By Luke Hughes
Listen to the interview with Luke online.
Herbs have been used for centuries to assist human kind in many and varied ways. A look at the herb, chamomile, gives a good insight into just how herbs can be as relevant to man today as they were to the ancients in bygone eras.
There are two types of chamomile widely used by herbalists today: German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) which is a hardy annual and grows upright with fern-like foliage; and English Chamomile ( Anthemis nobilis)which is a creeping perennial, growing low to the ground and commonly used for lawns or along garden paths in Europe. Chamomile is well suited to this purpose. It seems to grow more vigorously when walked, on and releases a delicate scent underfoot,, earning it the title “herb of humility
Both varieties have small daisy-like flowers. It is the flower-heads which are chiefly employed medicinally.
Called Maythen by the Saxons,it was counted as one of their nine sacred herbs, and was placed under the sign of the Sun for its virtues.
In days gone by, it was grown and used by English country folk for their domestic medicine while the whole herb was used to make herb beers.
Chamomile was also considered the ‘Plant’s Physician,’due to its beneficial effect on the health of any plant growing next to it, and indeed the garden as a whole. Organic gardeners still use it today as one of the five main herbs for composting, and as a rich source of phosphates for soil conditioning.
It is this rich supply of minerals in chamomile, which herbalists find so useful both nutritionally and therapeutically, especially when treating the very old and young. Growing bodies need calcium phosphate at times when young bones, hair, teeth etc., are developing; likewise in older age when degenerative processes lead to diseases like osteoporosis.
As a tea, chamomile is traditionally taken by all, from babies to the elderly.
Chamomile acts on the Vagus nerve which runs from the brain down to the pancreas affecting the areas of the face, lungs, heart and stomach. Therefore it has a calming effect on digestive and respiratory processes as well as the emotional and intellectual nerve centres.
Chamomile tea is particularly good for hyperactive children and is best given to them as soon as they come in from school and just before bed to calm excited minds to sleep. This in itself may contribute to a better nights sleep for parents provided they themselves have not over indulged in food and wine too close to bed time. A cup of chamomile tea in this case will help digestion and calm any nervous tension left over from the day for parents as well.
Helps skin and hair
A bag of chamomile placed in the bath will also sooth skin irritated by overly acidic perspiration, or sunburn. The dried flowers boiled in water also make a great rinse for fair hair.
Plant chamomile in your backyard today and in the future both your garden and your family will thank you!