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Herblore and the Magick of Chamomile

There are a number of species of Chamomile spread over Europe, North Africa and the temperate region of Asia, but in the US we have four growing wild: the sweet-scented, true Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis); the Fetid Chamomile or Stinking Mayweed (A. cotula); the Corn Chamomile (A. arvensis), which flowers a bit earlier and is noticeable because its ray florets are empty and wholly for show and possess no sort of ovary or style, and fourthly, the Yellow Chamomile, with yellow instead of white rays, which is found sometimes on slash piles and areas of undisturbed ground.

Chamomile, Common
Botanical: Anthemis nobilis  Chamomile is one of the oldest favorites amongst garden herbs and its reputation as a medicinal plant shows little signs of abatement. The Egyptians revered Chamomile for its virtues, and from their belief in its power to cure aches, dedicated it to their gods. No plant was better known to the country folk of old, this plant having been grown for centuries in English gardens for its use as a common domestic medicine to such an extent that the old herbals agree that 'it is but lost time and labor to describe it.'

Description: The true or Common Chamomile is a low-growing plant, creeping or trailing, its tufts of leaves and flowers a foot high. The root is perennial, jointed and fibrous, the stems, hairy and freely branching, are covered with leaves which are divided into thread-like segments, the fineness of which gives the whole plant a feathery appearance. The blooms appear in the later days of summer, from the end of July to September, and are bloom in single flowers on long, erect stalks, drooping when in bud. With their outer fringe of white ray-florets and yellow centers, they resemble tiny the daisies. There are approximately eighteen white petals arranged round a conical center, botanically known as the receptacle, on which the yellow, tubular florets are placed- the center of the daisy is, however, considerably flatter than that of the Chamomile.

The fruit is small and dry, and as it forms, the hill of the receptacle gets more and more conical.

The whole plant is downy and greyish-green in color. It prefers dry and sandy soil, and is found wild in all over the US.

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History
The fresh plant is strongly and sweetly aromatic, with a distinct scent of apples - a characteristic noted by the Greeks, on account of which they named it 'ground-apple' - kamai (on the ground) and melon (an apple) - the origin of the name Chamomile. The Spaniards call it 'Manzanilla,' which signifies 'a little apple,' and give the same name to one of their lightest sherries, flavored with this plant.
When walked on, its strong, fragrant scent will often reveal its presence before it is seen. For this reason it was employed as one of the aromatic strewing herbs in the Middle Ages, and used often to be purposely planted in green walks in gardens. Indeed walking over the plant seems specially beneficial to it.

'Like a camomile bed - The more it is trodden The more it will spread,'

The aromatic fragrance gives no hint of its bitterness of taste.
The Chamomile has been used for centuries and used to be considered as the 'Plant's Physician,' and it has been stated that nothing contributes so much to the health of a garden as a number of Chamomile herbs dispersed about it, and that if another plant is drooping and sickly, in nine cases out of ten, it will recover if you place a herb of Chamomile near it.

Magickal Uses
Also Known as Scented Mayweed, Manzanilla

Chamomile is one of the Nine Sacred Herbs of the Anglo Saxons. It was burned as an incense by the Romans, and was sacred to the Egyptian God Ra. Some old grimoires refer to chamomile as the Blood of Hestia. The name is derived from the Greek Kamaimelon (Ground Apple), due to the apple-like smell it (Roman chamomile) released when stepped on.

Burn as an incense to get a raise or bring in more clients or business opportunities. It is also a good incense for debt reduction.

Create an infusion of chamomile water and add to your bath for love or to relieve stress. Gamblers have also been known to create a chamomile infusion in water. They use the chamomile water to wash their hands in the for luck before going out.

You can sprinkle the flowers in a room or around a home to bring in good energy and banish any negative magick.

Use chamomile flowers alone or with lavender flowers in a dream sachet under your pillow for restful sleep and soothing dreams.

Medicinally
The whole plant is used, but the quality is chiefly centered in the flower-heads or capitula, the part employed medicinally, the herb itself also being used in the creation of herb beers.

Both single and double flowers are used in medicine. It is considered that the curative properties of the single, wild Chamomile are the more powerful, as the chief medicinal value of the plant lies in the central disk of yellow florets. The double-flowered form was already well known in the sixteenth century. It was introduced into Germany from Spain about the close of the Middle Ages.

The 'Scotch Chamomile' of commerce is the Single or Wild Chamomile, the yellow tubular petals in the center of the flowerhead, surrounded by a variable number of white, or strap-shaped ray florets. The 'English Chamomile' is the double form, with all or nearly all the florets white is color. In both forms the disk or receptacle is solid and conical, densely covered with scales, and all varieties have a strong aromatic scent and a bitter taste.

Chamomile requires a sunny situation. The single variety flourishes in a rather dry, sandy soil, the conditions of its natural habits on wild, open common-land, but the double-flowered Chamomile needs a richer soil and gives the heaviest crop of blooms in moist, loamy soil.

Propagation may be done by seed, sown thinly after all danger of frost has passed. You can start them indoors as well, however this is challenging as the little seedlings are delicate. When the time has come to move them outdoors, plant the small plants in firmly. Keep them clear of weeds during the summer by hand-weeding, as hoeing is apt to destroy such little plants. They will require no further attention till the flowers are expanded and the somewhat tedious process of picking commences.

Medicinal Action and Uses
The infusion, made from 1 OZ. of the flowers to 1 pint of boiling water and taken in doses of a tablespoonful to a 6oz of water known popularly as Chamomile Tea, is an old-fashioned but extremely effective remedy for anxiety and nervousness. It has a wonderfully soothing, calming and absolutely harmless effect. It is considered a preventive and sole certain remedy for nightmares. It has sometimes been employed in intermittent fevers.

Chamomile Tea should in all cases be prepared in a covered vessel, in order to prevent the escape of steam, as the medicinal value of the flowers is to a considerable extent impaired by any evaporation, and the infusion should be allowed to steep for 10 minutes at least before straining off.

Combined with ginger, the cold infusion (made with 1/2 oz. of flowers to 1 pint of water) proves an excellent calmative in cases of ordinary indigestion, such as flatulent colic, heartburn, loss of appetite, sluggish digestion, and also in gout and periodic headache. A strong, warm infusion is a useful emetic. A concentrated infusion, made eight times as strong as the ordinary infusion, is made from the powdered flowers with oil of chamomile and alcohol and given as a stomach remedy in doses of 1/2 to 2 drachms, three times daily.

Chamomile flowers are recommended as a tonic in gastrointestinal complaints for their diuretic and tonic properties. A tincture can be administered to combat diarrhea.

Apart from their employment internally, Chamomile flowers are also extensively used by themselves, or combined with an equal quantity of crushed poppy-heads, as a poultice and fomentation for external swelling, inflammatory pain and will relieve where other remedies have failed, proving invaluable for reducing swellings of the face caused through abscesses. Bags may be loosely stuffed with flowers and steeped well in boiling water before being applied topically. The antiseptic powers of Chamomile are amazing.

The whole herb is used chiefly for making herb beers, but also for a lotion, for external application in toothache, earache, neuralgia, etc. Culpepper gives a long list of complaints for which Chamomile is 'profitable,' from aches and sprains to jaundice and dropsy, stating that 'the flowers boiled in Iye are good to wash the head,' and tells us that bathing with a decoction of Chamomile removes weariness and eases pain to whatever part of the body it is employed. Parkinson, in his Earthly Paradise (1656), writes:

'Camomil is put to divers and sundry users, both for pleasure and profit, both for the sick and the sound, in bathing to comfort and strengthen the sound and to ease pains in the diseased.'


Turner says:
'It hath floures wonderfully shynynge yellow and resemblynge the appell of an eye . . . the herbe may be called in English, golden floure. It will restore a man to hys color shortly yf a man after the longe use of the bathe drynke of it after he is come forthe oute of the bathe. This herbe is scarce in Germany but in England it is so plenteous that it groweth not only in gardynes but also VIII mile above London, it groweth in the wylde felde, in Rychmonde grene, in Brantfurde grene.... Thys herbe was consecrated by the wyse men of Egypt unto the Sonne and was rekened to be the only remedy of all agues.'

The dried flowers of A. nobilis are used for blond dyeing, and a variety of Chamomile known as Lemon Chamomile yields a very fine essential oil.

Chamomile, German
Botanical: Matricaria chamomilla

The German Chamomile, sometimes called the Wild Chamomile, has flower-heads about 3/4 inch broad, with about fifteen white, strap shaped, reflexed ray florets and numeroustubular yellow, perfect florets. It is frequent in cornfields and so remarkably like the Corn Chamomile (Anthemis arvensis) that it is often difficult to distinguish it from that plant, but it is not ranked among the true Chamomiles by botanists because it does not possess the little chaffy scales or bracts between its florets; also the conical receptacle, or disk, on which the florets are arranged is hollow, not solid, like that of the Corn Chamomile. It may also be distinguished from A. cotula and Matricaria inodora, the Mayweeds, by the lapping-over scales of its involucre surrounding the base of the flower-head not being chaffy at the margin, as in those species. It has a strong smell, somewhat like that of the official Common Chamomile (A. nobilis), but less aromatic, whereas the Corn Chamomile which it so closely resembles is scentless.

The flowers of the German Chamomile, though aromatic, have a very bitter taste. They contain a volatile oil, a bitter extractive and little tannic acid.


Sources: Botanical.com | A Modern Herbal



#Aromatherapy #Medicinal #Herbs #Chamomile

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