Chamomile Tea - The Perfect Way to Unwind
Chamomile teas (tisanes) have been used for thousands of years in many countries and cultures. The plant is one of the most ancient herbs known, and widely regarded as beneficial for a multitude of medical conditions. Its essential oils are also used in beauty therapies and aromatherapy. Throughout history, chamomile has been revered by the Ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians, and believed to have magical and spiritual healing properties. In Anglo-Saxon times it was used in rituals in the belief it would ward off disease, and in the middle ages was strewn across floors and passageways to freshen the air. Spiritually, it has been used in pagan rituals in the belief it would promote positive energy.
The first records of it being used as a tea date back to ancient Egyptian times. Its use was recorded in the Ebers Papyrus, a medical papyrus of herbal knowledge dating back to circa 1550 BC, where chamomile was said to have been offered up to the sun god Ra. It was also believed to have been used as an ingredient in embalming oils.
Chamomile, also spelled camomile, is a member of the daisy family Asteraceae, one of the largest plant families. Its name is derived from the Greek words 'chamos', which means 'ground', and 'melos', meaning 'apple'. This may be because although the aroma of its fresh blooms is quite distinctive, it has been likened to a sweet apple blossom scent.
There are two main varieties of the herb: Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) and German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) Roman chamomile is a low growing hardy perennial that spreads as it grows. Its good ground cover makes it ideal for chamomile lawns, that look attractive and release a sweet aroma when walked upon. German chamomile is an annual plant that branches out and grows much higher than the Roman variety. The taste of its blossoms is mild and less bitter, which may be why it is favoured for tea infusions.
Camomile is predominantly cultivated in Europe, India and western Asia. It was introduced and cultivated in the United States by colonists. Nowadays it also grows there naturally in fields and along roadsides. It is thought that Roman chamomile was introduced to England by an English botanist who found it growing wild in the Coliseum. It grows well in light, well drained soil and its flowers bloom throughout the summer months. They can be harvested as soon as they are in full bloom, and if picked regularly may continue to bloom all summer long.
The health benefits of chamomile are many and varied, and the flower heads and leaves of both German and Roman chamomile are used for medicinal purposes. Its calming nature makes it a natural mild sedative, that can help with anxiety and insomnia. It contains a chemical compound called chamazulene, that is known to have anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties, and also bisabolol, a compound that relaxes intestinal muscles. It can therefore be useful for digestive problems, such as indigestion, acid reflux, flatulence and irritable bowel syndrome. It contains small amounts of vitamin A and minerals, such as magnesium, potassium calcium and trace minerals.
Chamomile contains antioxidant properties that can benefit the immune system, help protect against free radical damage, and slow down the ageing process. It can also work as an anti-inflammatory for the relief of rheumatic pain and other causes of inflammation. For babies, it is sometimes an ingredient in colic remedies, teething preparations and used topically for nappy rash. It can be a gentle treatment for children's tummy aches. Indeed, it was the remedy of choice that Mrs Rabbit gave her errant son, Peter, after he had consumed too many of Mr McGregor's vegetables, in Beatrix Potter's 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit'!
The herb also has antimicrobial properties, useful for combating bacterial and fungal infections. It can help improve acne and other skin conditions, like psoriasis and eczema, and can sooth sunburn. Its infection fighting properties may assist in the treatment of colds and influenza, and it can be used in steam inhalations. Chamomile's skin soothing qualities make it a natural ingredient to be added to cosmetics, and it can be used to naturally brighten blonde hair. Such is its healing nature, chamomile has even been known to have positive effects on other plants growing close to it that may not be doing so well.
Although there is some controversy over whether chamomile tea should be avoided in pregnancy, it is considered safe to drink whilst breastfeeding, and can help with stomach cramps and promote calm. Drinking chamomile tea is a great way to unwind after the stresses of the day. It provides the perfect night time refreshment since it is caffeine-free, and its soothing properties promote relaxation and help induce sleep. Its powerful calming effects can also be an aid to meditation.
The method of making a cup of tea from dried chamomile flowers depends on personal choice as to the strength required. Between one and four teaspoons of dried chamomile should be steeped in 240mls of freshly boiled water for between 2-5 minutes, or longer according to taste. Milk or honey can be added if required. Chamomile can add natural sweetness to other blends of herb and fruit teas for those who like to experiment.
At Tea-Direct.co.uk we offer a variety of chamomile teas made from the highest quality chamomile flowers from Egypt: Chamomile Herbal Tea comes in 125g and 250g packs, and Chamomile and Mint Herbal Tea in 50g, 125g and 250g packs. We also sell Chamomile Tea Pods in packs of 80. We currently stock around 100 varieties of our own brand teas at our dedicated operations centre, and work with a number of other suppliers to offer an incredible extended range of high quality teas.