For centuries, chamomile, a bright yellow flower, has been processed and used in tea, oil, and tincture forms. Widely adopted across many cultures to help alleviate insomnia, ease muscle cramps and inflammation, and treat topical rashes and irritations among other maladies, chamomile is often viewed as a “do-it-all” homeopathic remedy.
While there are precautions with all herbs, chamomile is “generally recognized as safe” according to the Food and Drug Administration. Nevertheless, before kicking back with a big pot of steaming hot tea, check with your health practitioner and an herbal expert to be aware of any contraindications.
Chamomile is a bright yellow and white flower, about two inches in diameter, with hundreds of little petals clustered around a full center. The leaves are thin with a dark green color. Some loose-leaf teas will feature full flower heads dried with leaves. However, more often than not, you’ll find compressed chamomile tea bags in boxes, or, in some health food stores, loose-leaf chamomile in bulk bins.
Quality chamomile enjoyed as a tea has a subtle apple-like flavor. The addition of honey enhances the overall mild taste and brings out more floral notes.
Chamomile tea packaged as tea bags is readily available in supermarkets. Higher quality chamomile teas, sold in loose-leaf form, can be purchased online and at specialty tea stores. Chamomile oils, tinctures, and other remedies are most often found in specialty health stores and some drug stores.
Usually available throughout the year, peak season for chamomile is spring and summer in both the US and Europe. Different varieties, such as Mexican, Greek, Egyptian, or German, may vary slightly from this timeline.
If choosing fresh blossoms from your garden, green grocer, or farmers’ market, make sure the flowers have strong colors, firm petals, and an open center. Avoid unopened or wilted flowers with brown spots.
If selecting dried herbs, choose varieties without additives, flavorings, or sweeteners. You can enhance the blend with healthier fresh ingredients at home.
When deciding whether to purchase organic or non-organic, it’s helpful to know what is most affected by pesticides. Pesticides are toxins used to kill insects, invasive plants, and fungi during the growth of produce, and are potentially dangerous to people. National and international agencies agree that prolonged exposure to specific pesticides through food consumption is a potential health risk. Additionally, some studies indicate that organic fruits, vegetables, teas, and spices have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised produce.
Choosing organic chamomile teas, tinctures and oils will give you all the benefits of the herb without harmful chemicals or pesticides.
Yoffie Life stresses that consuming conventional chamomile tea when the organic version is unavailable or financially impossible does not pose serious risks that should warrant avoiding it altogether.
Chamomile leaves and flowers should be kept in a cool, dry location (refrigerator or pantry are fine) in an airtight container, where they will stay fresh for up to one year.
If you’ve purchased loose-leaf chamomile tea, store it in an airtight container in your pantry (away from sunlight) for three to six months.
Chamomile tea bags should be used within one month for ultimate freshness if they’re not in a sealed wrapper.
Sift through fresh-picked chamomile to ensure you don’t have any bugs or rocks with your flowers. Dry flowers before use.
The most popular way to consume chamomile is to make it into a tea. Use two to three teaspoons of dried chamomile flowers for every cup of water. To begin, heat the water without bringing it to a boil. Pour the hot water over the chamomile flowers, and steep for three minutes. After steeping, strain the flowers. Pour the remaining liquid into a cup, and add lemon or honey if desired.
Save your chamomile leaves! They add a lovely light flowery taste to green salads.
The majority of the manganese in the body is stored in the bones and organ tissue, mainly the liver and kidneys. Manganese is responsible for production and maintenance of sex hormones, blood-sugar regulation, brain and nerve function, calcium regulation and absorption, and carbohydrate metabolism.
A mineral that plays a role in producing collagen and keeping the immune system in proper working order, copper is an essential nutrient needed by the body in small amounts. Copper may also fight against free radicals, helping to delay the aging process. Energy production is also one of the many benefits of this important mineral.
Thiamin, or vitamin B1, plays an active role in metabolizing carbohydrates into a useable form of energy. B1 also contributes toward proper nerve function and acts as a coenzyme to convert ketones into other coenzymes necessary for cell metabolism.
Riboflavin is helpful for metabolism, aiding in fatty acid energy release. Vitamin B2 is also important for metabolizing proteins, ketone bodies, and carbohydrates.
B9 (Folate or Folic Acid)
An important nutrient necessary for normal cell division during pregnancy and infancy, folic acid (vitamin B9) plays a powerful role in the developing infant. For adults, vitamin B9 is also essential for proper metabolism, aiding in energy and the production of red blood cells.
Though studies on chamomile are limited, chamomile is generally considered a safe and mild herb. Some evidence suggests the apigenin in chamomile acts as a nerve relaxant by binding to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. This triggers a parasympathetic (rest and digest) response in the body. Because of its relaxing properties, it is often used as a sleep aid, and an anti-anxiety and anti-stress tool, as well as to ease muscle spasms associated with menstrual cramps and help with digestion. Research supports the use of chamomile for cardiovascular and immune health, as well as for reducing inflammation. Various types of chamomile oils can be applied topically to treat skin irritations and chest colds.
A cautionary note: If you have pollen allergies, such as to ragweed, marigold, daisy, or other herbs, you may experience the same allergic reaction to chamomile. Be even more cautious if these allergies trigger an asthmatic response. Additionally, people with endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or a present or past history of ovarian, breast, or uterine cancer, should avoid chamomile.
- The name chamomile comes from the Greek words chamos, meaning “ground,” and melos, meaning “apple,” because it’s a short plant with apple-scented blossoms.
- Ancient beer brewers used chamomile as the primary bittering ingredient before hops became popular.
- Early Egyptians are credited with discovering chamomile, and modern farmers in Egypt still produce the majority of the chamomile crop available for tea.