Friday, November 27, 2009

Chamomile: The Original “Mother’s Little Helper”

(Chamaemelum nobile, Matricaria recutita, M. discoidea)
German Chamomile ©L.Huebner 2009
When it comes to choosing safe herbs to bring comfort and relief to your whole family, look no further than the darling of the herb gardener, Chamomile. This precious herb is often one of the very first herbal remedies that many people become familiar with, and for good reasons. Her ability to soothe, calm and bring relief to a range of everyday troubles - from stomach and headaches to common stress - is the source of her well deserved notoriety.

Most people know that a soothing cup of Chamomile tea in the evening will help one to unwind, and gently encourage a good night’s rest. In fact, this simple herb helps with cramps and premenstrual tension, many types of nervous anxiety, reduces the production of stress hormones, and can relax the mind when there is a tendency to overthink. It’s interesting to note here that too much thinking, even if it doesn’t quite qualify as obsessive thought, can lead to a myriad of health issues including menstrual disorders, chronic pain and even heart dis-ease.

Chamomile is a frequent ingredient in many herbal formulas and her claim to fame is her value as a nervine and a carminative. Those who suffer from frequent headaches, especially those that are brought on by stress, will find an exceptional ally in Chamomile. Insomnia sufferers often need no more than a strong cup of Chamomile tea to bring ease, comfort and sleep. In cold remedies, the addition of Chamomile can not only help to reduce a fever by encouraging diaphoresis, but it also brings calm and peace so one may rest comfortably. Chamomile is also a mild expectorant that’s used with other herbs in cough remedies to help loosen and bring up mucous. People of all ages can benefit from the pleasant tea that gives welcome relief to indigestion and stomach pain and everyone else will appreciate Chamomile’s ability to deter flatulence.

When it comes to children, Chamomile is a gentle remedy for even the most sensitive child. For colic, a mild cup of Chamomile tea will soothe the belly and tame the crankiness that unfortunately often accompanies those awful tummy aches. The anti-inflammatory quality of Chamomile that makes it useful for reducing fevers will also help your precious babe get the healing rest she so badly needs when she’s sick and restless. Fix yourself a nurturing cup of Chamomile tea to ease your frayed edges when baby is teething, then gently apply the cooled tea bag as a compress to her sore gums; you’ll both feel better for it. Chamomile is the original “Mother’s Little Helper.”

German Chamomile ©L.Huebner 2009
Don’t think that children are the only ones who need pampering; we grown-ups need a reassuring hug from Mama Chamomile too! Spoil yourself with a personal spa day and allow yourself to receive all the gifts that your compassionate friend Chamomile has to offer. No spa day would be complete without indulging in an herbal bath, and enjoying a Chamomile tubbie is as simple as tying a muslin bag filled with chamomile to the faucet so your hot bath water passes over it, infusing the bath with its soft fragrance. Alternately, pouring a hot pot of strong chamomile infusion into your ready tub will delight you from head to toe; consider it a mini-vacation from all your worldly troubles.If that’s too much trouble for someone who’s really on the go, consider a chamomile footbath to care for tired, achy feet; and adding milk to a tub or foot bath will really put you over the moon!

Throughout history women have treasured the benefits of a Chamomile herbal wash; a simple infusion rinsed through the tresses after a shampoo leaves silky locks that lighten in the sun. For a divine facial treatment, wet a soft flannel with a warm Chamomile infusion and apply lightly to your whole face; better still, enjoy a facial steam by leaning over a steaming bowl of chamomile tea with a towel “tent” over your head. After about 5 minutes or so, stimulate your pores with a rinse of cool water and moisturize with Rose hip or Cucumber seed oil. Not only will your complexion feel smooth, clean and radiant, but your sinuses will reap the benefits from the Chamomile steam treatment as well.

When late nights and lack of sleep leave your eyes puffy and dark, or if seasonal allergies have your peepers looking red and inflamed, Chamomile will do double duty as a tea to calm allergies and relieve tension and insomnia but don’t throw out those tea bags! Cooled Chamomile tea bags placed over the eyes comforts eye strain, reduces inflammation and lightens the appearance of dark circles. A Chamomile compress placed over the eyes and forehead can also ease tension, sinus and even migraine headaches.

Your pets can also profit from Chamomile’s bevy of benevolent benefits. For nervous animals, a few drops of Chamomile floral essence in their water or the light scent of essential oil on a comforting toy or blanket can really help. For hot spots on their skin (or yours, for that matter) a soothing wash applied to the irritation will promote healing and ease discomfort. The amiable Chamomile is a lovely friend to have on hand.

The essential oil of Chamomile has been valued throughout the ages; simply by inhaling its gentle fragrance, one can feel their irritability melt away as her complex medicinal compounds begin working on ragged nerves, restoring a positive outlook and peace of mind. Chamomile’s essential oil has a sapphire blue color due to the presence of the compound azulene. If you have an understanding of chakra healing, you’ll understand why Chamomile is used on the blue-colored throat chakra to assist positive expression and productive communication, especially when there is some difficulty in speaking up for yourself.

There is a bit of confusion when you start to investigate Chamomile; there are two very well known varieties that go by several names each, depending upon where you live in the world and when you learned about Chamomile. I don’t wish to further confuse the issue, but it should be noted that Roman chamomile was once referred to as Anthemis nobilis; its Latin moniker is currently Chamaemelum nobile. The other type, generally preferred by most herbalists, is German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Some sources say that Chamomile can cause allergies; this is actually a rare occurrence and is really only an issue with the Roman variety. While the Roman Chamomile tends to be the slightly more sedating of the two and German Chamomile is just a little more anti-inflammatory, for the most part these two herbs can be used interchangeably.

A local wild Chamomile is available throughout the US, often found in poor soils, vacant lots and waste areas is the charming little Pineapple Weed (Matricaria discoidea). Named for the sweet fragrance it produces, this friendly herb is readily available in backyards everywhere and its uses are fairly similar to its cousins. Pineapple Weed’s therapeutic properties are found in the whole plant, not just in her flowers, but when harvesting the entire herb, be sure to take no more than 20% of the crop so that they may continue to thrive.

Pineapple Weed ©L.Huebner

In Victorian times, Chamomile lawns were very much in vogue; instead of cutting the grass on a Saturday afternoon, one could find peace and contentment by lying idly upon a cushion of tranquility. Imagine how delightful it would be to daydream on a lawn like that. It makes me wonder if the dreaded deer tick would be offended to find everyone’s grassy landscape suddenly transformed into fields of Chamomile. In any case, I can’t believe anyone would miss the sound of lawnmowers!

Growing Chamomile in your own garden bed will improve the overall health and vigor of the other plants in her company. The flowers are also edible, so you and your children can enjoy picking them for remedies and to decorate a salad too. Chamomile was once frequently used in love potions, and inviting Chamomile to your gardens will also help to attract love and prosperity. Because faeries love Chamomile, their presence in your garden will bring good luck, and who couldn’t use a generous helping of love, luck and prosperity?

Lisl Meredith Huebner, Dipl.CH (NCCAOM), RH (AHG) is a nationally board certified Chinese Herbalist, and a Registered Herbalist with the American Herbalists Guild. Lisl is also a certified Medicinal Aromatherapist, a level II Reiki practitioner, an Acupressurist, an Auriculotherapist, a photographer, a renowned diagnostician, a teacher and a published writer in private practice for over a decade. She is available by appointment.
Please call 8 6 0 - 4 8 0 - 0 1 1 5 or email if you have any questions, would like to schedule an appointment, attend meditations, weed walks, or are interested in taking classes.


  1. I’ve tried all sorts of coughing syrups, believe me, but none of them helps. Even though Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa does not eliminates the cough I like to stick to this chinese syrup I’ve been taking since I was a kid: Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa. My grandfather is chinese, so I guess my mom got the advice from him. I was really surprised when I found that chinese market selling it here in Belgium. It does have a refreshing, soothing, sweetening effect…as long as it lasts…then back to coughing mode.

  2. Hey Lisa,
    I'm not sure why your posted ended up on the Chamomile page...? When it comes to stubborn coughs, I will sometimes use a honey/loquat syrup. Here's a link to some of my other home remedies for coughs, fever, nausea... lots of helpful info.
    Coincidentally, I'm teaching a class this weekend called "Making Medicine: Syrups & Lozenges." If you're nearby, perhaps you'd like to join the class.