Thursday, June 14, 2012

Health Journal - Chamomile

For the past few weeks, I have been harvesting chamomile.  It is one of the first herbs to start growing in the spring.  Since it reseeds itself so easily, I find it in almost every corner of my herb garden.  So I grab my hand shovel and bucket and wander around collecting all the little chamomile plants I can find.  Then I transplant the chamomile in a nice row.  It's my solution to a chaotic herb garden - which I cannot stand! :)  The plants may look wilty for a day, but they soon recover and grow amazingly fast.
A small portion of my chamomile, collected for drying.
My German chamomile has daisy-like flowers with yellow clusters surrounded by white petals.  It grows to be about 3 feet tall.  Once the flowers are fully open, I harvest it by cutting about six inches off the stems. 

Then I scatter the chamomile on old window screens that are stacked in my garden shed. (I bought the screens from an antique store for a dollar each.)  My garden shed gets nice and warm during the day which helps the chamomile to dry quickly.  Once the stems and flowers are dry, I put them into my food processor and chop them up.
Mike, my handy husband, made me this nice rack for drying herbs.  It's made out of old window screens. 

Here is a picture of what the finished product looks like.

My chamomile will bloom again after I cut it.  So I go back and cut more.  I do this until I have as much as I want, and then I just let it go to seed for next year. 

Chamomile makes a wonderful tea.  It can help you sleep and help relieve a belly ache. It is soothing and relaxing to nerves, aids in digestion, and regulates menstrual flow.  It is also soothing to a child who is teething or overly emotional.  Topically, it will reduce inflammation, clear up infection, soften skin, and heal wounds.  A chamomile bath will relieve sore muscles and inhaling the steam will open clogged sinuses.  Here are a couple of my favorite chamomile recipes:

Insomnia/Tummy Ache Tincture

I like to make this tincture once a year to have on hand for my children or anyone else that may need it.  I even take it if I am having trouble sleeping.  It is also a nice remedy for a child that is feverish and uncomfortable.  It will help calm them so they can sleep.

Here is how you make it:
I combine equal parts of chamomile, catnip (leaf and flower), lemon balm, and mullein. (By the way, I have all these herbs growing on my property if you need them.)  I put these in a quart jar and cover the herbs with glycerin.  If you have too many herbs, you may run out of room for the glycerin, so don't fill the jar too full!  Then line your crock pot with a towel, fill it with water and place the jar in the water.  You want the water to cover as much of the jar as possible without immersing it.  Put your crock pot on low (you don't want to boil your herbs) and leave the jar in it for 3 days. You will have to add water often.  Once the 3 days are up, line a colander with a towel and strain out the herbs.  Squeeze as much glycerin out as possible.  Then bottle your tincture and don't forget to label it.  I keep my glycerin tinctures in the refrigerator.  It should last a year or two.

Herbal Highlight Booster

Chamomile make a great highlighter for blond hair.  Simply combine 2 tablespoons of sunflower petals, 2 tablespoons of chamomile, and 1 tablespoon of lemon peel.  Boil 3 1/2 cups of water.  Add herbs and steep for 30 minutes.  Strain into a storage container (old shampoo bottle) and keep in the shower.  This will keep for a few weeks.  Pour herbal highlighter over clean, wet hair.  Squeeze out the excess.  Do not rinse.  Style as usual.  I make and sell Herbal Highlight Boosters at our market for blond, brown/black, and red hair.
Herbal Highlight Booster for Brown/Black hair

Chamomile also makes a great tea.  Drinking a cup before bed will calm you down and help you sleep better.  Simply add a teaspoon of chamomile to a cup of boiling water and steep for 5- 20 minutes (depending on how strong you like it).

Other than a possible allergic reaction (if you are also sensitive to ragweed), chamomile is one of the safest herbs to use and a great remedy for children.  Use freely.  I will have bags of it for sale at our market.  It's top quality stuff! :)

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