This post is in response to a query from Holly about some of the uses of dried Chamomile. I hope it’s helpful and gives you some new ideas to play with.
What a joy is Chamomile. A powerful healer, yet gentle enough for children, it has been used throughout history for its numerous beneficial properties. One of the nine sacred herbs of the Anglo- Saxons, its primary uses in modern herbalism are for indigestion, anxiety, headaches and soothing irritated skin but it’s also been used for coughs, colds, pain relief, asthma, teething and gallstones to name but a few. As a carminative and aromatic it helps dispel bloating and gas which is why it is traditionally drunk after a meal.
I get through lots of dried chamomile and there’s a variety of different things you can do with it.
Teas – Chamomile is probably the most famous herbal tea around, used primarily for easing the digestion and nervous system, it even sorted out Peter Rabbit after he ate too many lettuces! You could harness its relaxing properties by making a blend with equal parts chamomile, rose and oatstraw with a half part lavender for a calming bedtime brew. My absolute favourite tea of all time is chamomile, peppermint and cardamom which makes a great after dinner blend for soothing the digestion and tastes just wonderful.
The plain chamomile tea can also be used as a gargle for mild toothache or as a wash for sore eyes and itchy skin. A strong, hot tea is also useful as a steam inhalation for colds and irritated coughs.
Infused oil – A chamomile infused oil can be helpful in soothing irritated, dry or flaky skin as well as easing tired limbs and rheumatic pains. It can also be made into a beautiful soothing cream with some chamomile infusion and essential oil. To make the infused oil from dried plant material you will need to warm the flowers, with enough oil to cover, in a bain marie or double boiler with the lid on and leave on the lowest heat for several hours making sure the water underneath does not boil away. Alternatively you can add the flowers and oil to a jar and leave in the oven on the lowest heat for 3-4 hours before straining and rebottling. I also like to add a couple of tablespoons of the oil to a bath or use it as a hair conditioner.
Strong infusions – Overnight or long infusions of Chamomile can be a bit strong for drinking, unless there’s a specific medical issue you are hoping to address, but they are great in baths and will help sooth the skin and nervous system when used in this way. They are said to be particularly helpful in exhaustion and convalescence. To make a strong infusion for a bath, add a double handful of flowers to a litre of boiling water and allow to infuse for 4-8 hours. Strain and add the liquid to the bath water. You can use the same preparation as a hair rinse, especially if you have light brown or blond hair. I tried this a few times a while ago and it really brightened my hair and made it look so shiny and healthy, unfortunately I started to dye our pillows yellow so I was banned from using it. Perhaps it’s best for those with dark pillowcases!
Sleep pillow – Making a sleep pillow is a lovely activity and good for doing with children who have difficulty drifting off. If, like me, your sewing is an embarrassment, you can buy little organza bags which you can stuff with herbs and then just tie tightly so no bits escape. Hops are traditional in a sleep pillow but they can give some people bad dreams so my favourite combination is equal parts Lavender, Rose, Chamomile and Linden flowers.
Compresses – Antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, a compress made by soaking a cloth in Chamomile infusion is useful for slow healing wounds and irritated skin. It can also be laid on the stomach to ease period pains.
If anyone else has any favourite chamomile recipes please share them in the comments below.