Chamomile: How to Recognise, Health Benefits and Uses

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Some people hate it, others love it. In this blog post I will tell you a bit more about chamomile, its benefits and how you can use chamomile.

How to recognise chamomile
Chamomile has a remarkable scent that isn’t always experienced as a pleasant one, but you can recognize chamomile by its rich, honey-like smell. The scent is a good way to distinguish between the “odorless” chamomile (Matricaria maritima) and “stinking” chamomile (Anthemis cotula). These different types of chamomile are often confused with each other, but it has no major consequences. Real chamomile, however, is much more effective than its relatives.

There are three characteristics by which you can recognize real chamomile:

  • The flower heads extend during flowering and become cone-shaped, causing the ribbon flowers to bend downwards.
  • The yellow heart is hollow, which can be discovered by gently tearing it open. The odorless chamomile has a marrow-filled heart.
  • The leaves are divided into fine slips and are yellowish green.

Where can I find chamomile?
Chamomile blooms from May to August. It grows on open, moist to dry, entered or reworked soil. Furthermore, real chamomile occurs in damaged or recently planted verges, in gardens, and all kinds of open, young vegetation. I happened to stumble across a lot of chamomile in two raised beddings near my allotments which are currently not in use. Lucky me!

Medical use of chamomile
Chamomile has a high percentage of blue azulene and bisabolol, so the oil that can be extracted from this plant has anti-inflammatory properties. For example, I was advised to rinse my mouth with lukewarm chamomile tea when my wisdom teeth were pulled, because it would reduce the risk of inflammation. Chamomile also has an anti-inflammatory effect on the mucous membranes of the digestive system; both fungi and bacteria are prevented by using chamomile.

I have been told many times that drinking chamomile tea would help with UTI’s. If something is said to work against a bladder infection I usually rush to get my hands on it, so of course I tried chamomile tea. I’m not sure it really helped me to expel the bacteria, it did have a soothing effect. After some research I found that chamomile helps with urinary tract spasms because it helps against cramps (source). It also has a soothing effect on the bladder (source).

Chamomile against nerves
Chamomile is a good soothing agent that also induces sleep; if you are feeling restless in the evening, it might help to have a cup of (fresh) chamomile tea. The usual “sleepy tea” that you can buy at supermarkets and special tea houses often contain a mixture of chamomile, valerian and fennel.

Fun fact: In the Middle Ages there was the belief that the effect of real chamomile was greatest when it was picked before St John. After that date, the plant would be harmful in use because it was sprinkled by witches. Chamomile was also believed to keep witches away if it was hung on the house.


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