Saturday, July 25, 2009

Commonly known as CHAMOMILE

Chamomile is a common name for a number of daisy-like plants. The word derives in part from the Greek "apple", indicating their applelike scent.

Plants known as "chamomile" include, among others:

Matricaria recutita (syn. M. chamomilla), German or blue chamomile, commonly used in tea.

Anthemis nobilis (syn. Chamaemelum nobile), Roman chamomile, the "lawn" chamomile.

Anthemis cotula, stinking chamomile or dog-fennel, which really DOES stink - used mostly for medicinals.

Matricaria discoidea, wild chamomile or pineapple weed - a sweet mildly pineapple scented and flavored tea herb. It has many of the attributes of German/Roman chamomiles. It is usually the chamomile thought of as "wild chamomile".

Two types of chamomile are commonly planted in herb gardens: German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), a hearty annual that grows to about 2 feet tall and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), a low-growing perennial. When growing chamomile for tea, use German Chamomile which produces an abundance of apple scented, daisy-like flowers.

Once you plant chamomile, you have it forever! Which is a blessing - honest. You just need to keep it harvested out of the areas you prefer it weren't in, and establish beds of it in roomy spaces for easy harvesting. The plant can be "weeded" (pulled) out of paths, etc., and the blossoms harvested immediately. Or keep the chamomile "patch" sheared, for bounteous harvests to dry.

Chamomile usually begins to bloom in mid-summer, on into fall. Pinch off the blossoms the day they open. The younger flowers not only have the best flavor, by removing them the plant is encouraged the to bloom more. When you have a good harvest patch, make it part of your morning routine to check for new blooms once a day and harvest them right away. Two cups of fresh blooms will dry down to about ¼ cup, so if you like chamomile tea, be prepared to harvest a LOT!

Immediately after cutting, bring the blossoms indoors and spread them out in a single layer on craft paper or screening. Dry the blossoms indoors, where it is warm and out of direct sunlight.

Be sure the chamomile dry completely - they should crumble easily when rubbed between your fingers. When dry, place them in a lidded glass jar or in a brown paper bag. Don't forget to label!! Chamomile will keep in a dark, cool spot for up to one year.

Pineapple weed, a very short bushy little "christmas tree" about 6" tall is found in waste places such as driveways, along pasture lanes, paths, cracks in sidewalks - in other words, almost everywhere! It is easy to identify when it starts to bloom, by the pencil-eraser sized green flowers. They look like little domed buttons, with no petals.

It can be harvested and dried as for regular chamomile. It makes a delicious light tea, hot or iced. About 2 T. dried flower per 2 cups of hot water.

Pineapple weed ("wild chamomile") can be bruised then rubbed on your skin providing an effective insect repellent. You'll smell good! And you won't be poisoned by DEET...
Pineapple weed, like German chamomile, is a soothing nervine. It helps to calm the nerves, which may assist with insomnia. Chamomile tea has long been promoted as a sleep aid - it may not make you sleepy, but it will certainly calm your nerves.
Here's one to try: Make a footbath of strong chamomile/pineapple weed tea, and soak your feet after a busy day in the garden. Have a tall glass of iced chamomile/pineapple weed tea on hand, and your summer reading book. Invite a couple friends, with their basins, and have a chamo soak while catching up. Pure bliss!
We all need to take a chamo break, our lives are too too busy...and our little herbal friend is ready to bring us a softly scented reprise.


  1. Do you use the German Chamomile for salve, and if/so, could you post a recipe? I picked a box full of plants the other day to clear out around the soybeans to give them room to grow and ended up with a pint of flowers after they were dried.

  2. I've lived in California all of my life, 72 years, and have been paying attention to "weeds" and wildflowers since childhood. My early years in Fresno I always saw tiny chamomile growing in driveways. In 1969 when I tried chamomile tea from dried flowers I realized the same distinct fragrance as the tiny flower whose name I did not previously know. For some reason, I only find it in driveways and unpaved parking areas, to this day, in Southern California and now on the California Central Coast. I've seen it in parking areas of some relatively remote places. It seems to thrive on the abuse of tires, vehicles, and the fluids our vehicles emit, oil, gas, radiator fluid, (brake fluid?) I've never found an explanation of this, nor have any of the wildflower, native plant experts or horticulturists I've questioned about this phenomena. I wonder if it has properties that actually cleanse the soil of these harmful chemicals. I would love to have a discussion with others on this topic.

  3. Meant to include that I'm referring to the Matricaria discoidea, wild chamomile or pineapple weed; the one with dome-shaped flowers, and no petals.