Jacqueline Soule this week to discuss a pretty, plus pretty useful, herb to plant in your winter garden. And, if you plant seedlings now, you should be able to harvest some within a month! As cooler weather comes along, it is nice to curl up with a cup of chamomile tea – and here is how to have your own.
The herb known to most Americans as chamomile comes from two different species of plants. German chamomile comes from an annual plant (Matricaria rectita), while Roman chamomile comes from perennial plant (Chamaemelum nobile). They both have many of the same plant compounds in them, and work much the same way, the difference is in how you grow them. The French “chamomile” is a related plant (Achillea millefolium) but with different compounds and actions. In English, that last one is known as yarrow.
European people have used chamomile, in one form or another, to treat just about every sort of affliction, from hemorrhoids to hay fever, sleeplessness to sores, and tummy aches to tooth aches. In almost every case chamomile is used as a tea (infusion) to either drink or bathe tissues. For tooth ache folks used chamomile wrapped in muslin and placed on the afflicted tooth. Peter Rabbit’s mom gave him a cup of chamomile tea after his adventures, to soothe his stomach and calm his nerves.
The flavinoid apigenin found in chamomile tea is thought to be responsible for its anti-inflammatory ability. Apogenin combined with another phytochemical called bisabolol are thought to work in concert to calm gastrointestinal spasms. Apogenin has been proven to bind to the same brain receptor sites that the drug Valium binds to, and are believed to exert a calming influence in much the same manner.
With recent scientific investigation, a number of uses have been validated. Chamomile is recommended by Commission E for the treatment of gastrointestinal tract inflammation, gastrointestinal spasm, irritations of the mucous membrane, skin injury or irritation, as a gargle or mouthwash to alleviate oral or pharyngeal inflammation, and to treat anxiety disorders. (Peter Rabbit’s mom was right on track!)
German chamomile can be grown very easily in the cooler months of winter, while the Roman chamomile is best planted in spring. Both need six to eight hours of sunlight per day. Like many herbs, they do best in well drained soil. Thus if you have caliche soils , consider growing them in pots with a cactus soil mix. The German chamomile will die in the heat, so replant some next year.
Harvest chamomile flowers and dry before use. This allows some of the more bitter tasting compounds to evaporate. The active ingredients are predominately in the oils and are not lost by drying.
Chamomile is green to grow in our area, even though it uses more water than native plants. It does reduce your carbon footprint by reducing the need to import chamomile. It can also help reduce your reliance on manufactured drugs. Headache? Take a cup of chamomile tea and lay down for a half hour rest. Far better for the environment than aspirin. Just remember that moderation is key in this and all herbs.
Note: the information in this article is for your reference, and is not intended to be used as a substitute for qualified medical attention.
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tumacacori, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).
Text is copyright © 2015, Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site.
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