Hi guys! So, as you possibly know, I have been studying Western Herbal Medicine for the past 8 months. My interest in herbs has blossomed over the years as I began to learn about living a more natural life: eating whole, vegan foods (no processed junk!), rejecting plastic and synthetics, and using natural, plant-based remedies instead of medication (disclaimer: always discuss with your doctor being using herbal preparations or stopping prescribed medication! I do not claim to be a medical doctor. Please always consult with your doctor for personalized medical advice).
I have been contemplating for months about ways to incorporate my herbal knowledge into this blog, and I thought about making a “herb of the month” monthly feature to showcase a different herb each month. This month’s feature is on ROMAN CHAMOMILE.
Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), also known as English chamomile, is similar to German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) (which is the chamomile usually used in herbal preparations as it is slightly more potent) but they are actually from different species. However, they are usually both used to treat the same problems.
Roman chamomile is also known as lawn chamomile, as the ancient Romans used it for their lawns. I can clearly see why they would have done this – it is a robust, creeping plant, which has the most amazing and enticing aroma. Apparently the aroma is like green apples, but I think it’s more like pineapples. Whatever you want to name it, it smells amazing. I have declared to my husband that I want our entire lawn to be Roman chamomile!
How to use Roman chamomile
Chamomile can be used:
- to calm nerves
- to soothe eye irritations (I have used chamomile for conjunctivitis)
- to soothe upset stomachs
- to soothe eczema or other skin inflammations (bites, cuts, hemorrhoids)
- as a “sleepy time” tea to relax before bedtime
Chamomile is often made into a tea (add the crumbled flowers to freshly boiled water and allow to steep for at least 10 minutes – use 1 tsp dried flowers per 1 cup water). It is also added to external applications (creams, shampoo, even hair dye!). If you suffer from eczema, hemorrhoids, numerous cuts or insect bites, add some flowers to a bath for soothing relief. Or, freeze the fresh flowers into icecubes for a floral garnish to drinks.
A note of caution: tea from Roman chamomile flowers is slightly bitter, so the tea from German chamomile is more preferable, but I like to combine the Roman chamomile with other herbs to mask the bitterness.
How to grow Roman chamomile
I grow my Roman chamomile in a styrofoam box (mainly because I want to take it with me when we move house!). But growing Roman chamomile is a container is ideal as it is a creeper and may overtake your garden if left to grow freely. Or let it grow freely and you will have a chamomile lawn patch (I am totally doing that one day!).
This is different to German chamomile which is an annual growing up to 60cm high. Roman chamomile will only grow to about 15cm high – if you decide to grow a chamomile lawn, you will not have to mow it! Although an occasional cut to the tips of the plant will encourage it to creep out further, and you may desire to cut off the spent flowers too (although you can get non-flowering varieties if you are serious about the chamomile lawn).
Established Roman chamomile plants are frost tolerant and also survive in hot areas (but require some shade and regular water in hot areas).
I started off with a seedling from Bunnings – try your local nursery for a seedling, or you can try growing Roman chamomile from seeds too. In Australia you can buy Roman chamomile from Green Harvest (seeds) or Herb Cottage (seedling) [note: I have bought from both of these stores and highly recommend them!]. In the US, try these organic Roman chamomile seeds from Amazon [affiliate link].
How to harvest chamomile
Harvesting the chamomile flowers is quite easy. Simply snip of the flower heads and leave to dry in a cool, dry place. I dry mine in a single layer on a plate in the back of my pantry. When they are thoroughly dry and crumbly (try crumbling a flower head between your fingers to test out the dryness), keep in an airtight container/glass jar/snaplock bag. The flowers will retain their colours when dried using this method, unlike the brownish dried chamomile you find in stores!
Precautions for taking chamomile
While chamomile is thought to be a generally safe herb for internal and external use, you should discuss with your doctor being using chamomile, particularly for:
- pregnant and breastfeeding women
- if you are allergic to ragweed, daisies, asters or chrysanthemums
- if you are taking other medications (particularly blood thinning/blood pressure medications, sedatives and diabetes medication)
Chamomile may cause drowsiness, so do not take before driving or operating machinery.
Shipard, I. (2003). How Can I Use Herbs In My Daily Life?. Nambour, QLD : David Stewart.
Buy Roman chamomile seeds [affiliate link]
Linking this post to Healthy Vegan Fridays.