Chamomile is one of the most beneficial herbs and it has a long history of use dating back to ancient Egypt. Best known as a soothing tea widely embraced for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, chamomile produces lovely daisy-like plants that are drought- and pest-resistant. Given its many medicinal uses, you may want to consider growing chamomile in your garden this year.
Chamomile: An Enduring Medicinal Herb
Chamomile's history1 and use as a medicinal herb dates back to ancient Egypt, where it was used as a cure for fever and as an embalming oil. The Romans used chamomile in incense, as a medicinal herb and to flavor drinks. In Spain, chamomile flowers, which are known as "manzanilla" (little apple), have long been used to flavor a light sherry of the same name.
Chamomile is the common name for several daisy-like plants belonging to the Asteraceae family — German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman or English chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) are the two most common types. German chamomile is the annual plant most often used to make tea, while Roman chamomile is a perennial groundcover.2 While you are very likely familiar with the tea, you may not realize chamomile is also useful as a bath, cream, essential oil, gargle, inhalation, poultice and tincture.
In addition to acting as a natural sedative, chamomile boasts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, as well as antibacterial, antifungal, antispasmodic, antiulcer and antiviral properties. Consumption of chamomile tea has been shown to protect you from benign thyroid diseases and thyroid cancer.
German Chamomile, Your Best Choice for Making Tea
Given its usefulness for making chamomile tea, the remainder of this article will focus on German chamomile. Below are some interesting facts about this daisy double:3
- Though grown as an annual, German chamomile will self-seed fairly aggressively and can become invasive if left unchecked
- The flowers and leaves can both be used to make tea, but the leaves may have a slightly bitter taste
- Tea made from fresh chamomile flowers is said to have a slight apple-like taste
- The daisy-like white petals and yellow center of chamomile flowers give it a wildflower look
- German chamomile stems are fairly weak and they tend to bend and flop over as the plant grows