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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Hibiscus for late summer cooling relief!

Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa)

As we linger in the last few weeks of Summer, I fully intend to enjoy every minute of these fleeting warm and sunny days. And by the way Summer officially ends on September 23rd so don’t talk to me about pumpkin anything until that date. In the meantime, I will be gleefully sipping my herbal iced tea while strolling and frolicking barefoot through the Medicine Wheel Garden.

One of my favorite summer-time herbs for these endearing and enduring dog days of late summer is Hibiscus! What a beautiful plant with its audaciously gorgeous and showy flowers. Hibiscus is a member of the Malvaceae or Mallow Family and like many members of this family, Hibiscus is demulcent or soothing in nature making the tea a perfect drink for arid climates such as the ones it originates from. Although Hibiscus is native to tropical and subtropical regions, it was introduced to the southern United States in the late 19th century and has gained in popularity in recent years for its medicinal health benefits to the cardiovascular system and many other health benefits. This perennial  grows happily in zone 8 although it will adapt to life in cooler climates where it is grown as an annual. The Hardy Hibiscus is bred for colder climates where it can be grown as a perennial although it may not possess the same medicinal qualities.

Hibiscus Calyxes

Hibiscus calyxes are harvested when they turn bright red. It is from these that medicinal or beverage teas are made that also turn the water a beautiful bright red. The resulting beverage is tart but slightly sweet, very cooling, refreshing, and one of my favorite and easy to make sun teas!

Hibiscus is a staple in the hot climates where it grows naturally employed as a food, a beverage, a medicine, and in some regions even a fiber plant. Loaded with antioxidants, Hibiscus is known for its mildly tart refreshing taste and as a natural diuretic, it offers cooling, soothing plant medicine, uplifts the spirit, and elevates the mood. As with many plants with dark pigmentation Hibiscus has much to offer the cardiovascular system. Recent studies have shown Hibiscus to significantly decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressure in those who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and had mildly elevated blood pressure, but its cardiovascular benefits don’t stop there. Hibiscus has been found to lower total cholesterol and blood sugar levels, both risk factors for heart disease, and has been found to improve circulation. Hibiscus’s astringent properties can help to minimize the fragility of blood vessels thereby increasing their elasticity.

Hibiscus promotes liver health, weight loss, and makes a tasty beverage hot or iced to replace unhealthy and sugary drinks often an unacknowledged detriment to health and wellness. Historically, Hibiscus has been considered helpful as an antidepressant, mild laxative, natural diuretic, digestive aid, high in vitamin C, calcium, and iron providing nutritional support for those with anemia. It has been shown to aid in immune function and recent lab tests reveal an increase in cancer cell apoptosis, but more tests will be needed to draw any further conclusions.

Hibiscus is used as a traditional medicine in South America, Mexico, parts of Africa, and India where it is used for healing sore throats and colds, its high vitamin C level no doubt aiding in this effect, as a diuretic, and for healing heart conditions. In East Africa, the leaves are poulticed and used topically on skin irritations. Other uses include use as a food coloring.

Although Hibiscus is generally regarded as safe within normal doses, it is not recommended during pregnancy and it is recommended by the Botanical Safety Handbook that those taking acetaminophen should not take Hibiscus within 3 hours due to the increased elimination rate.

Green Girl’s C Tea contains general amounts of Hibiscus!

If you would like to experience more of what Hibiscus has to offer be sure to check out Green Girl’s C Tea made with Roses, Rosehips, Hibiscus, and Elderberry, and excellent boost of immune system support, loads of vitamin C and antiviral properties and it tastes great hot or iced! Available online here at Green Girl Store.

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