Calming Chamomile

German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

As I think back to some of my earliest days learning about and working with the healing plants, one plant immediately comes to mind, the charming and calming Chamomile. With its cheery disposition, pleasant apple-like scent, and fruity taste, Chamomile is perfect for those new to drinking herbal teas or working with the healing plants. I have always loved her healing teas and as a budding herbalist, I would often drink them in the evening or when I needed a little calming down time. Her medicine is well-tolerated by most people, even the little ones, and her uses are varied as we will learn!

Although Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) is often referred to as the “true Chamomile”, it is the German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) that is most often used in modern medicinal preparations and the species I most often work with. Growing to heights of up to 24 inches, stems branching into graceful feathery leaves with flowers that only reach 1” to 2” in width, it’s a wonder that Chamomile is as powerful as she is. But oh those flowers! Could anyone gaze upon those tiny daisy-like perfections and not be filled with a profound joy and love for the plant world? I think not.

German Chamomile is an annual, although one might think this easy to grow plant is a perennial given the way it reseeds itself rapidly and with no intervention on our part. Grown in zones 4 to 9, German Chamomile is hardier than she looks and prefers sunny locations with well-drained soil. She will tolerate being grown in a pot as well and her enchanting scent makes for a nice addition to patios or small balconies.

Chamomile Tea is a source of peace and calming.

A cup of Chamomile tea is a classic remedy for insomnia and anxiety. When sleep isn’t coming easily, Chamomile lulls one into a peaceful slumber allaying fears and comforting cranky children and adults like a loving and patient Grandmother. Chamomile is equally adept at taming a nasty tension headache or stomachache caused by worry or spasms of the digestive system. In fact, Chamomile is an aid to good digestion and can be taken in tea form or a few drops of tincture before mealtime to improve the digestion naturally and safely.

But Chamomile’s healing powers do not stop there, as the tea, tincture, or compress can also relax uterine spasms and ease painful menstrual cramps and tension. A compress can also be made for the often- accompanying menstrual back pain. In fact, Chamomile is known for her anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects being used for arthritic pains, sciatica, and the pain associated with gout.

Chamomile especially loves children and has a long history of use for infant colicky, teething babies, irritability, and hyperactivity and the wee ones often love the taste which is helpful. A classic remedy for children’s colds and flu, Chamomile combined with Elder Flower, Yarrow, and Peppermint, an often well received tea!

This is just some of the Magick that is Chamomile!

If you’d to learn more about the healing plants growing all around us, be sure to sign up for the Green Girl newsletter or register for an upcoming class!

*Although Chamomile is generally regarded as safe, pregnant and lactating women should always check in with their health care professional before consuming herbal preparations. Although rare, occasionally some people will have a mild allergic reaction to Chamomile. When trying new herbs for the first time, it’s always a good idea to try a small amount first to see how your body responds to the remedy.

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Burdock “the Great”

The Great Burdock (Arctium lappa), or as I like to call her “Burdock the Great” is a transplant originating from Eurasia no doubt secretly hitching a ride from some explorer to the “New World” or perhaps her introduction was more intentional. Were I traveling to distant unknown lands, I know I would want to have this incredible plant by my side.  A biennial, whose large palm-like leaves grow close to the ground and spread in the first year. The delicious taproot reaching down, down into the Earth only to be harvested by painstaking digging preferably with a long, narrow trowel. The most medicinal of these roots can be harvested in the fall of the first year. By the second year, a tall 6 to 7 foot stem emerges as if to reach out and touch the very sky. Pinkish purple thistle-like flowers in summer will give way to the burrs whose ability to latch onto animal fur, hair, clothing, (pretty much any place you don’t want them) have been noted as the inspiration for Velcro. I believe it.

 

Often deemed an “invader” as if it had been dropped from the silver streak of  passing UFO, Burdock is often terribly maligned, her incredible life-giving health benefits ignored or forgotten altogether. Fortunately, some of us know her secrets and make use of her healing ways as often as possible. Burdock has a powerful effect on the liver acting as what would be considered a “blood purifier” working deep into the body to clear away toxins and waste products and skin eruptions like acne and eczema in the process. Burdock is an herb that works deeply, persistently, and often behind the scenes bringing healing to the digestive system and acting as a mild and most tolerable laxative. She is also a lymphatic and is often included in detoxification blends.  Referred to as “Gobo” in Asian cooking which is the root of this plant. The root is considered a blood purifier, liver cleanser, lymph cleanser, blood sugar balancer and helpful for kidney ailments. The massive leaves can be poulticed on bruises or made into a salve for skin issues such as psoriasis and eczema.

 

In the late fall, the seeds can be harvested although care needs to be taken as the tiny hairs contained within the seedy burrs can be quite irritating to the skin. This I also know from first hand experience. The seeds of the second year plant are diaphoretic when made into a tea and are excellent as a steam for the complexion. Quite a few insects and birds also rely on the seeds so be sure to leave some behind.

 

 

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