What is chamomile?
Commonly called German chamomile, this daisylike flower is one of the world's safest and most widely used herbs. (Even Peter Rabbit's mother gave chamomile tea to her famous offspring at the end of a bad day to help him relax.) The ancient Anglo-Saxons believed that chamomile was one of nine sacred herbs given to humans by the god Woden. Today, many people call on chamomile to soothe their stomachs and much more. back to top
What is it used for?
Chamomile contains active ingredients that help relieve stress and anxiety and relax spasms in the gastrointestinal tract
and the uterus
. Because of this, people drink chamomile tea to help ease a variety of problems, including period cramps
, nausea, and heartburn, as well as to promote relaxation and sleep. When applied to the skin, chamomile may help reduce swelling and redness caused by sunburn
, mild rashes
, and other skin irritations. back to top
What's the best form to use?
You can find chamomile tea in your local supermarket or a health food store (look for products that contain 100 percent chamomile flowers). But this herb will do the trick only if it's fresh. Scout out fresh chamomile by its scent: it should smell pleasantly like apples (if it smells like hay, it's too old). To be certain of getting the freshest form of the herb, you can buy chamomile in a health food store. Look for dried flowers that are yellow and white (straw-colored ones are past their prime).
You can also buy commercial creams and lotions containing chamomile, but many such products contain very little of the herb. Look for ones that contain at least 3 percent chamomile. back to top
How do I brew chamomile tea?
How do I use it?
- If you're using chamomile teabags, follow package instructions.
- To brew chamomile tea from loose dried flowers, put two teaspoons per cup into a metal tea diffuser or spoon directly into your teacup.
- After bringing water to a boil, pour it into your cup over the diffuser or the loose tea.
- Cover the teacup (to prevent the active oils from escaping) and steep for 5 to 10 minutes. If you're not using a diffuser, pour the steeped tea through a strainer before drinking. back to top
- For period cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and heartburn: A typical dose is two or three cups of chamomile tea a day. Note that this herb affects you more the longer you use it. It may take a few weeks of regular use to notice the full effect.
- To help you sleep: Some people drink a double-strength cup of chamomile tea at bedtime.
- For sunburn, mild rashes, and other skin irritations: Applying a commercial cream or lotion containing at least 3 percent chamomile may help. Or you can add chamomile to a cool bath. One method is to pour several cups of cooled chamomile tea into your bathwater. Another is to put a cup of dried chamomile flowers in cheesecloth or a cotton sock, tie it closed, and hold it under running water as you fill your tub. The scent of the chamomile may soothe your spirits while its active ingredients soothe your skin. back to top
Although chamomile is very safe, in rare cases people who have an allergy to plants in the aster family (including ragweed, daisies, and chrysanthemums) may react to chamomile as well. If you suffer from hay fever, use chamomile with caution. If you have symptoms such as sneezing, itchy throat or eyes, runny nose, or a rash, stop using the herb.
The use of herbs is not recommended during pregnancy and breast-feeding except under the guidance of a health professional. back to top