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Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea is a fragrant infusion of fresh or dried chamomile flowers. Since early Egyptian times, it used as a traditional strewing herb. It is one of the nine sacred herbs named in the Anglo-Saxon medical texts and prayers, and praised as "plants' physician" for its healing abilities.

The herb belongs to the Asteraceae (daisy) family of flowering plants, which emit apple-like aroma. Flowers handpicked particularly during early morning hours for making herbal tea.

chamomile tea
Chamomile tea.
Photo courtesy: Tory

There are several varieties of chamomile grown naturally in the wild, under temperate climates of Northern Hemisphere. However, the two most popular varieties are cultivated for their flowers and other herbal parts are German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile).

German (blue) chamomile is an aromatic annual with branched stems up to 18 inches in height. Its stems are hairless, slender and bear small pleasantly fragrant white florets around the prominent orange-yellow disc. The disc (receptacle) is hollow and becomes conical as the flower matures.

Roman Chamomile is a vigorous hairy creeping perennial, up to 18 inches, with ferny leaves. Its flowers appear similar to the German chamomile but little larger featuring solid receptacle with sweet, fruity, apple-scented florets.

For cultivation, sows seeds in spring in fertile, well-drained light soil. Blooms can be ready for harvest by summer. Flowers for essential oil and teas collected as petals, which begin to reflex in the sun, and dried rapidly in shade.

Health benefits of chamomile tea

  • Chamomile is one of the popular flower herbal teas consumed around the world, especially in Europe. Ancient Greeks used it to make wreaths and garlands who firmly believed it as a symbol of peace, harmony, and happiness.

  • Chamomile flowers carry several active chemical substances such as chamazulene, bisabolol, apigenin, and luteolin, etc. The flower extracts and the essential oil are therefore the ingredients of several traditional herbal remedies.

  • The flavonoids are mainly of apigenin with smaller amounts of luteolin and quercetin. Together, these compounds are known to work as anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.

  • The constituents in chamomile tea or tisane have refreshingly soothing effects on the nervous system, reduce nervous irritability, and induce calm and mildly sedative effect.

  • Its active ingredients also help stimulating the appetite and cleansing the blood.

  • Medicinally, the extraction obtained from both varieties of chamomile herbal parts used for reducing skin inflammation, and erythemotous lesions.

  • Quercetin in the infusion, in fact, protects the skin from sunlight injuries.

  • The herb carries very small amounts of minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, copper, and zinc.


See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:
Chamomile tea (Matricaria chamomilla), brewed, Nutritive value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA
Energy 1 Kcal <1%
Carbohydrates 0.20 g <1%
Protein 0 g 0%
Total Fat 0 g 0%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 40.3 g 106%
Vitamins
Folates 1 μg 0.25%
Niacin 0 mg 0%
Pyridoxine 0 mg 0%
Riboflavin 0.004 mg <1%
Thiamin 0.010 mg <1%
Vitamin A 20 IU 0.7%
Vitamin C 0 mg 0%
Vitamin E 0 mg 0%
Vitamin K 0 µg 0%
Electrolytes
Sodium 1 mg <1%
Potassium 9 mg <1%
Minerals
Calcium 2 mg <1%
Copper 0.015 mg <1%
Iron 0.08 mg 1%
Magnesium 1 mg <1%
Manganese 0.044 mg <1%
Zinc 0.04 mg <1%
Phyto-nutrients
Caffiene 1 mg --
Carotene-ß 12 µg --
Cryptoxanthin-ß 0 µg --
Lutein-zeaxanthin 0 µg --
Theobromine 0 µg --

Harvesting and storage

chamomile flowerheads
Beautiful chamomile flowers.

Full blooms are either handpicked or harvested by hand raking. Hand harvesting for the highest quality flower head for the tea market involves raking the flower heads from the plants at intervals. Harvesting by hand raking or by clipping is a very labor intensive and costly process.

Shade dried flowers are sorted to be free of foreign material for the tea market. Carefully graded flowers later sold in bulk to factories where they further processed and packed in tea bags/sachets, and small storages tins. They may also blended with other herb products.

Buy freshly harvested and shade dried chamomile flower heads packed in tea bags or in airtight tins from the specialty herbal product store. Look for the authenticity and avoid any adulterated products.


Preparation of chamomile tea

German chamomile flowers for brewing tea gives the infusion a delicate light blue color. German Roman chamomile, on the other hand, gives the infusion a delicate light straw color. Freshly harvested and shade-dried flowers should be used within 6 months for maximum health benefits.

Put the fresh or dried chamomile flowers into a teapot or directly into a mug. Pour on the boiling water and leave to infuse for about 5 minutes, or longer if you prefer a stronger flavor. Strain the tea and if you wish add a small amount of caster sugar or honey and stir to dissolve.


Here are some other serving tips:

  • Drink 1 to 4 cups of chamomile tea everyday for long-lasting health benefits.

  • Chamomile is a caffiene-free tisane (herbal infusion) and work as mild sedative. It can be enjoyed as bedtime drink for sound sleep.

  • Fresh chamomile petals also employed as a flavoring garnish in salads, soups, stews, marinades as well as in vegetable dishes.


Safety profile

Chamomile tea and other products may not recommended in people with known sensitivities or allergies to the daisy or asteraceae family plants such as chrysanthemums, ragweed, etc.

The products also not indicated in patients with atopic hay fever or asthma. It also contraindicated in women during their early months of pregnancy due to its possible birth defects in the newborn. (Medical disclaimer).


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Further Resources:

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database. (opens in new window).

  2. Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page-Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk (Link opens in new window).

  3. Introduction to chamomile-American Botanical Council. pdf. (opens in new window).

  4. German chamomile production.. pdf. (opens in new window).




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