Using chamomile

Whether you grown your own chamomile or purchase dried or fresh flowers, you may have questions about using it. This powerful plant is probably most well-known as a soothing tea but that’s just the beginning! Chamomile has many beneficial qualities for both internal and external use. It’s also a lovely addition to many recipes.

chamomile flowers

Using chamomile medicinally

Chamomile is well-established as a plant with anti-inflammatory properties. Clinical studies have shown that chamomile is effective at treating a variety of issues in both the nervous and digestive systems (Gladstar, 2012).

Chamomile is often used as a sedative and it’s found in most bedtime tea blends. The nervine components that help you feel sleepy can also reduce stress and anxiety, making chamomile useful for more than bedtime (Gladstar, 2012). Chamomile can also soothe an upset stomach and aid digestion. According to Gladstar, chamomile can be used for immediate remedy (ie, a cup before bed to help you sleep) or taken regularly over a period of time to promote continued benefits (ie, 2-3 cups a day to help with anxiety or stress).

Most often, chamomile is used as a tea, and tea is a wonderful way to enjoy all the benefits of chamomile.

How to Brew Chamomile Tea

I defer to the legendary Rosemary Gladstar:

Use 1 teaspoon dried or 2 teaspoons fresh flowers per cup of hot (not boiling water). Use a loose tea strainer or tea ball. Steep 15 minutes, covered. Fresh chamomile will become bitter if steeped too long, so be cautious about letting it sit too long. The leaves can also be steeped as part of the tea.

Chamomile tea can enjoyed hot or cold. I often make ‘sun tea’. Add 2 teaspoons of chamomile flowers (dried) into a quart mason jar with water and let it steep in the sun for 8-12 hours. Then I strain the flowers and let the jar sit in the fridge overnight. The next day, I sip the tea all day long, usually over ice. It’s refreshing and calming.

Chamomile tincture

Chamomile can also be used to make a tincture or an infusion. The tincture will be stronger and more concentrated and is generally intended to be taken in small, regular doses. A reputable herbalist can advise you on the correct ratio of plant parts to alcohol and the proper dosage and usage.

making chamomile tea
How to make a cup of chamomile tea according to Rosemary Gladstar

Using chamomile in the kitchen

Chamomile is most well-known as a tea, and of course, it’s wonderful in that capacity. But both flowers and leaves have other culinary uses. The little blossoms make a pretty decoration for cakes or other desserts. Chamomile offers a touch of earthy, floral flavor to both sweet and savory dishes. Next time you roast a chicken, stuff it with rosemary, thyme, sage and a few chamomile flowers. The greens can be minced finely and sprinkled over finished dishes, especially poached fish. Finally, the flowers are great in salads – or as part of a vinaigrette.

Use the flowers to lightly flavor milk or cream for dishes like pot de cremes or creme brulee. Retain a few fresh flowers to garnish the finished dish.

External uses

Take a relaxing bath

Chamomile doesn’t just calm your mind and stomach! It can do wonders for irritated or dry skin, too. If you enjoy soaking in the tub, try adding a big scoop of  flowers and leaves to the water. It’s best to keep bath herbs in a mesh bag or strainer so you don’t have to skim them out of the water later. The flowers turn bathwater in a steamy, fragrant, skin-soothing experience.

Chamomile for skin care

Outside the tub, chamomile flowers are a great addition to lotions, balms and salves. Dry the flowers, then let them steep in oil for 3-4 weeks. Apricot, coconut or olive oil are great options for making herbal skin care products. Hand cream that includes chamomile oil helps soothe dry, chafed winter skin. I actually use chamomile more for skin care than as a tea.

If you’re interested in making your own herbal balms, lotions or other skin care products, I highly recommend chapter 8 of The Modern Herbal Dispensatory. Easley and Horne (2016) explain the process of creating skin care items clearly and make it very easy to create products suited to your skin and preferences. Because skincare is such a huge topic, I have opted to refer readers to these experts rather than paraphrase their work and knowledge. Making lotions or balms isn’t difficult but there are tons of variables, so if you’re interested, buy the book!

Chamomile hair rinse

Many people feel that rinsing their hair with a strong infusion of chamomile helps brighten blonde shades and helps reduce brassiness. They also report softer, shinier hair after rinsing with chamomile. You can either use commercial tea bags or dried flowers.

To make chamomile hair rinse, brew a super-concentrated batch of chamomile tea. I’d suggest at least triple strength, so 6-8 bags or a loose cup of dried flowers per quart of water.

Warm the water to just under boiling, then soak the bags or flowers for at least 4 hours.

I recommend testing the rinse on a small area of hair first, especially if you have chemically treated hair. Once you’ve shampooed, apply the rinse and let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse out.

Making a chamomile hair rinse 

Drying and preserving

The easiest way to preserve chamomile is by drying it. Lay the flowers on a non-metal screen or drying rack and allow them to sit for several weeks. Once the flowers are completely dry, store them in a sealed jar away from sunlight.

You can also preserve it by infusing oil. Dry the plant parts first, then steep for 4-6 weeks. Strain out the plant parts and retain the oil for topical use.

For more information on herb preservation, check out How to Dry Herbs and How to Use Up Herbs

storing dried chamomile
Drying chamomile flowers and storing them for future use