Power Plants: Chamomile

via Bryce Wylde

Biohacks, Remedies

Power Plants

CHAMOMILE (Matricaria chamomilla)
Chamomile is one of the most popular and widely used herbs in the world. Even if you’re not into herbal medicine you’ve probably had chamomile tea, and you must know about its calming properties. It has been used medicinally for thousands of years across many parts of Europe, where it enjoys a status similar to that of ginseng in Asia. As part of the Asteraceae family, the plant is related to daisies: its flower has a delicate, pretty white petal with a cone-shaped yellow centre. Chamomile gets its name from the Greek for “earth apple,” and proudly features an aroma reminiscent of fresh apples.
Matricaria chamomilla is sometimes called German chamomile. It should not be confused with Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), which is not typically used for medicinal purposes.
Chamomile is much more than just an herbal tea that helps put you to sleep: it’s a popular treatment for numerous ailments, including anxiety, indigestion, skin infections, inflammation, eczema, infant colic, teething pain, and diaper rash.
Chamomile cream can also be used for treating eczema. Its essential oil contains an ingredient called bisabolol, which has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and ulcer-protective properties.* The flavonoids in chamomile also act as a powerful anti-inflammatory.
Above all, chamomile has a reputation for being a mild relaxant. It’s the go-to anxiety remedy, particularly when symptoms include sleeplessness and indigestion. There is evidence that chamomile contains compounds that relax the nervous system.**
One the virtues of chamomile is its ability to relax physical as well as psychological tension. Adding an infusion or essential oil to the bath after a stressful day—or to an anxious child’s or teething infant’s bath—will also help relax the nervous system and mind. Chamomile even eases muscle cramps: it goes to work on peripheral nerves and muscles and acts as an antispasmodic, relaxing the whole body. When the physical body is less stressed out, the brain takes that as a signal that it can relax—and vice-versa.
Difficulty: Easy
Hardiness: Annual (may self-sow)
Time to Plant: Spring
Time to Harvest: Early summer
Location: Full to part sun
Soil Type: Well-drained
Chamomile can be easily grown from seed or purchased as a transplant. It bears showy, daisy-like white flowers and is a great addition to herb, vegetable and flower gardens, though it doesn’t do well in containers. As an ornamental, chamomile attracts important pollinators like bees, birds and butterflies. The plant thrives with minimal care—in fact, in some parts of the world it’s considered a weed.
Common Varieties: Any cultivar of Matricaria chamomilla will do.
Sow chamomile seeds directly in the garden after risk of frost, or purchase transplants from the garden centre. To get an early start, you can sow seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before last frost and then plant in the garden in mid-spring. Space the plants 7 to 15 cm (3 to 6 inches) apart in full sun. Chamomile will survive in most locations, but it will thrive in rich soils.
Many plants do better when they’re grown alongside others. Chamomile is an ideal companion to basil, onions, cabbage and cucumber, and some believe it increases the essential oil production of herbs located nearby!
Chamomile thrives in cooler temperatures and will do well in spring, late summer and fall, but may suffer in the peak heat of summer. Water deeply and infrequently. Chamomile is not only resistant to most insects and disease, it’s also deer-resistant—a worry-free groundcover herb!
Harvesting chamomile can be a painstaking task. Collect the blooms in early to mid-summer by pinching them off the stems. Allow dew to dry and harvest during mid-morning on a sunny day. Use only blooms that are full and haven’t discoloured: any discoloured flowers should be removed and discarded. Both the harvesting of full blooms and the deadheading will ensure good health and encourage additional flowers.
Place the flowers in a single layer on drying screens. Spread them evenly to allow for increased air flow. Cover with cheesecloth and place out of direct light in a dry, well-ventilated area. If space allows, just leave them as is; otherwise, place into a sealed container for future use.
Upset stomach? Settle it with chamomile!
Place 3 g of whole, dried chamomile flowers into a mug and fill with boiling water. Let steep for 10 minutes. Strain out the flower tops or leave them in for a more robust flavor and stronger action. Drink one cup three times daily between or after meals. Alternatively, take 5 mL (1 tsp) of chamomile tincture three times daily.
Hyper day? Chamomile nightcap and hit the hay!
If you need to “shut ’er down” early after a stressful day, you could just make a cup of hot chamomile tea using the simple recipe above. But why not get even more potency out of your “earth apples”? Letting the chamomile sit in vodka for a few days will get you zzzz’ing much sooner!
What’s more, one drink a day (but not more) is considered heart-healthy, and may even slow down the aging process. Besides, we all know if you’re not getting ample sleep you’re contributing to heart disease and speeding up the aging process. Here’s what you’ll need to for your chamomile nightcap:
1 cup                                  dried chamomile flowers (about 20 flowers)
3 cups                               high-quality vodka (least 80 proof)
1 cup                                  honey
Crush or briefly blend the chamomile flowers. Add the herb to a sealable glass jar (like a Mason jar) and add the vodka. Tightly seal and set the jar aside. Agitate it daily for 4 days. Strain out the flowers using a coffee filter or cheesecloth, add the honey and shake well. Best served chilled, this liqueur keeps for months, though after 3 months, it will begin to lose its potency.
Sip 1 oz 30 minutes before your intended sleep time. Nighty night!
Irritating eczema? Use calming chamomile cream!
This lotion makes a soothing remedy for the symptoms of eczema.
½ cup                                 freshly cut chamomile flowers
½ cup                                 strong vodka (100-proof or higher)
720 mL                             vegetable oil
Chop the chamomile and mix it with alcohol in a tightly sealed container. Let the chopped chamomile flowers macerate in the alcohol for 24 hours. Measure the vegetable oil into a blender, add the herb mix and blend at medium speed until relatively smooth. Strain through muslin or fine cheesecloth or coffee filter into a glass container.
Using a double boiler (if you don’t own one, fake it with a small saucepan and a stainless steel or glass bowl that sits on the water without touching the bottom of the pan), heat the liquid over a low temperature for 2 hours until all the alcohol has evaporated (being careful not burn the oil). Here’s a tip: before removing the lotion, you can see if there is any alcohol left by placing a flame to the surface of the oil (a barbecue lighter will work). If it lights, there is still alcohol left that needs to be evaporated.
Bottle the oil in a tightly capped container and store in the fridge.
Fast forward to the health food store to purchase the Clef des Champs Chamomile Tincture or equivalent. Follow the instructions on the label.
Do not take chamomile orally when using blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants and antiplatelets), as it may increase the risk of bleeding.
Avoid it if you’re taking drugs that make you drowsy, as chamomile can make these drugs stronger. These include: anti-seizure medications, such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and valproic acid, Benzodiazepines, drugs to treat insomnia, such as zolpidem (Ambien),Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil) or Alcohol.
Do not combine chamomile with sedative herbs, such as valerian and kava.
Glowania, H. J., Raulin, C., and Swoboda, M. Effect of chamomile on wound healing–a clinical double-blind study. Z.Hautkr. 9-1-1987;62(17):1262, 1267-1271
Hormann H and Korting H. Evidence for the efficacy and safety of topical herbal drugs in dermatology: part 1: anti-inflammatory agents. Phytomedicine 1994;1(2):161-171.
Tubaro, A., Zilli, C., Redaelli, C., and Della, Loggia R. Evaluation of antiinflammatory activity of a chamomile extract topical application. Planta Med 1984;50(4):359.
Jakolev V and Schlichtegroll A. Antiinflammatory activity of (-)-alpha-bisabolol, an essential component of chamomile oil. Arzneimittelforschung 1969;19(4):615-616.
Avallone R, Zanoli P, Corsi L, and et al. Benzodiazepine-like compounds and GABA in flower heads of Matricaria chamomilla. Phytotherapy Research 1996;10:S177-S179.
Viola H, de Stein ML, et al. Apigenin, a component of Matricaria recutita flowers, is a central benzodiazepine receptors-ligand with anxiolytic effects. Planta Med 1995;61:213–6

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