Chamomile German (Matricaria recutita)
Native to southern and eastern Europe, this sweet-smelling herb has been used for generations to help promote relaxation, to ease skin irritations and to reduce swelling. German Chamomile grows one to three foot tall, has ferny green foliage, and is covered in white and yellow daisy-like flowers. It thrives in full sun to light shade and can even be grown indoors if placed in a bright and sunny room. Plant in well-drained soil and provide moderate irrigation.
Chamomile is a good companion plant to many other herbs, and if planted close by, is known to help improve the taste of plants in the allium family. The fragrant flowers attract beneficial insects such as hoverflies, predatory wasps and robber flies. These are what we call the “good guys” because they feast on other insects – AKA the “bad guys” that are attacking your vegetable garden. An added bonus, German Chamomile is known to repel Cucumber Beetles, (those green Lady Bug looking things), so you really want to add these to your garden! If that wasn’t reason enough, they are a magnet for the local Butterfly and Bee populations.
When harvesting your Chamomile, remove the flowers only. Spread them out on a flat surface in a warm, dry and well-ventilated room. Avoid drying them in direct sunlight, as the intense sunlight can damage the beneficial oils in the flowers. Once thoroughly dry, store them in a sealed container. The flowers can be steeped in water to make a soothing tea to help with relaxation and sleep. It’s also used as a hair rinse for blonde hair, and can even be used to create a natural yellow-brown fabric dye.
A word of caution when consuming German Chamomile; interactions have been reported between Chamomile and Cyclosporine and/or Warfarin. Also, very little is known about whether it’s safe to use Chamomile during pregnancy and breastfeeding. With that being said, it’s recommended that you consult your health care provider before consuming Chamomile – especially if you take medication.