Many people these days know the reputation of Chamomilla recutita (chamomile) tea to help relax the body and mind. Chamomile tea bags are commonplace now on all supermarket shelves. Whilst chamomile does indeed have calming, relaxing and gentle sedative properties it is a herb with many more uses too.
At this time of year chamomile is particularly helpful. It has immune stimulating properties and is anti-inflammatory so can often be useful in combination with other herbs for both strengthening the immune system against hayfever and helping with the symptoms.
Chamomile is a slightly bitter herb which helps stimulate normal digestion, it is also carminative due to the essential oil it contains. Both these properties make chamomile an ideal choice if you have had a tummy bug or indigestion after a heavy meal.
Medical Herbalists may use chamomile in combination with other herbs in eczema. Eczema is often associated with the body getting too hot and chamomile helps cool and calm thus addressing the root cause. Chamomile can also be applied topically to hot, itchy skin conditions – creams and bathing herbs are an ideal way to reduce inflammation and relieve itchiness. Chamomile has topically moisturising and healing properties too!
Because chamomile also helps reduce feelings of nausea it can be useful for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. Experiment drinking it hot, lukewarm or cold to see which you prefer. Make sure, however, that you brew the tea with a lid on the pot or a saucer on top of the cup to help preserve the essential oil.
As a Medical Herbalist I often get asked about ideas to help young babies sleep – we have to be so careful what we give our young ones! Chamomile is a lovely gentle herb for children. Try making a strong infusion of organic chamomile then adding to the baby’s bath to relax them before bedtime. If a mother is breastfeeding then drinking plenty of chamomile tea will ensure it will come through the breast milk and help relax baby too. The added carminative properties may also help with any digestive upsets in baby too. Once children are old enough to drink things other than milk try introducing weak chamomile tea. If started early then most babies will take to the taste of herbs – a bit different to trying to get a fussy five year old to suddenly try herbal tea!! Speaking of digestive upsets in babies, and fussy five year olds do please consult a qualified Medical Herbalist if you need help, its always worth speaking to an expert if you’re not sure.
Lynda Jones BSc (Hons) Medical Herbalist