German chamomile health benefits: for teething and digestive ills

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Originally published on Herbal Medicine from Your Garden

A tea made from German chamomile flowers helps teething

A tea made from German chamomile flowers helps teething

German chamomile (sometimes spelt the way it sounds: camomile), Matricaria recutita (sometimes labeled Matricaria chamomilla or Chamomilla recutita), also known as wild chamomile or chamomilla, is a hardy annual, and a much bigger plant than the Roman chamomile, reaching a height of 18 inches (50cm), and a spread of only 9 inches.

This is not a plant you would try to make into a lawn, although you might find it growing in one as a weed. Roman chamomile and German chamomile are only distantly related, as both are members of the Compositae (Daisy) family. Another distantly related plant, Moroccan chamomile is used only for aromatherapy.

I’ve seen Roman and German chamomile lumped together in herbals, but in reality their properties are quite distinct.

In addition, unlike its namesake, the only part of German chamomile which is used in herbal medicine is the flowers, which can be used fresh or gathered and dried for later use. To achieve this, you should cut the flowers early in the morning when the flowers are open and completely dry, with about 2-3 inches (5-8cm) of stem attached. You can remove and discard the rest of the stem as well, which will encourage the plants to flower again. Tie the flowers in bunches and hang them up in a warm, dark and dry place. This is important, or they will attract molds and be useless. Check them every day or so and when they have dried completely, remove and discard the stems and store the flowers in an airtight jar. Try to keep the flowers intact if possible.

German chamomile is considered to be safe for young children, even babies. As with all medicines, prolonged use at frequent intervals is not recommended – if intake is frequent over a long period or the dose is too high, it may cause vomiting or worsen the symptoms it is intended to cure.

German chamomile has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and can be used as a pain reliever. It’s also a vasodilator, which means it widens the blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure. The most common use for this herb is for disorders of the digestive system, ranging from indigestion, colic and flatulence to irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, peptic ulcers and hiatus hernia. It’s also used for its sedative effect, particularly useful in teething infants.

For all these purposes, a standard infusion should be made with 1 tablespoonful of fresh or dried flowers to a cup (8 fl oz) of boiling water. Leave to stand for at least 10 minutes, then strain and use.

A mouthful of the standard infusion held in the mouth will help a toothache. The cooled infusion can also be used as a wash for external ulcers, wounds, sunburn and hemorrhoids (piles).

You can also treat hemorrhoids by sitting in a bath of hot water with the addition of an infusion made with 1 pound (450g) of flowers to 5 quarts (8 UK pints, 4.5 litres) of boiling water, infused for 10 minutes. This quantity is for a full sized bath, adjust accordingly if you want to use it as a footbath to treat tired, sweaty feet.

I offer powdered German chamomile and German chamomile 250mg capsules in my online shop.

Plants used for herbal medicine must be grown organically to avoid adulteration with foreign chemicals, and German chamomile is no exception to this rule. To find out more about growing organic herbs visit the Gardenzone.

Aromatherapy

German chamomile is used in aromatherapy in the form of essential oil, which is blue. It is used for skin care, hemorrhoids (“piles”), sore breasts, leg ulcers, itchy skin and other skin conditions, nervous tension, migraine headache, PMT, insomnia and stress. It is safe for children, but not during pregnancy.

As with all essential oils, German chamomile essential oil should never be taken internally, even though you may see this recommended elsewhere. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause permanent damage if used in this way, even if you think you have diluted them. Be safe and use them as intended, in massage blends and diffusers, and keep them out of the reach of children at all times.

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