Both German chamomile (M. recutita) and its relative, Roman chamomile (C. nobile) are among the most widely used of medicinal herbs. Their actions are very similar, with Roman chamomile having a slightly more bitter taste and German chamomile being slightly more anti-inflammatory and analgesic. While herbalists may have their individual favorites the plants are extremely close in action and can be regarded as interchangeable in lay person use.
The Greeks knew the herb as "ground apple" (kamai melon), so called because of its characteristic smell, and it is still used for ornamental lawns, giving a hint of apples when walked on. Special non-flowering cultivars have been developed for lawns, but these are useless if you want to use the herb medicinally since it is only the flowers that are of value.
To the Anglo-Saxons, chamomile was maythen, one of the nine sacred herbs given to mankind by Woden and listed in the ninth-century poem the Lacnunga.
Both varieties of chamomiles are used for nervous stomach upsets, nausea, insomnia, and externally in creams for eczema, wounds, nappy rash, sore nipples and piles. The flowers are readily available in tea bags or sold loose for infusions and, although the flavor can be something of an acquired taste, chamomile tea is probably one of the most popular herbal drinks on the market.
Chamomile is also used in homoeopathy and Chamomilla 3X is a valuable standby for babies, used to treat both colic and teething. It is one of the safest herbs for children and babies and some mothers use weak infusions as a night-time drink to encourage restful sleep. The infusion can also be added to bath water to soothe over-excited infants.
Chamomile yields a deep blue essential oil on steam distillation which is very relaxing and useful in skin care. This is used for a range of digestive disorders, inflammations, emotional problems and muscle pains. It is extremely expensive but usually 2-3 drops are sufficient.
Botanists have renamed chamomile repeatedly over the years: Roman chamomile may still be found labeled as Anthemis nobile while German chamomile is often called either Chamomilla recutita or Matricaria chamomilla.
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