Chamomile is native to the Daisy family and is one of most ancient herbs used in traditional herbal medicine. It is an herb that you can grow abundantly in your own herb garden and use for a multitude of medicinal benefits.
The dried flowers contain many medicinal properties coming from its terpenoids and flavonoids, which contribute to the plant’s sweet, warm and herbaceous aroma. It is also known for its apple-like, tart-like flavor.
Smelling fresh or dried chamomile flowers is instantly calming and soothing to the nervous system. If you put a chamomile flower head in your mouth, you can instantly taste through your saliva that it has many benefits for digestion. Like all wise women say, a cup of chamomile tea will work wonders for an upset stomach. It is a very gentle, mild herb that you can drink daily for many health benefits.
You can even make your own tea once you learn how to harvest and dry the chamomile properly.
How to harvest and dry chamomile flowers
Harvesting fresh chamomile flowers is usually best in the summertime, depending on where you live. If you are lucky, some chamomile plants survive a winter frost and can be harvested, otherwise you can harvest them during the summer and prepare your dried chamomile for the winter.
If you continue to harvest chamomile flowers daily, they will continue to bloom all summer long. Picking chamomile is super relaxing and easy, you will surely get addicted to this meditative task especially when smelling the delicious aroma of all the fresh blossoms.
- Harvest the flowers in the morning on a sunny day, after all morning dew has evaporated.
- Choose blossoms that are already open. To pick the chamomile blossoms, just use your thumb and index finger or middle finger to pinch the flower head. With pinched fingers, gently pull and it should pop off easily. Collect your blossoms in a tightly woven basket. Tip: Gather as many blossoms in full bloom as you can, as they will grow back. If they look sad or droopy, it is better to pick them off to make room for new flowers, as they will have lost a bit of their medicinal properties.
- When the flowers are done blooming, you can collect seeds. Chamomile plants are also self seeding, so you can leave nature to do it’s own thing (just be aware that it might spread all over your herb garden.)
There are many ways to air dry chamomile flowers, but you will heat and have good air circulation. You can air dry them on a wooden air drying rack or screen, but it is possible you might lose some of the tiny white petals. To prevent this from happening you can put a baking sheet on top of the screen. Spread them out in a single layer and let them air dry in a cool, dark, warm, dry place for about one to two weeks until they are completely dried.
You can also use a food dehydrator to speed up the drying process. Put the dehydrator on the lowest setting possible, and let it dry for 12 to 18 hours. Drying chamomile is quite simple, but since it is such a delicate flower it is important to dehydrate at the lowest setting to get the best results.
Once the dried blossoms are ready, place them in a sealed glass jar with an airtight seal until you are ready for next year’s harvest. It is important to store dried herbs out of direct sunlight and heat, to preserve their color, flavor, and medicinal qualities and benefits.
After harvesting and drying properly, you will be ready to make chamomile tea straight from your own garden!
How to harvest chamomile seeds
Now you know how to harvest chamomile, but how about how to harvest chamomile seeds?
To harvest just the seeds, you will need to leave the flowers on the stem until the flower heads are completely dried out. You can pick them or cut the flower heads off with scissors and leave them to lay flat on a drying rack. Rub the flower heads together over a bowl and let the seeds collect and fall. You may need a mesh strainer to sort out the tiny seeds from the petals. If you store the seeds correctly, they can be kept for 3-4 years.
Otherwise, if you feel a bit lazy to do all this work, just let your plants self-seed on their own!
How to make tea with fresh or dried chamomile
For dried chamomile, use two to three teaspoons per one cup of boiling water. Let it steep for two to five minutes or more depending on how strong you want your infusion to be.
To make with fresh chamomile, you will use six to eight teaspoons of fresh flower heads per one cup of boiling water. Also, steep for two to five minutes. The more time you leave it to infuse the stronger it will be, and the less time the more delicate it will taste.
Even if you do not have your own chamomile plant, you can easily buy and find organic dried chamomile in different herb shops.
Chamomile tea is delicious on its own, but can also be combined with other herbs that help with stomach pain and digestion such as mint, lemon balm or lavender.
Growing chamomile from seed to tea
If you would like to grow chamomile to make your own tea you absolutely can! Growing and planting chamomile is easier than you would think. All you need to start with are some tiny seeds and a location that is dry, sunny and warm for growing chamomile. The two most popular types of chamomile are German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), both are self seeding annual plant that contain the healing and calming essential oils chamomile is known to give. It usually takes chamomile about 10 weeks to fully grow from seed to flower.
- Start by sowing your seeds by scattering them lightly on the surface of soil. Spray them with water and gently pack them into the soil so they still have room to germinate. You do not want them to be completely covered by the soil.
- It usually takes about two weeks for the seedlings to germinate. Once they reach about four inches high you can transplant them to your herb garden.
- Make sure the danger of frost has passed, so you can transplant them safely. Space each plant about 8-10 inches apart and water frequently. With lots of love, attention and care your chamomile plant will reach new heights and start producing tiny white blossoms.
- Harvest blossoms for tea when the petals begin to open completely and enjoy your tea with fresh or dried chamomile.
Remember that just the flower heads are used for tea, the leaves can also be used and tea and eaten, but make sure to test in small amounts before to ensure you do not get any allergic reactions. Otherwise, the whole plant is completely safe to eat in salads and tea.
health benefits of drinking chamomile tea
1. Reducing menstrual pain and stomach ache
This is a huge one for us women. Did you know that drinking a cup of chamomile tea before and during your period can help reduce the pain of menstrual cramps? It also helps with the stress and anxiety that come with premenstrual symptoms. Chamomile can also help with indigestion, flatulence and diarrhea.
2. Reduces inflammation and rheumatic pain
Chamomile contains special compounds that reduce inflammation. You can also use the essential oils of the plant in your natural skincare for any redness or irritation.
3. Boosts Immunity
If you have a common cold, chamomile will help you recover quickly. You can also inhale steam from chamomile tea for congestion due to a runny nose or fever. It is also used to prevent illnesses.
4. Natural sleep and relaxation aid
The calming qualities of chamomile help you to deeply relax, and contain antioxidants that induce sleep. It is highly suggested to drink a cup of hot chamomile tea before bed, if you want to beat insomnia. Drinking chamomile daily also reduces chances of depression.
Where to buy chamomile tea:
Instead of growing your own chamomile, you can still buy sustainable and organic tea from local sources.
I really like these:
Organically grown German chamomile flowers from Frontier Co-op
EarthWise aromatics are an amazing brand for loose-leaf organic herbal tea
Starwest Botanicals have beautiful, whole chamomile flowers coming all the way from Egypt