Chamomile tea is the quintessential relaxation drink. After a long, stressful day, there’s really nothing quite like cuddling up under a blanket with a warm mug of chamomile tea. (And maybe a cat of dog to pet) This wonderful little flower is such a great addition to your garden and your tea cabinet. Also, it’s super easy to grow and dry.
There are 2 different varieties of chamomile, German and Roman. Both are fantastic. Roman (or English) chamomile is a low lying ground cover while German chamomile can grow quite tall. (about 2-3 feet) Other than their heights, the main difference is that the German variety has slightly higher levels of the compounds that make it beneficial. We are growing the German chamomile this year.
For the garden
In the garden, chamomile is great for bringing in beneficial insects and pollinators. It attracts a few species of predatory wasp (don’t worry, not the scary kind of wasp) that will help keep away more detrimental insects.
If planted alongside garlic, chamomile will help improve the flavour and deter onion flies. Next year in the onion bed I want to plant Roman chamomile to help keep the weeds at bay around my onions. But so far this year, there’s been no sign of any onion flies, so hooray!
It should be noted that I am not a doctor! If you are suffering from any kinds of serious skin ailments, anxiety/depression, or really anything medical, you should speak to a doctor. All of my advice and information is either anecdotal from my own experiences or found out through my own research.
Chamomile has been known to have high levels of anti septic, anti inflammatory and anti oxidant compounds. Making it a really fantastic all around plant for helping relieve symptoms and help in healing.
This year I had a run in with poison ivy. While it was in its horrible itching stages I used lots of great OTC creams to relieve the awfulness. But once it started to heal, I added chamomile to the regimen to help the wounds heal without scarring. Just by soaking my wounds in a warm bowl (it was on my wrists and hands, use an appropriately sized vessel for the wounds) of strong chamomile tea I noticed a marked improvement. When poison ivy wounds are healing they also itch, just like anything healing, and this soak soothed the itch a lot.
I’ve also heard of ladies steeping a whole bunch in a bath and soaking in it to help with menstrual symptoms. You would need a lot of flowers, but at some point I am going to try that!
Chamomile is also known to help relieve head aches, calm anxiety, and aid in falling to sleep. Being an anti inflammatory, it can really help to just sooth your whole body inside and out. I tend to get pretty bad bouts of heartburn if I’ve been drinking too much caffeine or if I’ve eaten a bit too much fatty food. Drinking a mug of chamomile soothes my stomach and allows the acid to subside. I know I’m not the only one who hates heartburn, and honestly, this has helped a bucket load.
Drying your own chamomile for use in teas, salves, soaps or lotions, is so easy. I use a dehydrator but it can be dried without one as well.
You want to pick your flowers in the morning. After the dew has dried, before the day gets too hot. But you want to make sure the flowers are fully opened. If you pick them too early, before the dew has dried, they are more difficult to dry and could end up being moldy. Yuck.
The process of picking the flowers can be a bit painstaking, but I promise it’s worth it. Snip each flower stem about 2cm down from the flower. Examine the flower all over for debris and bugs. Blow on each flower to blow away any bugs. Look really thoroughly. There were a lot of tiny black bugs on my plants and they can hide between the petals, so be thorough. Some people wash their flowers, but I don’t like to. I want to maintain all of the pollen that helps give flavour and fragrance to the tea.
If you are drying without a dehydrator; Snip off the remaining stem, and simply lay your flowers out on a flat surface (the best would be a mesh screen like the screen out of a window) and allow to dry for 1-2 weeks in a dark, warm and dry place.
If your are using a dehydrator; Snip off the remaining stems, and lay your flowers flat on your dehydrator trays. I use the herb drying mat that came with my Salton Dehydrator. More of these mats can be purchased through Amazon if you need them. They help prevent the tiny flowers from falling through the grates.
Set your dehydrator to the lowest setting, and allow to dry for about 36-48 hours. The yellow centers of the flowers need to be fully dry. They shouldn’t have any “squish” to them. If they are even a little bit damp still, they will rot. With all the work it takes to harvest them, you’re better to err on the side of caution and keep going until you are sure.
Once they’re dry, store them in a jar in a dark dry place. If your tea shelf isn’t dark then store the flowers in a dark container. Sunlight will degrade the flowers faster. When you’re ready for your tea, simply boil 250ml of water, fill your tea ball and steep for about 5-6minutes. If you want a stronger tea, use for flowers but steep for the same amount of time. Steeping for too long can cause an unpleasant taste. So go for more flowers vs. longer steep time.
Looking for more things to dehydrate in your new dehydrator? Check out my post on How To Dry Herbs in a Dehydrator. A great way to save the taste of summer all winter long!