Chamomile is an ancient remedy still in use today. Its longevity testifies to its usefulness and effectiveness. I think of it as a calming plant, and it does have sedative properties.
The plant has daisy-like flowers with a hollow, cone-shaped receptacle, and tiny yellow disk flowers covering the cone. The cone is surrounded by more than ten (probably 10 to 20) white, down-curving ray flowers, giving it the ultimate appearance of a miniature daisy.
You can distinguish the plant from similar flowers by the pattern in which the flowers grow, each flower on an independent stem. The most common way of identifying the Chamomile is by plucking a small amount of the blossom and crushing it in between your fingers. Chamomile has a faintly fruity scent.
I find chamomile plants easily along the east coast states. It thrives in open, sunny locations like roadsides, pastures, cornfields, and in well-drained soil. It will not tolerate excessive heat or dry conditions. Matricaria chamomile is German chamomile, English chamomile is similar and has similar medicinal uses. The two plants can be distinguished by their leaves.
German chamomile leaves appear to be very thin and hairy while those of the English Chamomile are larger and thicker. The leaves of the German chamomile are also bipinnate; each blade can be divided again into smaller leaf sections. German chamomile stems are somewhat feathery while English Chamomile is hairless. Depending on the growing conditions chamomile can grow to between 2 feet and 3 1/2 feet tall.
Harvesting of the Chamomile should be done as soon as the flower petals are full, and they lay flat around the center of the flower. Each bloom must be picked at its peak for the best flavor and benefit. I prefer to pick chamomile in the early afternoon, after the dew has evaporated and before the real heat of the day. Select flowers that are fully open and pinch or clip the flower head off at the top of the stalk. Dry the leaves and flower for future use.
I collect both flower and leaves for medicinal use, but the flowers make the best tea. The flowers have a milled apple flavor, while the leaves have a delicate grassy flavor. I also make a delicate liqueur with dried chamomile flowers and vodka.
Most often, I prescribe chamomile tea as a treatment. I have had a few patients who preferred taking the remedy as a tincture or as a dried herb. To give chamomile as a dried herb, I divide 2 to 3 grams of dried chamomile into 3 to 4 capsules for the divided daily dose.
Chamomile relaxed the muscles, including the digestive muscles. This makes it a good treatment for abdominal pain, indigestion, gastritis, and bloating. I have also used it with success for patients with Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome. I recommend chamomile tea for digestive issues: 1 cup, 3 to 4 times daily.
The antispasmodic action of chamomile relaxes muscle tension. It soothes aching muscles and body aches.
Chamomile is soothing and contains sedatives. One cup of chamomile tea, taken at bedtime or during the night, helps patients sleep. If more help is needed, use the tincture.
Eyewash, Conjunctivitis and Pinkeye
For eye problems, I recommend an eyewash bade by dissolving 5 to 10 drops of Chamomile tincture in some boiled and cooled water. This mixture relieves eye strain and treats infections.
Asthma, Bronchitis, Whopping Cough, and Congestion
I prefer a steam treatment for congestion and other respiratory conditions. Add two teaspoons of chamomile flower petals to a pot of boiling water. Inhale the steam until the phlegm is released or the condition is improved. Alternately, add 2 to 3 drops of Chamomile essential oil to a vaporizer and use in the room overnight.
Allergies and Eczema
For allergic conditions, including itchy skin and eczema, I prefer to use Chamomile Essential Oil remedies. The steam distillation process alters the chemical properties of the remedy, giving it anti-allergenic properties. Use the diluted essential oil directly on the skin or inhale it.
While it is uncommon, I have had patients with an allergic reaction to chamomile. Patients with allergies to the Asteraceae family, including ragweed and chrysanthemums, should not take chamomile.
Ingredients: 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried chamomile flower or leaves and 1 cup boiling water. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the chamomile flower or leaves. Let the herb steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain, if desired, and enjoy.
Ingredients: 1 pint loosely packed dried chamomile blossoms, vodka or bandy, or 80 proof or higher. Place the blossoms in a clean, dry jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour 80 proof or higher vodka or brandy over the herbs to cover them completely. Cover tightly and place the jar in a cool, dark place. Shake the jar every 2 to 3 days. Watch the alcohol level and add more if needed to keep the herb completely covered. Soak the blossoms for 4 to 6 weeks. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve or cheese cloth. Squeeze out all liquid. Discard the herbs. Place the alcohol extraction in a cool place, undisturbed overnight. Strain again through a coffee filter or decant to remove any remaining herb residue. Store the tincture in a tightly caped glass bottle in a cool, dark place. Use 4 to 6 ml per dose, three times daily, between meals.
Ingredients: 1 pint of 80 proof vodka, 1 cup chamomile flower, 2 tablespoons honey or to taste and zest of one lemon. Combine all ingredients in a tightly covered jar and allow the mixture to steep for two to four weeks. Strain.
Chamomile essential Oil
Distillation equipment: a still OR small pressure cooker, glass tubing, tinned copper tubing, flexible hose, tub of cold water, collection vessel, thermometer
If you have a commercially available still, follow the instruction for steam distillation of your chamomile essential oil. Otherwise, proceed with my directions to use a pressure cooker for steam distillation. Build a cooling coil out of tin-plated copper tubing. Wrap the tubing around a can or other cylinder to shape it for cooling the oil. Use a small piece of flexible hose to connect the copper tubing to the pressure cooker relief valve. The steam will rise through the valve and flow into the copper tubing to cool. Bend the copper tubing as needed to place the coil into a pan or tub of cold water. Cut a small hole in the bottom side of the tub for the copper tubing to exit the tub. Seal the exit hole with a stopper or silicone sealer. The tubing now runs down from the pressure cooker, into the cooling tub, out of the tub into your collection vessel. Place the herbs into the pressure cooker. Add water as needed to fill the pressure cooker to a level of 2 to 3 inches. Heat the pressure cooker gently and watch for the oil to begin collecting in the collection vessel. The oil will begin to distill near the boiling point of the water, but before the water boils. Watch for oil production.
Monitor the still to make sure it does not boil dry. Collect the distillate until it becomes clear or until most of the water has distilled. The cloudy oil and water mixture indicates oil in the distillate. Once the distillate is clear, it contains only water, and your distillation is finished. Transfer the oil to a glass bottle with a tight lid for storage. Dilute the oil to at least 10% Chamomile oil and 90% carrier oil before use.
1. Claude Davis, ed., The Lost Book of Remedies, First ed. (2018).
Source on video
Davis, Claude , ed. The Lost Book of Remedies, First ed. 2018. Copyright number 87361399 ISBN: 978-1-7325571-1-6