With daisy-like flowers and a sweet, fruity aroma, chamomile is best known as the key ingredient in a soothing cup of herbal tea. But this versatile plant has a long history of medicinal applications beyond just sleepy-time drinks!
From Ancient Egyptians using it topically to treat wounds to Medieval Europeans brewing it as a cleansing tonic, chamomile has developed a strong reputation through the centuries as an ingredient that calms, protects and heals.
Read on for a complete primer on chamomile including its botanical background, therapeutic actions and many ways it can benefit your health and home.
A Brief Botanical Background
While over 50 species exist, German and Roman chamomile varieties are most commonly used. They belong to the Asteraceae family along with their lookalike daisy cousins but offer potent plant compounds that pack therapeutic power.
Their small, concentrated flower heads grow on wispy green stems just under a foot tall. Today, chamomile ranks as one of the most consumed single ingredient herbal teas globally.
Historical Uses & Folklore
Some of the earliest written records of humans using chamomile medically date back to Ancient Egypt. Documents show Egyptians revered it for use in offerings, beverages, incense and salves to heal skin conditions.
In Medieval periods, Europeans turned to chamomile as a gentle multi-purpose herb for health. Way before chamomile tea bags, the fresh flowers appeared in cleansing teas and poultices to soothe digestive woes or ladies’ menstrual cramps.
Chamomile was also frequently planted in informal lawns along walkways releasing its lovely aroma when stepped upon. Today science continues validating many traditional benefits of drinking and applying chamomile.
Top Therapeutic Benefits Backed by Science
- Soothes upset stomach, nausea, ulcers, colic
- Fights bacteria naturally; treats wounds, gum disease
- Reduces menstrual cramps
- Promotes deeper sleep
- Alleviates anxiety without drowsiness
- Improves heart health markers
- Provides antioxidant protection against disease
- Soothes various skin irritations
- Speeds healing of burns, eczema, rashes
- Anti-inflammatory; relieves swelling, pain
Best Uses for Chamomile at Home
While many enjoy convenient steeped teabags, using whole dried chamomile flowers imparts more potent volatile oils. Beyond drinking it, chamomile’s uses extend to topical home applications:
- Place in baths or apply oil infusion for soothing aromatherapy
- Diffuse essential oil to promote calmness and sleep
- Prepare strong tea, let cool and apply to irritated skin
- Add flowers to lotions, creams, honey face masks
- Gargle cooled tea to ease mouth inflammations
- Inhale steam from chamomile facial steams
- Brew as iced tea, health-infused water, detox tisane
Boasting both internal and external benefits backed by ancient wisdom and science, chamomile ranks among the best medicinal flowers to keep stocked for health and homemade remedies.