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Chamomile is another favorite of mine, as it is for many tea lovers. Like lavender, chamomile is drought tolerant and pretty low maintenance. There are two main varieties, Roman and German. Roman, or Chamaemelum nobile, grows lower to the ground, only reaching 3-6 inches in height. German, or Matricaria recutita, grows up to two feet tall.
Roman chamomile grows best in Zones 4-9. It is beautiful as a ground cover, flowing over rocks in the garden, but it is not as widely used in medicine. German chamomile does better in Zones 2-8. German is the most common one to use for herbal medicine. Luckily for us, the German variety easily self-seeds once you start it in your garden. You may even have to take measures to prevent it from becoming invasive!
Chamomile appreciates well-drained, nutrient rich soil. The seeds are delicate and need light to germinate, so when sowing, simply put them on top of the soil and water thoroughly. It’s tempting to cover them up, but don’t do it! Germination typically takes 2-3 weeks. You can either start your seeds indoors in a warm, sunny location 6-8 weeks prior to your last spring frost, or sow the seeds directly in the garden after there is no danger of frost and the soil has warmed. Thin seedlings to 6 inches apart.
Chamomile needs approximately one inch of water per week, and will do best in full sun. Let the soil dry out a bit between waterings. Mulching is recommended to discourage weed growth and help the soil retain moisture.
The medicine of this herb is in the flowers and the leaves. You can harvest these delicate flowers pretty much any time during its vigorous growth stage. Typically you want to harvest in the mornings, when the flowers are fully open. Pinch the stalk right below the flower. After harvest, you can use immediately or dry. There are two main ways of drying chamomile. It can be put in a dehydrator for 12 hours, or placed on a screen in a warm, dry area for up to 2 weeks. Make sure it is completely dry before putting it in a airtight jar out of direct sunlight, so as to prevent mold.
Chamomile, like lavender, is another relaxing, stress-relieving herb. It is anti-inflammatory, astringent, anti-microbial, antioxidant, analgesic, antibacterial, sedative, antiseptic, and carminative. It is great for digestion issues, upset stomach, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and IBS. And, it can also be helpful for colds and fevers.
Chamomile is a wonderful, soothing skin treatment. It can be used as a hair rinse to combat dandruff, used as a compress to treat abscesses, or put in a salve for diaper rash. A wash has shown to be helpful for wounds, rosacea, psoriasis, skin allergies, and insect bites.
This wonderful herb even has pain-relieving (analgesic) properties! It can be made into a tea, soaked into a cotton cloth, and used for teething babies to chew and suck on. This tea is also excellent for anxiety, insomnia, headaches, migraines, and menstrual cramps.
Chamomile is a GRAS (generally regarded as safe) herb, and is considered safe for pregnant and lactating women. It is even safe for most animals.
Is chamomile on your list of go-to herbs? I hope I’ve inspired you to grow some of your own! Comment below with your favorite ways to use this gentle, amazing herb!