Nodding in the breeze today in my garden are, what feels like, a million heads of chamomile. The simple white daisy flowers with their yellow cone centers have enchanted my daughter, and since she already loves drinking chamomile tea, she cannot wait to make her own from our garden. So off she went with secateurs and a paper baggy to harvest some flowers for me to dry for her tea.
There are two chamomiles that can be used for tea – Roman chamomile (which most of mine are) and German chamomile. The German chamomile (Matricaria recutita syn. Chamomilla recutita) is an annual, but preferred by health professionals because of its higher concentration of volatile oils. Just as effective, at least for home use, is Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile syn Anthemis nobilis) which is a perennial.
There are others too, e.g. Lawn chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile ‘Treneague’) which never flowers, but makes a most delightful stepping-herb, ground cover or lawn alternative. There is also Dyer’s chamomile, or Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria) which has yellow daisy-like flowers and is used as a natural dye.
Chamomile tea is a world renowned natural and safe calming agent – effective in helping alleviate stress, promote better sleep and deeper relaxation. It is often added to sleepy time or anti-anxiety herb blends and pairs particularly well with Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Catnip (Nepeta cataria), Passiflora (Passiflora incarnata) and Hops (Humulus lupulus). It is also great for upset stomachs, especially for children.
To dry your own chamomile, pick the flowers when they are fully open and the centers have started forming cones and are yellowing. You can pick just the flower heads, or the whole flowering stem. Give the flowers a gentle shake to make sure there are no bugs remaining. If you have a flat drying screen or a dehydrator to dry them in, it is better to use just the flower heads – lay them flat and let dry (no need to turn). Although I’ve never done this, I think you can, as with other herbs, dry chamomile flowers on a very very (VERY) low temperature in an oven with the door slightly ajar too. You can also easily hang the whole flowering stem upside down in an airy, dry spot to dry.
Once dry, they store for a long time – I’ve got a bit left from a big batch I made a year and a half ago, and they still smell gorgeously chamomiley when I open the tub. Of course, they do lose some of the medicinal efficacy the longer they are stored. Store in a cool and dry space.
To make chamomile tea, use two to three teaspoons of dried herb to a cup of warm water (boiled and slightly cooled). Steep for a few minutes, strain, and enjoy!
PS – Chamomile tea is also a great rinse for blonde hair! And it is soothing and healing to the skin too.