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What is Chamomile?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 16, 2024
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An herb is a plant whose leaves, seeds, or flowers are used for flavoring food or in medicine. Other uses of herbs include cosmetics, dyes, and perfumes. The name derives from the Latin herba, meaning "green crops." Chamomile or camomile refers to two different geni of plant in the Asteraceae family: Anthemis nobilis, known as Roman chamomile; and Matricaria recutita, known as German chamomile. It is found in temperate zones of Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia.

History. Ancient Egyptians were aware of the benefits of chamomile, and it was used medicinally in the time of the Roman emperors. Perhaps the most famous "historical" use of chamomile is as a tea to soothe Peter Rabbit after he eats too much in Mr. McGregor's garden.

Description. Both Roman and German chamomile plants are fairly short, the first reaching a height of 8-12 inches (20-30 cm.), and the second, 6-24 inches (15-60 cm.). The flowers of both are comprised of white petals arrayed around a yellow disk.

Gardening. Roman chamomile is a perennial, while German chamomile is an annual. The former prefers cool weather, while the latter grows well almost anywhere. Chamomile is planted both as an herb among other herbs, and as a lawn plant, for which it requires a fair amount of maintenance. Chamomile is valued for the sweet scent that is released when it is trod upon.

Food and other uses. Chamomile is used to make tisane, hair rinses for blonde hair, and potpourri. People who are sensitive to ragweed may also have sensitivities to chamomile.

Preservation. Flowers can be gathered individually or dried on the plant, but the flowers are known to fall apart during the drying process, so you may wish to place plants headfirst into paper bags with small holes punched in the side for air circulation. Tie the bag ends closed, and hang them like that. With this method, the petals will be easy to collect. Both the stems and petals can be chopped and stored together in a cool, dry place, in an airtight container.

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Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for DelightedCooking, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
Discussion Comments
By anon2731 — On Jul 23, 2007

Can chamonile extracts expire or go bad I have a bottle that changed colors from clear to a dark brown?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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