Chamomile’s flowers resemble tiny daisies, but one sniff will have you thinking of apples instead. The herb has long been grown for its healing properties. Its smell was thought to relieve depression and to encourage relaxation. Medieval monks planted raised garden beds of chamomile, and those who were sad or depressed lay on them as therapy. Chamomile also was once a strewing herb, spread on bare floors so that the scent was released when people walked on it.
Drinking chamomile tea made from the flowers stimulates appetite before meals; after meals it settles the stomach. Roman chamomile (Camaemelum nobile, formerly Anthemis nobilis) yields a pale yellow essential oil that is an anti-inflammatory. When German chamomile is distilled, a chemical reaction produces the deep blue-green chamazulene that is even more potent an anti-inflammatory.
Principal constituents of chamomile: Esters of angelic and tiglic acids with pinene, farnesol, nerolidol, chamazulene, pinocarvone, and cineol
Scent of chamomile: The odor is sweet, applelike, and herbaceous.
Therapeutic properties of chamomile: Anti-inflammatory, antiseptic; promotes digestion, relieves gas and nausea, encourages menstruation, soothes nervous tension, and promotes sleep
Uses for chamomile: Inhaling chamomile tea’s aroma relaxes both mind and body. Research studies show that chamomile relaxes emotions, muscles, and even brain waves. It eases the emotional ups and downs of PMS, menopause, and hyperactivity in children. It also helps control the pain of bruises, stiff joints, headaches, sore muscles, menstrual and digestive system cramping, as well as the pain and swelling of sprains and some allergic reactions.
Chamomile is mild enough to ease a baby’s colic and calm it for sleep. It is especially soothing in a massage oil, as a compress, or in a bath. Make a chamomile room spray by diluting 12 drops of the essential oil per ounce of distilled water. Chamomile is suitable for most complexion types or skin problems, from burns and eczema to varicose veins. It is especially useful for sensitive, puffy, or inflamed conditions. Add it to shampoos to lighten and brighten hair.