Facts about Chamomile
Chamomiles, or Matricaria recutita, are native plants of North Africa, Europe and temperate regions of Asia. The flowers of the plant morphologically resemble the asters, except for the very scales between the florets. The national flower of Russia, Chamomile flowers, has a very strong fragrance, similar to that of apples, that is loved by all.
Chamomile plant was often used by ancient Egyptians for its extensive healing properties and for the process of mummification. The disinfectant, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties of the flower have been used to heal infections like neuralgia, toothache, sore nipples, earache, diaper rash, and urinary infection.
Chamomile blooms mostly from June to July and small flies are the chief pollinators of the flower. The lifespan of the plant depends on the species. Roman Chamomile is an annual plant with a lifespan of a year; on the other hand, the German Chamomile has a lifespan of more than two years.
History of Chamomile
As mentioned above, Chamomile was first used by ancient Egyptians as a cure for fever; it was also known as ‘ague’. The flowers could be crushed and rubbed on the skin as cosmetic as well. The essence of the plant was used as the main ingredient in the embalming oil for preserving deceased pharaohs.
In ancient Greece, Chamomile was known by another name, Chamomaela, which means ‘ground apple’. According to Pliny the Elder, the smell of Chamomile flowers is very similar to apple blossom, which is why ancient Greeks used the term.
Ancient Romans often used Chamomile in incense and to flavor drinks, as well as a medicinal herb. Roman Chamomile was not actually cultivated by the Romans but was actually discovered by an English botanist. He found it growing in the wild in the Coliseum and brought it back to England, where the primary form of the plant is now cultivated. While Chamomile plants are not native to the Americas, it was brought and planted by colonists. Eventually, the plants started seeding and can now be seen as a common plant in gardens and fields.
In the Medieval era, the petals of the Chamomile were often strewn at gatherings to create pleasant odors. Also, Chamomile was used as additional flavors for beers before hops were put to use.
Characteristic of Chamomile
The Chamomile plant displays typical characteristics of the composite. It is an annual plant and its height can reach anywhere between 8- and 24-inches, depending on the soil type, nutrient conditions, and location. The scent is quite characteristic, which makes it relatively easy to distinguish from the false copies. The roots are relatively thin and usually yellowish to pale brown in color.
The leaves usually measure between 1.2- and 3.2-inches long and are alternate. They are tapering, two- to three-pinnate, and relatively diminutive. Additionally, the leaves are mostly more in the upright and usually grow on the hairless and highly-branched stems.
Normally, the flowering period of the Chamomile plant is between mid-May and early October. The plant then individually forms yellow flower heads in the capitulum; on average, you can find around 900 flower heads in the capitulum. About 26 to 50 white-colored involucral bracts surround the capitulum and point towards the ground. Typical achenes fruit the ripeness from the flower heads and can measure up to 2mm long.
Use of Chamomile
The leaves and the aromatic flower heads of both the German and Roman Chamomile are used for medicinal purposes. They are highly scented with aromatic and volatile oil, including the heat-sensitive Azulene. The phytochemical constituents in Chamomile also include salicylate derivatives, tannin, choline, cyanogenic glycosides, fatty acids, plant acids, coumarins, and flavonoids.
Medicinally, the herb acts as a sedative, anti-allergenic, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anodyne, and a tonic. A mild infusion of the herb was traditionally used to calm energetic and restless children and ease teething and colic pain in babies.
Chamomile is also effective in relieving abdominal pain and indigestion. Its carminative properties also help in peptic ulcers, constipation, diarrhea, and intestinal gas. Chamomile herbal tea is used to ease symptoms of flu and cold by reducing fever and relieving headaches. This infusion can also be used to treat premenstrual tension, gout, arthritis, and toothache.
Chamomile can also be used as an external wash. Also known as a decoction, the plant can soothe sores, skin rashes, scalds, and burns. The herb can also be used as a hair rinse to brighten the hair, as a gargle for mouth ulcers, and in a douche. The blossoms of the Chamomile plant can also be used as a herbal aromatic treatment.
Chamomile Flower Meaning
When it comes to floral symbolism, Chamomile represents ‘may all your dreams and wishes be fulfilled. The plant represents humility. Additionally, the lovely apple fragrance makes it one of the best additions to aromatic dried flower arrangements and potpourris.
Chamomile plants are a symbol of relaxation and rest today. However, the flowers are also used to signify ‘energy in adversity’ in the late 19th century. This means that Chamomile tea was drunk in the morning by people who are getting ready to face the day.
How to Care For Chamomile?
You need to plant the Chamomile herb in a garden bed that is well-drained and receives full sunlight. While the overall plant can tolerate some shade, the flowers will not. You also need to mulch the soil bed with a 2-inch layer of wood nugget or bark mulch. This mulch will prevent the growth of mold around the base of the plants and retain soil moisture as well.
You should water the Chamomile plants weekly. The irrigation needs to be done with an inch of water. If it has rained recently and the soil still feels moist, there is no need for extra irrigation. Once the blossoms bloom, it is ready for harvesting for herbal use; you need to do so before they start to wilt away. After the plant begins to die back in early winter or late fall, you need to prune the entire plant within an inch or two of the ground.