Chamomile: Shelter from the Storm
By Maggy Howe
The rejuvenating effects of chamomile.
I am sorry to say that Peter was not very well during the evening. His
mother put him to bed, and made some camomile tea; and she gave a dose of it to
Peter! "One tablespoon to be taken at bed-time." --The Tale of Peter
Rabbit, Beatrix Potter
Dear Peter Rabbit and his troublesome antics! It took more than his mother's
reprimands to calm him down after his harrowing experience in Mr. McGregor's
garden. It was the gentle yet powerful actions of chamomile that finally eased
him into a restful sleep. Fortunately Mr. McGregor didn't have a chamomile
patch, or poor Peter might have had an experience similar to one I had a few
years ago, when I was a sleep-deprived new mother.
I was invited to join a mother-and-child group that met at a home near mine
in Northern California. It was a warm spring afternoon and I decided to walk to
the gathering. When my son and I arrived, I opened the front gate and was
enchanted by the yard's delightful, applelike aroma. The house was set far back
from the road, and the entire landscape seemed to be carpeted with herbs,
including varieties of Roman and German chamomile. As we proceeded toward the
house, I decided to sit for a moment and enjoy the fragrant atmosphere. An hour
or so later, a barking dog woke me. My infant and I both had fallen into a deep
and rejuvenating sleep! Amazed by how refreshed I felt, I was even more taken
by how easily I had surrendered to the benefits of chamomile. And I, like Peter
Rabbit's mother, soon had a favorite home remedy.
The two most popular types of the herb are German chamomile ( Matricaria
recutita syn. M. chamomilla ), an annual that can often be found
growing wild along roadsides, and Roman chamomile ( Anthemis nobilis
syn. Chamaemelum nobile ), a perennial that is frequently used for
ground cover. Pillows and beds stuffed with chamomile and lavender were once
thought to comfort, relax, and summon pleasant dreams with their calming aroma.
Today we can achieve the same soothing effects in our homes by simply
sprinkling dried chamomile blossoms onto our carpets just before vacuuming to
leave a fresh, clean scent.
Rosemary Gladstar, author of Herbs for Reducing Stress &
Anxiety (Storey Books; 1999; $8.95) and director of Sage Mountain Herbal
Retreat Center and Native Plant Preserve, in East Barre, Vt., cites chamomile
as one of her all-time favorite botanicals. "Many Americans believe
chamomile to be a fairly weak remedy, because it's safe for animals, infants,
and elders, but in actuality chamomile is as powerful as it is gentle on the
body," Gladstar notes. She prescribes chamomile for skin irritations and
eyewashes, as well as for nervous and digestive complaints. "If a client is
under serious stress, I recommend that she soak in chamomile baths once or
twice a week. To treat mild stress, I suggest sipping chamomile tea throughout
the day," says Gladstar (see "A Relaxing Tea & Bath,"