraine and headache pain.

Chamomile produces a yellow dye from the flower heads however due to their size there are other less tedious plants to use for yellow dyes.

Wild chamomile can hide easily. Here is it growing almost under Sheep’s Sorrel.

Chamomile makes a great ground cover especially on hillsides. The low profile protects it from wind and the creeping roots help keep it anchored when exposed to run off from rain or snow.

The most common use for Chamomile today is in the cosmetic field. Many shampoos, cream rinses, soaps and body wash now contain small quantities of Chamomile. While it is good for all types of hair, natural blondes will find that Chamomile brings out their natural highlights. The entire plant added to compost piles will act as an activator to speed up decomposition of other organic materials.

Wild Chamomile has a slightly different leaf but the flower heads are the same

A weak Chamomile solution will help keep seedlings from fungus infections. Live Chamomile plants are natural insect repellents when grown around a vegetable garden. Used as a wash Chamomile will also deter mosquitos and other biting and stinging insects. Attaching a small bunch of dried plant to the manes or tails of animals like horses, mules and goats, (goats will eat it if they can get to it,) it will help deter pests like flies, horse flies, gnats and black gnats. Working beasts will toss their heads less and not be trying to bite where a flying insect is trying to bite or sting.

The aroma of the entire plant when dried has allowed it to be used as a strewing herb. Strewing herbs were once used on dirt floors mixed in with reeds and other plants to provide a sweet smelling interior ground cover.