Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chamomile Matricaria chamomilla

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla syn recutita)

My late night brew of choice is a cup of chamomile tea and this year instead of buying the prepared version courtesy of Mr Twining I have decided to grow my own. This is the annual spring flowering form, often called German Chamomile, while the ground cover Roman Chamomile, Anthemis nobilis, is perennial. I first encountered this herb growing wild in Greece and flowering profusely as a roadside weed during April and May. Bunches of the flowers were sold in markets for use as Khamomili Tsi. The name is actually derived from the Greek Chamoemelon ......'chamai' meaning on the ground and 'melon', ground apple, referring to the apple scented flowers.The Spanish Manzanilla means little apples and also refers to a light wine flavoured with chamomile.
Herbalists regard Chamomile as an aromatic sedative herb which is anti-inflammatory, analgesic, promoting healing and benefiting digestion while stimulating the immune system. A sapphire blue oil ,chamazuline, is produced from distilling the flowers. An early description of this was given in 'The Curious Distillatory' written in 1677 by Thomas Shirley 'The innate blewishness of the camomil is of that contagious or communicative nature that it is able to infect other things and render them like itself' . Shirley recommended mixing it with a pine oil probably to make some form of an antiseptic.

Conical shaped flower heads of Chamomile
I am waiting for a dry day to start picking the flowers for drying though I have since found out that it is possible to freeze the flowers which means less of the volatile oils are lost in the process. It is also recommended to seep the flowers in oil to make a good massage oil.
I started off the plants from seed sown in mid-winter and for a long time the seedlings barely moved. Planting the tiny seedlings out ,I was not sure whether they would survive but then suddenly they took off and they grew strongly to about 50cm before flowering. I am hoping to let a percentage of seed fall to the ground so it can perhaps become a permanent position for growing this wonderful herb each year.

Illustration of Chamomile as a marginal illumination in the 13th century Hours of Anne of Burgundy by Jean Bourdichon. I love the inclusion of the ladybird and dragonfly in this picture.


  1. I too am growing chamomile with the plan of making tea. Let me know how you go and anything useful you learn in the process.

  2. Very interesting article. I feel that you should send it to a magazine.The last illustration is beautiful.