Val’s Healing Garden-Chamomile

German Chamomile flowers are such a beautiful addition to your wild flower garden.  The  healing garden was the perfect place to plant some seedlings.  Sunny and rich soil ended up in some big, healthy Chamomile.

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Chamomile may be a tiny flower but it is very powerful and has been in our pantries, mainly in tea form.  I first became aware of its use as an intern more than 20 years ago while working in a children’s ward at Sick Kids Hospital.  I remember the medical teams concern about a new European immigrant Mom giving her young child Chamomile tea to treat colic.  I grew up drinking black tea with milk, so I became very curious to learn about this herbal tea and its potential for everyday use.

I found that Chamomile is one of the most popular and traditional remedies and has been used for many centuries as a tasty apple scented tea, a tonic to soothe mild to moderate anxiety, to relieve muscle cramps, digestive upset and many skin disorders.  It can also be used as an effective mouth rinse to treat inflamed tissue and mouth ulcers.

In Egypt, Greece and Rome, during the middle ages, Chamomile was used to decorate monasteries, treat insomnia, dissolve gallstone and kidney stones, soothe nerves and east irritable bowels.  The plant was introduced to North America in the 16th century by European settlers.  In the 1970’s, scientists were able to verify Chamomile’s healing properties and its soothing effects in the mouth, gastrointestinal lining and on the skin.

German Chamomile contains azulene, which is a powerful nitrogenous compound and anti-inflammatory that gives the oil extracted from from the plant its blue colour.  The flower heads are dried, crushed and steamed to produce the beautiful blue oil.  The essential oil can be purchased at health food stores, some spas and online.

The plants flowers and oil extracts are formulated into modern day treatments for reflux, bloating, IBS, minor cuts, diaper rash and anti-aging skin care products.

Chamomile is a great addition to your garden as it grows so easily from seed and self sows freely.  When you let the plant got to seed, it will return again the next year.  Chamomile is at its best in the early summer and does best in full sun and almost any type of soil.  Extreme heat can wilt the plant so careful eye was on them this year as we had record setting summer temperatures.  This is the first year I’ve tried to grow German Chamomile, starting with only three seedlings from Urban Harvest, organic seed company in Toronto. I ended up with 1 1/2 cups of dried flowers from three plants.

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Chamomile is very safe for most people however, people with allergies to aster, ragweed, daisy and chrysanthemum may have an allergic reaction to chamomile. Some studies have also shown that due to the plants anti-inflammatory properties people taking blood thinners should limit their intake of chamomile tea or avoid it. In theory, all patients taking any prescription medications should discuss the use of herbal products with their pharmacist and doctor.

With so many uses for Chamomile, we thought we would highlight a few for you that are easy to try at home.

Simple Tea: 1 tsp dried chamomile steeped in 1 cup of boiling water for 8-10 minutes, strain and savour.

Lemongrass Soother: 1 tsp dried chamomile, 1 tsp dried lemongrass, 1 tsp dried peppermint,1 tsp green tea,

steep in 2 cups boiling water for 8-10 minutes and enjoy.

Sweet Dreams Elixir:

1 cup dried chamomile flowers

3 cups Vodka

1 cup raw honey

1. Crush the flowers with a mortar and pestle to release the active compounds.

2. Transfer flowers to a sterilized 4 cup (1 litre) glass jar and add vodka.

3. Place wax paper over the jar and seal with a tight fitting lid.

4. Shake the jar well and set aside for 4 weeks in a dark and cool location.

5. Shake the jar daily.

6. After the 4 weeks, strain the liquid using a fine sieve or cheesecloth into another sterilized glass container. Add honey, seal with a tight fitting lid and shake well.

Serve the elixir cold or warmed in a saucepan. Drink 2 tbsp, 40 minutes before bed to treat mild insomnia.

So far I’ve brewed tea and the flavour is fresh and very soothing. I use 1 tsp of dried herb to 1 cup of boiling water and steep it for 8-10 minutes. I know Nicole loves its soothing effects at night with a little drizzle of honey, also delicious with its apple scented aroma.

Chamomile and Calendula (highlighted in another post) can not only be used internally but produce excellent skin soothing oils that reduce inflammation, redness, rash, burns, eczema, acne, bruises, varicose veins and rejuvenate sun damaged skin. Add a few drops into freshly cleansed skin or affected area and massage until absorbed.

1/2 cup dried German Chamomile flowers

1/2 cup dried Calendula flowers

1/4 cup dried rose petals

1/2 cup jojoba oil

1/4 cup cold pressed virgin olive oil

4 capsules of vitamin e oil (open capsule with a sharp knife and remove oil)

Method:

1. Sterilize jars and any utensils before preparing your skin oil. Be sure to leave at least 1/2 inch of head room in the jar.

2. Place all of the herbs in the clean glass jar.

3. Pour the oils over the herbs.

4. Seal with a tight fitting lid and store in a cool, dark location.

5. Shake daily for 4-8 weeks.

6. Strain the herbs using a cheesecloth and squeeze out as much of the oil as you can.

7. Store in dark bottles in a cool location. Use and share extras with friends and family for up to a year, if stored properly.

Tips for Using Blue German Chamomile Oil for Skin, Hair and Body

Aging skin/crows feet/dark circles under the eye: Before bed, cleanse skin and add a few drops and lightly massage into the skin.

Scars: Mix 3 drops of oil with a tsp of olive oil and lightly massage into scar tissue. You may also use this same formula for skin rashes and exzema.

Acne: Add 3-4 drops and dab onto cleansed skin to reduce scarring, inflammation and redness.

Sun damage/sun burn: Add 5 drops of oil to 1 cup of distilled water and spritz all over exposed skin.

Shiny hair: Add 3 drops of oil after washing and towel drying hair.

Chamomile also comes dried and powdered in capsule form for various conditions: 500-1000 mg, 2-3 x day, as a tincture: 3-5 ml, 2-3 x day, topical creams-follow instructions on packages.

The best time to moisturize your skin is immediately after a bath or shower. Add 4-5 drops of chamomile oil to some coconut oil and massage into skin to seal in moisture. I keep a bottle of this mixture in the bath along with calendula oil to relieve dry winter skin. Allow the oil to be absorbed before putting on any clothing.

The curiosity and delight of growing your own herbs and flowers has been a wonderful learning experience for us at CraveLife. Self-reliance is one of the main motivators, providing us with tasty, fresh, organic and chemical free options to nourish ourselves, friends and family. In sharing our experiences with you, we hope to inspire you to plant some of your own favourites and share your story of discovery with us. Nature knows what to do, even when we don’t.

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