Any of us who have dabbled in herbal teas will have heard of chamomile. But do we know any more about this wonderful herb than the brand we usually buy? Ouch!
Here are a few reasons to grow some of your own….
Two main types of chamomile are widely grown; Roman Chamomile (chamaemelum nobile) and German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Both have similar qualities and are used in similar ways.
Records show that the Egyptians worshiped chamomile and used it in medicinal aids as well as cosmetic preparations. It has been used for centuries all over Europe and was distributed further a-field during the 16th century.
Its daisy like flowers make it an attractive addition to a herb garden and, as the plant is perennial, it will grace your garden for many years.
Chamomile often grows around the edge of gardens and can be found in the wild. It re-seeds itself readily but is easily controlled.
It’s often left to grow between paving slabs and alongside pathways. When walked on, the plant releases a pleasant scent.
Chamomile can grow up to a metre in height but generally it will grow as a shrub around 2-3 feet (60-90cm) high. It makes a good edging plant especially around a lawn or grassed area.
Although very rare, there are reports of allergic reactions to chamomile. Care should be taken if you are prone to plant allergies.
Small plants are sometimes available at garden suppliers but chamomile is easily propagated from seed which normally germinates fairly quickly.
Once established in your garden. Chamomile rarely needs re-sowing. In the right conditions it will readily re-seed itself and come up year after year.
It can also be grown successfully in pots which should be well-drained but never allowed to dry out. After a couple of years in the same pot, the soil may need feeding with an organic fertilizer or the plant transplanted to a bigger pot with fresh compost.
When the plant is in full bloom, chamomile is a perfect container plant to enjoy around a seating area in the garden. Roman chamomile tends to stay as a low growing plant, often only growing to about 12 inches (30cm) high. Check on the seed packet before you buy so you are sure which variety you are growing. German chamomile grows much taller and will need to be positioned at the back of a bed to avoid overshadowing low growing plants.
Choose a sunny well-drained spot in the garden. As soon as the ground is workable in the spring, dig over and remove any perennial weeds and non-organic debris. If the ground has been worked a lot or not at all, dig in some well-rotted compost or organic fertilizer. Rake the ground to a fine consistency.
Seeds can be scattered over the prepared area and carefully covered with a light layer of soil. Or sow the seed in very shallow drills. Water gently with a spray or rosette attachment on a watering can to avoid disturbing the seed.
Keep the area free of weeds and the soil damp but not waterlogged. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, thin them to about 12 inches (30cm) apart. Again, though, check your seed packet for growing recommendations. Some varieties will need more space.
When the new plants come up around your main plant in the following year, as no doubt they will, remove them gently and try re-planting them. Water in well, directly after planting.
Or re-plant into pots of fresh new compost. Keep in a sunny spot but don’t allow the pots or containers to dry out.
The flowers can be harvested as soon as they are in full bloom and added to salads or used in tisanes. They can also be made into cosmetic and medicinal preparations. Pick flowers gently, and the chamomile plant will produce more blooms throughout the season.
Chamomile flowers can be dried and stored for several months. Pick when the flowers are in full bloom and lay on trays to dry in the sun or in a very slow oven with the door ajar.
The can also be hung in small bunches although there will need to be a short stalk allowed when picking. Hang small bunches in paper bags to collect flowers as they dry.
When the flowers are completely dry, store in a sealed glass jar and keep out of direct light.
While only the flowers are used in the home, the whole herb is used in commercial beer making. Chamomile tea is widely drunk and can be bought in most supermarkets or health shops.
Medicinal uses for Chamomile
Chamomile has mild sedative properties and has, for many years, been made into a soothing and calming tea. It can also aid digestion and alleviate symptoms of the common cold.
Chamomile is used in cosmetic preparations including hair lighteners and shampoos.
It has been found useful for reducing joint inflammation such as arthritis and also easing menstrual cramps.
I need to get some more chamomile started 🙂
P.S. Text from 20 Occasional Herbs; a step by step guide to growing 20 fabulous herbs at home.
20 Occasional Herbs
A potted history of twenty occasional herbs, step by step growing instructions, storing ideas and even medicinal uses.
Aloe vera … Angelica … Blackberry … Borage … Burdock … Caraway … Chamomile … Chervil … Comfrey … Daisy … Dandelion … Dog Rose … Echinacea … Feverfew … Savory … Sorrel … Tarragon … violet … Watercress … Yarrow.
’20 Occasional Herbs’ is packed full of everything you need to know about how to grow herbs for occasional or everyday use. A must-have! Choose from your favourite online bookstore: