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Chamomile: Shelter from the Storm

WebMD Feature from "Country Living" Magazine

By Maggy Howe

Country Living MagazineThe 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," below ).

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