Chamomile in bloom (68180 bytes)

Consider Chamomile Before Giving Your Final Answer

By Megan Gross, Horticulture/Natural Resources Extension Agent, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

My cousin glanced pensively into nothing for an eternal second. The studio lights boiled his bald spot and baked his brain. He pressed together his sweaty palms, as if the pressure would prolong consciousness. Steadily, he turned his eyes back to Regis Philbin and stated plainly, "Yes, that’s my final answer". And, unfortunately, it was.

The question was regarding the original use for minoxidil, the active ingredient in Rogaine. Kevin guessed acne; the answer was hypertension. Ironically, he could have used a little minoxidil for both of its attributes. He was incredibly tense, and the lights heating up his bald spot weren’t helping one bit.

I say he could have benefited from a little chamomile tea before hitting the hot seat. Perhaps I should have sent him some from my garden. There are many types of chamomile that grow well in our area, and all contain volatile oils known for their sedative qualities. But, please, do not transplant any from the wild. The chamomile that grows so prolifically along roadsides and walking paths will take over your garden. This plant, Scentless Chamomile (Anthemis arvensis), is among Colorado’s Noxious Weeds.

The true or Common Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) is a low-growing perennial, with tiny daisy-like flowers. It forms a soft mat three inches high when not blooming, but may reach twelve inches during bloom. The blooms appear in the later days of summer, from late-June to late August, and are borne solitary on long, erect stalks that droop when in bud. Leaves are divided into thread-like segments, the fineness of which gives the whole plant a feathery appearance.

Grow chamomile in full sun in moist, well-drained soil. The location should receive at least six hours of full sun each day. It can be sown by seeds or division. Coincidentally, if you are interested in purchasing chamomile plants, you can get them at the Eagle Community Gardens Plant Sale on May 20, from 9-12.

All parts of chamomile are odoriferous and of value, but the medicinal quality is centered in the flower-heads. Collect flower heads when they are mature and expanded and dry in a warm, shady location. They could be dried, for example, between dry towels on a picnic table outdoors, or in a garage. They must be completely dry before storage in a cool dark place.

Chamomile tea is made from one ounce of dried flowers to a pint of boiling water. Steep for at least ten minutes in a sealed container before straining. The container should be sealed to avoid the escape of volatile oils in the steam.

Drink as often as you like, and double-up if you find yourself in the hot seat. Kevin, congratulation on your winnings. Let me know if you’d like to purchase any chamomile; I wouldn’t be surprised if your nerves were still a bit jangled.

Photo: Judy Sedbrook

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010