chamomile flowers - the food and medicinal uses of chamomile

Meet the Plants | The Food & Medicinal Uses of Chamomile

For a delicate-looking little flower in the sunflower family, the abundant benefits of chamomile might be a little surprising. Amongst its many benefits, chamomile can help ease our bodies and minds on the toughest of days, help us sleep better, and support healthy digestion. And even more so, it’s a good reminder that gentle doesn’t mean powerless.

three fresh chamomile flowers with leaves

WANNA KNOW MORE?! HERE YOU’LL FIND:

Meet & Greet: 11 Facts About Chamomile
How to Enjoy Chamomile as a Food
The Science-Backed Medicinal Uses of Chamomile

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Say Hello to Chamomile…

Like most medicinal plants, chamomile is full of nuances. It’s calming, but stimulating, bitter, but also smells like apples and honey. Here are 11 facts about chamomile to help you get to know this plant better.


Chamomile is in the same family as echinacea, dandelion, and calendula and has small, daisy-like flowers with white petals and a yellow center. The flowers are about 1/2 inch in diameter and smell absolutely divine!


The flowers grow on long and slender stems and the leaves are light and feathery giving the plant a very spindly look, but don’t be fooled. German chamomile can grow into dense mats up to 3 feet high and wide.


In spite of its typically shallow roots, chamomile is know as a nutrient accumulator, drawing specific minerals from the soil and concentrating them in its own plant tissues.


Some have called chamomile the plant’s physician, noting its seeming ability to have positive effects on neighboring plants.


Bees, butterflies, and many other beneficial insects love chamomile. Accordingly, it’s a great addition to a pollinator garden.


Chamomile flowers love to be picked! The more you pick, the more flowers you’ll have. Harvest daily if you can!


Chamomile’s Spanish name is manzanilla meaning little apple, referring to its apple-like scent. Its German name is alles zutraut meaning capable of anything.


The use of chamomile can be traced to over 3,500 years ago, where its use to honor the gods and cure illness is recorded in ancient Egyptian texts.


Chamomile has found its way into many beauty products due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antibacterial properties. Products include hair lighteners, treatments for acne, infused body oils, and more.


In flower language, chamomile represents humility or patience in adversity


Nutritionally, a cup of chamomile tea contains potassium, beta carotene, calcium, magnesium, and some folate.


German Chamomile vs. Roman Chamomile

These two are often confused with each other due to them sharing such similar common names, but they do have different chemical compositions & applications.

German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is native to most parts of Europe & Asia. And in
terestingly, the white & yellow flowers produce a blue essential oil.

O
n the other hand, Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile or Anthemis nobilis) is a Mediterranean perennial & is typically much smaller. And in contrast, the white & yellow flowers of this chamomile produce a pale yellow essential oil.

Plant profile for German Chamomile showing food uses and medicinal benefits
three fresh chamomile flowers with leaves

Using Chamomile as a Food

As a highly aromatic flower with subtle nuances of apple and honey, chamomile is commonly used in cooking, especially when it comes to sweet treats like cake and cookies, and even chamomile-infused ice cream.

But chamomile can also be a great addition to savory dishes. Chefs not afraid to experiment with herbs have included it in all kinds of dishes. One chef suggests using a dried chamomile and salt rub for fish!

This sweet little flower is also making an increasing appearance in modern cocktail culture, oftentimes as an infused simple syrup or infused liqueur. With the resurgence of herbal bitters in cocktail culture, chamomile often sneaks into our cocktails this way… in a dash of bitters.

Traditionally, due to chamomile’s bitter qualities, English monks in the Middle Ages use it to make beer, and many brewers continue to use it this way today.

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The Medicinal Uses of Chamomile

The medicinal uses here refer to those of German Chamomile (M. recutita).

Perhaps more than its use as a food, chamomile is widely known for its soothing tea. Medicinally, chamomile is considered to be:

  • Nervine (calming to the nerves)
  • Carminative (soothing to our GI tract & digestion)
  • Antibacterial
  • Antispasmodic
  • Wound Healing
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Cholegogue (stimulates flow of bile from the liver to aid digestion)

Here’s a deeper dive into some of the more common medicinal uses of chamomile.

Chamomile Uses for Stress, Anxiety, & Sleeplessness

Chamomile’s most well-known use is as a calming, stress-relieving, easing herb that makes a pretty badass cup of tea. It’s a universal remedy for all kinds of tension, whether it’s sore muscles, a nervous stomach, painful menstrual cramping, or stress-induced inflammation that can lead to headaches, heartburn, and more.

Chamomile tea has been shown to be an effective alternative to depression therapy in cancer patients. Its mild sedative effects are also beneficial to infants and elders who become restless when they try to sleep.

And what’s more is that the sweet floral scent of chamomile is also calming. Studies have shown that using chamomile essential oil in aromatherapeutic massage oils can help provide better relaxation and relieve stress-induced insomnia.

Chamomile Uses for Digestion

And while it’s helping us relax, chamomile is also helping to support healthy digestion.

Why is healthy digestion so important?

The better functioning our digestion is, the more nutrients we’re absorbing from the foods we eat, the stronger and more resilient our immune systems are, and the better our overall resistance to disease is. Healthy digestion is key to wellness.

Chamomile supports our digestion in a couple ways. Two of those ways are on account of its carminative and bitter actions.

As a carminative, chamomile can help to soothe and settle the gut wall, helping to smooth out the whole digestive process, as well as to prevent symptoms of poor digestion such as heartburn, gas and bloating, and painful cramping.

And as an herbal bitter, as soon as chamomile hits our tongues, our central nervous systems signals our digestion systems to jump into action. Digestive enzymes and hormones are released, the secretion of bile is stimulated, fat is more easily digested, and an entire rabbit hole of other actions commences in a great digestive symphony.

three fresh chamomile flowers with leaves

Chamomile’s Potential Role in Diabetes Management

Studies have also shown that chamomile, as well as green tea, has been effective in specifically slowing down the digestion of sugar, helping to prevent drastic fluctuations in blood glucose and energy metabolism.

Are you familiar with the sugar high?! And then the unavoidable crash that soon follows? These studies imply that chamomile may help prevent such extremes and accordingly, that chamomile may also be effective in diabetes management.

Chamomile Uses for Pain & Inflammation

Studies have also shown chamomile to be an effective anti-inflammatory, helping to ease symptoms of PMS and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as gingival inflammation when used as a mouthwash.

For inflammatory conditions, chamomile can be used internally as a tea, tincture, or glycerite, or externally as an infused oil or diluted essential oil.

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Isn’t chamomile amazing?! I barely covered the mountain of food and medicinal uses of chamomile, but I think I got the basics here for you. I hope you learned something new!

I’d love to hear about your relationship with chamomile. How are you using this sweet, but powerful little flower? Tell me all about it in the comments below, or find me on Facebook or Instagram.

And if you enjoyed this content, please share it on your social media platforms! Help me spread the good word about the plants! Sharing is caring. 🖤

AND BEFORE YOU GO, TRY THESE RELAXING CHAMOMILE RECIPES!

>> De-stress with the Chamomile Rose Bathtub Tea!
>> Try this Anti-Anxiety Herbal Tea Blend. It’s delicious hot or cold.
>> This Ultra Nourishing Calendula Body Oil with chamomile is perfect for an overwhelmed nervous system.
>> And if you’re as intrigued by the bitter actions of chamomile as I am, you might also enjoy this: 5 Reasons Bitter Foods are Essential to Our Health.

for people and planet, love sass (Botany Culture)

DISCLAIMER: The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns at all, it’s always a good idea to check with your health practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if taking any prescription medications. 

Meet the plants: German chamomile and it's many benefits

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

  • de la Forêt, Rosalee. Monograph: Chamomile. Learningherbs.com
  • McBride, K. (2019). The Herbal Kitchen. Conari Press.
  • Tilgner, S. M. (2009). Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth. Wise Acres.
Find Organic Herbs & Spices at Mountain Rose Herbs

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