Commonly called German chamomile, this daisylike flower is one of the world’s safest and most widely used herbs. (Even Peter Rabbit’s mother gave chamomile tea to her famous offspring at the end of a bad day to help him relax.) The ancient Anglo-Saxons believed that chamomile was one of nine sacred herbs given to humans by the god Woden. Today, many people call on chamomile to soothe their stomachs and much more.
Chamomile contains active ingredients that help relieve stress and anxiety and relax spasms in the gastrointestinal tract and the uterus. Because of this, people drink chamomile tea to help ease a variety of problems, including period cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and heartburn, as well as to promote relaxation and sleep. When applied to the skin, chamomile may help reduce swelling and redness caused by sunburn, mild rashes, and other skin irritations.
You can find chamomile tea in your local supermarket or a health food store (look for products that contain 100 percent chamomile flowers). But this herb will do the trick only if it’s fresh. Scout out fresh chamomile by its scent: it should smell pleasantly like apples (if it smells like hay, it’s too old). To be certain of getting the freshest form of the herb, you can buy chamomile in a health food store. Look for dried flowers that are yellow and white (straw-colored ones are past their prime).
You can also buy commercial creams and lotions containing chamomile, but many such products contain very little of the herb. Look for ones that contain at least 3 percent chamomile. back to top.
Although chamomile is very safe, in rare cases people who have an allergy to plants in the aster family (including ragweed, daisies, and chrysanthemums) may react to chamomile as well. If you suffer from hay fever, use chamomile with caution. If you have symptoms such as sneezing, itchy throat or eyes, runny nose, or a rash, stop using the herb.
The use of herbs is not recommended during pregnancy and breast-feeding except under the guidance of a health professional.
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