A doctor’s delight, the name of this herb can be spelled “Chamomile” or “Camomile” interchangeably. It grows with miniature daisy-like flowers with yellow-orange centers, white to cream covered petals, feathery leaves, and a light apple scent. There are actually two types of chamomile: Roman and German. German chamomile is annual while Roman is perennial. Roman chamomile is also smaller, growing up to a foot high (the German variety can be three feet high) it is used as ground cover in Europe
History and Myth
According to one legend, chamomile was one of the sacred herbs brought to the world by the god Odin, while in Egypt it was dedicated to the sun. Its flowers look like a sun when in bloom with a golden center and white petals and it is said to have the power to cure chills and fevers much like the streaming rays of the sun can. It was strewn across the floor in medieval England to improve the air. A solution of chamomile was used to preserve meat for a time. In myth it is said to exhibit a broad attracting property, allegedly “drawing money” to those bearing the herb – making it popular with gamblers throughout time.
German chamomile is an annual but it reseeds itself every year while the Roman variety is a perennial. In fact, both types will probably come up where you don’t want it because the seed is so light that the wind carries it around easily. This is an herb that has the characteristics of a weed! It grows wild in fields, on embankments, and in almost any type of soil. In terms of light it grows in full to partial shade to full sun. Its seeds are very fine and do especially well in very light soil. To plant in the spring simple scatter the seeds and press them lightly into the soil. Do not cover the seeds with soil. Plants from a nursery do well in thawed ground as well. Roman chamomile can be propagated by root division, the German kind does not do as well under this method. Neither type of chamomile does great in containers. It tends to grow tall and lanky.
Harvest the flowers when the petals begin to turn back on the yellow disk throughout the growing season. Depending on rainfall levels you may get a near constant harvest with just a few plants. Once harvested the flowers can be placed in an open jar, tightly woven basket, or drying rack and left at room temperature with normal light levels. It will only take a few days for them to dry, with the petals usually falling off and leaving a yellow mounded center and a pile of dust.
Chamomile tea is famous as a calming agent and is indeed anti-inflammatory, but when burned as incense, chamomile can bring on an intense meditational and relaxed state. Traditionally it is used to relieve allergies, but it also seems to cause many allergic reactions itself so it may be unwise to use it for this purpose.
Roman chamomile is best uses as a hair rinse (especially for blondes), an insect repellent, or in cosmetics.
A dying plant placed near a healthy chamomile will recover and cucumbers or onions will be enhanced when planted near it. In the Victorian language chamomile means “humility” or “may all your wishes come true.” Happy growing!