Chamomile Matricaria chamomilla, M. recutita, also Anthemis nobilis
This is a well-known member of the Aster family, the Compositae. It has been cultivated for centuries in herb gardens across the world, and prized for its beautiful flowers. It self-seeds readily, if given a little space to expand, and enjoys a good amount of fertility. It does well in both sun and shade. We harvest the flowers, gently and by hand, during the early summer months, for drying.
Elemental associations: Water
Phytochemistry: Volatile oil, lactones, flavonoids
Actions: Sedative, nervine, anti-spasmodic, carminative
Specific systems: Nervous, digestive
One of the premier children’s remedies, Chamomile addresses both hyperactivity (or just over-activity) and the often-bothersome problem of colic, or gassiness. We used to drink it by the gallon when we were younger – smart parents! It is particularly helpful for easing into bedtime and relaxing the belly.
Chamomile is great for adults, too, and can be used in the same ways to calm an upset stomach and relax a bit before bed. It should be the first remedy considered for mild and transient insomnia, before something more powerful is tried. It can also be used as a compress for itchy and irritated skin (also, the essential oil is good for this purpose, although quite expensive).
Indications: Restlessness, irritability, colic, gassiness, stomach upset
Contraindications: None really
Preparation/Dosage: Tea is by far the best. Prepare with 2 Tablespoons of dry flowers per quart of water, steeped no more than 5 minutes (any longer will make the tea too bitter). If a preserved preparation is required, make Chamomile wine by steeping 2 TBS dry flowers in a bottle of dry white wine; store in the fridge.