Chamomile just might be an age-old solution for many nagging issues you have. Sounds great, right? And you can grow it in your yard. Even if you don’t use it for your maladies, these beauties look like daisies, which they are, waving at you in the wind. What could be better than a friendly wave? Maybe some help with how you feel.
Daisies and chamomile are members of the family Asteraceae. The two types of chamomiles I will focus on are Matricaria recutita and Anthemis nobils. Matricaria recutita is also known as German chamomile or, in some cases, true chamomile. Anthemis nobils is also known as Roman chamomile. The difference between the two usually is fragrance. M. recutita has a light fragrance of apples, while A. nobils smells like sweet straw. Both are used medicinally.
Besides lifting your spirits when you look over a garden of white waving at you, what else can chamomile plants do? For thousands of years, these little flowers have been used to treat anxiety, sleep disorders, inflammation, wounds, skin irritation, menstrual disorders and vomiting. But when you’re taking medication, do some research to ensure that chamomile does not affect the metabolism of your meds. One of the primary side effects is drowsiness, so be careful when you go for a drive.
How do you grow chamomile? This plant is a perennial that bees and other pollinators love. It’s easy and cheap to grow, especially since it comes back year after year. German chamomile can reach a height of 24 inches, and the Roman type is about half that height. The German variety has a little more chamazulene — a natural anti-inflammatory agent — making it a slightly better choice for relaxing drinks. Consider these factors when growing chamomile:
- Planting zones. This plant grows between Zones 3 and 9. Cobb County is in 7A; south and west of Cobb is 7B.
- Drainage. You will have to amend your typical Georgia clay. Too much water around the roots will ruin your crop. Compost mixed with river sand will allow for drainage and nutrients needed by growing plants.
- Starting seeds. You sow seeds in fall or spring, so cold weather doesn’t usually pose a problem. If you purchase plants, plant them in your garden in the spring. If planting the German variety, start with one or two plants; they can grow to 3 feet. The Roman variety, which can thrive in cracks, grows about 4-6 inches tall, so you will need more plants. If you plant in an area that can be mowed, cut the first-year flowers, and this will help the plants spread. The German variety reseeds easily and can become a problem to control.
- Water needs. Water only in case of severe drought. Harvest when the florets begin to bend backward. Remove the stems; they will cause your tea to taste bitter. Store flowers in a tightly sealed glass jar after they have been air-dried. You also can make tea from freshly harvested flowers. Boil 8 ounces of water, add a handful of flowers and steep for five minutes. You can strain the petals after brewing or place the flowers in an infusion device, such as a tea ball or cheesecloth, before adding to the water.
- Location. Plants need eight to 10 hours of full sun daily. Partial shade might help in the hot periods like July and August.
If you need to make a compress, make a tea bag out of cheesecloth. After submerging the tea bag for three minutes, pat it dry (only to remove excess water). Refrigerate it for 15 to 30 minutes to cool, then place it on the swollen area.
I hope this information will encourage you to plant this ancient remedy for its medicinal properties or just for a cup of wonderful tea.
The Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County supports the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service and strives to improve the quality of life in our community by delivering research-based horticultural information, educational programs and projects.
– Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County is a part of the University of Georgia Extension.