Grow Chamomile for Better Health and Delicious Tea

| 8/1/2011 3:46:34 PM

H.CardenasHeidi Cardenas is a freelance writer and gardener in Lake County, Illinois, with a background in human resources. She has written about gardening for various online venues and enjoys The Herb Companion’s valuable resources.  

Chamomile is a common herb used as tea. It is the national flower of Russia, is related to daisies, ragweed and chrysanthemums, and is native to Europe and Asia. Chamomile has been used since ancient times as an anxiety and sleep aid, for digestive ailments and to soothe skin irritations. Two of the most common types of chamomile include German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), also called pineapple weed and sweet chamomile because of its sweet scent, and Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), also called common chamomile. German chamomile is an annual with lacy green foliage and Roman chamomile is a perennial with hairy gray-green foliage. Both have small daisy-like flowers. 

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This patch of German chamomile in my garden was grown from seed in May.
Photo by Heidi Cardenas

Chamomile prefers a light, rich soil with lots of organic matter, but like most herbs, it does well in a variety of soil types with good drainage. Grow chamomile in full sun and provide consistent water. Chamomile seeds need light to germinate, so mixing the seeds with a very light seed starting soil mix and just sprinkling it on top of the soil in the garden or in pots will give the best results. German chamomile grows to about 1 1/2 feet tall, so seedlings should be thinned to at least 6 inches apart. Roman chamomile only grows to about 6 to 12 inches tall, and is best grown as a groundcover or potted plant. Roman chamomile can be propagated from cuttings as well. It is a good companion plant for cucumbers, onions and cabbages, and is said to help vegetable plants "take" in the garden, or grow well.

Chamomile flowers are used to treat a variety of ailments, but the most common use is as a calming tea to help you sleep. It is also effective for calming anxiety and stress, as shown in a study done by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine on the effects of chamomile on anxiety. It has nervine, tonic, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties, as well as containing coumarin, a blood-thinner. Because of this, it should not be used with warfarin (Coumadin), and should not be used two weeks before or after surgery. Those who are allergic to ragweed and mums may not be able to use chamomile. It is not recommended for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding because it has uterine stimulant properties.

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Dried chamomile flowers are commonly used for tea.
Photo by Ehedaya/Courtesy Wikimedia Commons