Mami, me duele el estomagito. Relájate mientras te traigo una tasita de manzanilla, vale?
Chamomile… manzanilla. An herb I grew up with without ever knowing it’s English name until college.
Growing up, whenever I had an upset stomach or my mami wanted me to relax and calm down after a hard cry, she’d always make me a cup of warm chamomile tea.
She told me it would help me to feel and sleep better.
Where did she learn this from? Her own mother.
The use of dried chamomile flowers dates back centuries. Its popularity grew during the Middle Ages as people started to use it medicinally for a variety of ailments.
Today, it’s mostly used in teas throughout Europe and the United States as research has proven chamomile to have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-allergenic and sedative properties.
The plant’s healing properties come from its daisy like flowers, which contain volatile oils as well as flavonoids and other therapeutic substances.
Specifically Chamomile can be used to…
- relieve upset stomach
- promote relaxation
- relieve stress
- as a salve, for wounds
- as a vapor to to alleviate cold symptoms or asthma
- treat eye inflammation and infection.
- relieve teething problems, and colic in children
- relieve allergies
- aid in digestion when taken as a tea after meals
- reduce menstrual cramps
- relieve morning sickness during pregnancy
- speed healing of skin ulcers, wounds, or burns
- treat gastritis and ulcerative colitis
- be used as a wash or compress for skin problems and inflammations
- Treat diverticular disease, irritable bowel problems and various gastrointestinal complaints
- soothe skin rashes (including eczema), minor burns and sunburn
- heal mouth sores and prevent gum disease. A chamomile mouthwash may help soothe mouth inflammations and keep gums healthy
I’ve had first hand experience using chamomile for it’s medicinal properties, including using moistened tea bags to heal my son’s pink eye.
Not only is chamomile excellent to heal and promote wellness, but also for its culinary uses.
I’ve used it to infuse honey, make jam, ice-cream, panna cotta and refreshing iced tea. I can’t wait to share some of these recipes soon as chamomile can create flavors that are gentle, rich, silky and smooth.
I’m completely enamored with chamomile and an added benefit is that it’s so easy to grow at home.
There are mainly two varieties of chamomile. German and Roman.
Both contain essential oils and anti-oxidants that help the body relax and recover from physical fatigue.
However, German chamomile is most often grown for its medicinal purposes as its oil is stronger.
Chamomile grows best in a sunny location. Chamomile will self propogate itself year after year as it drops its tiny seeds.
Choose a location where you don’t mind it taking off or plant in a container.
Drying Fresh Chamomile/Manzanilla
Drying fresh chamomile is a breeze and can be done in one of two ways.
1. Pick the flower heads
As your plants grow, you can pick the flower heads by running your fingers through the plants taking the flowers as you sweep across. Of course, you can pick them one by one as well.
Sift through your flower heads ensuring you rid of any bugs and place in a pan, uncovered, in a cool location to dry.
Once the flowers are dry, save in a sealed container, such as a mason jar, free of moisture and store in a cool location.
2. Pick Bouquets
This is my favorite way to dry herbs, especially chamomile. I pick bouquets and hang them upside down in a cool location to dry.
It’s aesthetically pleasing and the scent it leaves while drying is unbelievable.
I had the batch above drying in my basement. Every time my son would go downstairs to play he would yell from below, “Mama, it smells beautiful down here.”
It really does leave a lovely scent.
Once the flowers are dry, snip the flower heads and save in a sealed container, such as a mason jar, free of moisture and store in a cool location.
If kept in a cool and dry location, your preserved chamomile will keep for a year.
Do you grow or preserve herbs? Tell me, what is your favorite herb to use medicinally or for culinary uses?