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Chamomile: Shelter from the Storm

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Chamomile owes its anti-inflammatory properties to the compound azulen, a principal component of the herb's beautiful blue essential oil. Add the oil to a warm bath to soften the skin and induce relaxation or apply it topically along with lavender oil at the nape of the neck and on the temples to help relieve headaches. Lukewarm chamomile tea, administered with a sterile eyedropper as an eyewash, can revive tired, bloodshot eyes and treat mild conjunctivitis. To reduce puffy eyes, place a warmed chamomile tea bag directly on closed eyes for several minutes.

Barbara Close, founder of the holistic spa Naturopathica, recommends applying a cold compress of chamomile oil and fresh peppermint leaves to soothe skin following too much sun exposure. Her book, Well Being: Rejuvenating Recipes for Body and Soul (Chronicle; $18.95), offers recipes for this and other seasonal herbal treatments, including an aromatic chamomile herbal bath bouquet and a chamomile face serum for nourishing dry skin.

Look for chamomile the next time you go shopping. The flower's widespread popularity has made it available at most local supermarkets. Keep it on hand, experiment, and add it to your list of favorite herbal remedies.

A Relaxing Tea & Bath

General dosage for chamomile tea is 1 teaspoon per cup of water; steep for five to 10 minutes. The longer chamomile steeps, the more powerful its calming effects. According to Vermont author and herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, after about 10 minutes of steeping, chamomile's bitter properties are released, making it an excellent anti-inflammatory aid and digestive, soothing stomach irritations as well as easing the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

For an easy afternoon pick-me-up without caffeine jitters, add 1/2 teaspoon of dried chamomile flowers to a cup of green tea. Let the flowers steep in the tea, strain, and enjoy.

"When preparing a chamomile bath ," says Gladstar, "you don't have to be precise." She recommends making a strong batch of tea in a half-gallon jar with up to 1/2 cup of chamomile per batch and then adding it to the bathwater. Or, for really deep relaxation, mix in equal parts lavender or lemon balm -- totaling 1/2 cup -- in a nylon stocking or muslin bag. Let the bag run under hot water first, then adjust the water temperature by running cold water.

 

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