This is one of the most versatile and benign of all the herbs and has been used for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years all over the world. My grandmother was particularly fond of chamomile flowers, and she always had a huge jar of them in her house. When someone seemed ill, her hand would plunge into the bell shaped chamomile jar she kept in the kitchen, and she would make a "tisane," a tea. Before long, the person would start to feel more relaxed. She felt that chamomile, while quite sedative and quieting, was also a tonic, and she always made the grandchildren use it when we were irritable.
Digestion Chamomile is a wonder herb for digestion, weak stomach, stomach spasms, and for anything related to digestion. Prepare the flowers in tea form, one to two tablespoons to a cup of boiling water. Drink half a cupful at a time.
Stomachache Chamomile is soothing and sedative for the body, especially for a tummy ache. There is an old tradition in Europe for mothers to use a weak chamomile tea, or a linden (lime blossom tea, called "tilia" in France), to calm a tormented teething baby or to help overcome colic spasms. As a young mother I often made such a weak brew of chamomile for my daughter to alleviate any digestive distress. Strain before adding it to the bottle, and use in diluted form. Make sure your dried chamomile (a ground cover) contains no ragweed.
Diarrhea Chamomile is an old remedy for children's summer diarrhea.
Nightmare I owe my great interest in herbal lore to my grandmother, who learned some of her remedies and attitudes from gypsies who lived or wandered near her remote Rumanian border village. When grandmother's innkeeper father died, these gypsies escorted her across Rumania to her father's people. These gypsies believed chamomile was a preventive for nightmares, and thus on a thundery night or on a day awash in stress, she always persuaded us to "drink the cham."
Old Age Tea On the opposite side of the age seesaw, old people revere chamomile as a helpful tea. Buy some for your favorite grandmother or grandfather, and also use some for yourself; chamomile tea is used all over the world as a table tea. For older people and young children, the tea, drunk one hour before dinner, is said to sharpen dull appetites, and is also calming and pleasant as well as slightly stimulating. Use thirty flowers to a jug of boiling water. Steep for fifteen minutes and strain.
Allergy to Chamomile? Chamomile flowers are low growing and are sometimes incorrectly picked with some ragweed content. If you are allergic to ragweed, be very certain of your chamomile source. Dr. Walter Lewis of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, has suggested in interviews that ragweed content may influence allergic response in some people.
Chamomile tea may be used to irrigate the body when there are chronic stomach spasms caused by gas. This and a neutral, natural, and fibre rich diet will often cure the flatulence.
I once had an interesting call from an older woman, a friend of the family and the widow of a physician. She was trying to recapture her health without drugs and told me she was tired of working only on symptoms, hoping instead to attack the causes. She was trying to recall the wonderful stomach herb of her childhood and was delighted when I asked if she meant chamomile.
She drank chamomile tea, took chamomile enemas, started to eat fibrous vegetables, fruit, and oatmeal, and soon called to say the gas pains had disappeared. At my suggestion she also continued this regime along with vigorous hand and foot massage.
Antiseptic, Antipain Chamomile is said to be more antiseptic than seawater. The herbalist Parkinson has written, "Chamomile is put to divers and sundry uses, both for pleasure and profit, both for the sick and the sound, in bathing to comfort and strengthen the sound, and to ease pain in the diseased." To attempt to reduce inflammation, sores and swellings, apply the chamomile hot and wet in a paste. To make paste, add a small amount of boiling water to the flowers, and blend in a blender or grind together in a mortar and pestle.
Bath and Hair Make up a large infusion, steep for fifteen minutes, strain, and add to a bath to heal body sores and aches. "Bathing with chamomile removes weariness and eases pain to whatever part of the body it is employed," says Culpeper.
This same infusion can be used to lighten and add golden highlights to mousey brown hair. Chamomile combines well with neutral henna, too, to add beautiful highlights to dark hair.
Facials Georgette Klinger runs a fine European style facial salon on Madison Avenue in New York and another in Beverly Hills, California. She tells me that chamomile facials are "penetrating." The deep pore cleansing given at this salon includes a chamomile facial. Boil water, add it to chamomile flowers, and improvise an umbrella "hood" with a large towel. Keep your eyes closed and allow the chamomile steam to open the pores of your face. This will help to release embedded dirt and blackheads. Be careful to stay out of a draft and to cleanse your face immediately after the facial.
Insect Repellent With the tea splashed over my face, arms, hands, and feet, mosquitoes won't come near me. The sweet, apple like smell is also usually repugnant to gnats and summer flies.
Chamomile should be a staple in your herbal cupboard. It can be obtained in flower, tea bag, tincture, extract, and fresh organic juice form.