So what is Chamomile?
Chamomile is used in a variety of ways, ranging from beverages to aromatherapy to cosmetics.
It is known to have highly calming properties, which is why it has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Indeed, there are reports of it having been used in both Ancient Chinese and Ancient Egyptian times, with some disagreement on who used it first.
The flowering plant, which looks quite similar to a daisy, is from the Asteraceae genus, just like marigolds, echinacea, and sunflowers.
Since decades ago when people discovered what is Chamomile, Chamomile has since been part of popular culture.
Indeed, it was even mentioned in the Peter Rabbit stories, as the mischievous young bunny's mother would use it to calm her son down. The herb is naturally caffeine-free and tastes absolutely delicious, not unlike an apple.
When brewed, it has a light golden color that reminds people of soft sunshine. If you truly want to know what chamomile is, however, you need to look at its history and culture as well.
What Is Chamomile? – Where Chamomile Comes From
There are two main types of chamomile: German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). German chamomile is found mainly in Europe and in some of the more temperature parts of Asia.
It is cultivated mainly in Eastern Europe and is recognized as wild chamomile, growing as a weed along the roadside and in parks in many different countries. The Roman variety, on the other hand, is found mainly in North America and in Central Europe.
Commercial chamomile is grown mainly in Egypt, with some believing this is in honor of its origins. However, due to the rising popularity of the herb, it is now also cultivated in Australia, South Africa, South America, and India.
Indeed, many people grow it at home in their gardens or even in containers. Nevertheless, every year, around one million pounds of chamomile are imported into this country, of which around 90% is used to produce herbal teas.
The flower of the chamomile plant is what makes it look like a daisy. It is small and white with a yellow center. It is differentiated from the daisy through its long stem, and the plant can be as high as 24 inches.
The German variety also has a very strong scent, which can be quite pungent. The Roman variety, by contrast, smells much fruitier and sweeter. To make tea, it is common practice to harvest the buds just as they start to flower. In Egypt, they use a special chamomile rake to do that.
Those flowers, which bloom for a few months each year, are then picked every week or so and dried. The German variety is harvested just three times per year, using modern farming equipment.
What Is Chamomile? – History of the Chamomile
The history of the chamomile is also fascinating. Its name comes from the Greek word “chamomaela”, which means “ground apple”. In Spain, it is still often referred to as the “little apple”.
It has been used extensively for its beautiful flavor and relaxing properties as well as various other benefits. This has been seen in various forms of traditional and herbal medicine all across the world.
In Ancient Egypt, the chamomile was offered to the gods, because it was believed that the flower could cure “the fever”. In Spain, the flower was used to give sherry more flavor.
The Ancient Romans sipped it for its healing properties while also using it as incense. In England, the flower was used during the Middle Ages to make beer more bitter. Monks used it both for the production of beer and well as a healing agent during that same time period.
Indeed, they even discovered that, if it was planted near other plants that are diseased, the chamomile would heal the other plants, repelling pests and insects at the same time.
What Is Chamomile? – Using Chamomile Today
It is traditionally included in wheat beer and the Spanish still have a range of chamomile sherries. The flavor is quite unique and certainly discernible if you are aware of it.
Scientists have long studied the various properties of chamomile and it has now been confirmed that it has numerous health benefits.
It is, therefore, a positive development to see it being used in various culinary applications, ranging from soup bases to ice cream to macaroons.
Because the flavor is both sweet and herbal at the same time, it can be added to any type of meal for a unique and sophisticated taste.