Chamomile has many applications beyond a comforting cup of tea. The earliest references to this herb are found in Ancient Egypt where it was a key ingredient in the embalming oils used during the mummification process. In herbal blooming flower tea medicine it has been useful for treating a myriad of maladies both internal & external including: asthma, anxiety, arthritis, bites, burns, bronchitis, colic, cuts, candida, depression, dandruff, dizziness, eczema, gastritis, gingivitis, indigestion, insomnia, inflammation, infections, menstrual cramps, nausea, pain, rashes, rheumatism, sore throats, teething, minor wounds, and a great deal more. It is without a doubt, is one of the most popular and well known herbs. What is less known about this daisy-relative is that there are two distinct plants that go by the ‘Chamomile’ moniker: German Chamomile, and Roman Chamomile (also known as English Chamomile). Even though they are two distinct species they are considered interchangeable in usage.
German Chamomile is a self-seeding annual with erect stems that can grow 2 feet high. Native to Europe, North Africa, and temperate Asia, German Chamomile’s delicate white ray-petals surround a yellow domed center which is hollow when sliced open. It’s a plant that will grow almost anywhere and is considered an invasive species in some areas as it is a prolific seeder. The flowers can be harvested several times during a season because the plant will send out new blossoms within a few weeks after a culling.
Roman Chamomile is a perennial that prefers cooler summers. Its apple-like scent is more pungent than the delicate aroma of the German variety. It makes an excellent ground cover because it stays low, rapidly spreading, and filling in cracks and crevices. Planted in pathways it releases its robust aroma when tread upon. It doesn’t flower as often as German, which is why German Chamomile is more widely used. The flowers have a yellow, solid, disc-like center and small, papery florets between larger petals.
There are many household uses for Chamomile including: culinary, cleaning, and detergents. In the mystical world it has historically been used in charms to ward off nightmares, attract money, promote prosperity, as well as in love potions. It also aids with the growth of other plants, particularly those that are grown for their essential oils like: spearmint, oregano, and sage. A light mist of Chamomile tea applied to seedlings suppresses fungal growth. Chamomile has found a home in the cosmetic industry particularly in creams, perfumes, soaps, and hair care products. Using Chamomile extract in natural skincare takes advantage of the herb’s antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-irritant properties, plus it has a wide range of bioactive components. The beneficial essential oils blend well with other ingredients so it is a popular additive to natural skincare creams, cosmetics, and herbal salves.