Friday, July 10, 2015

Celebrate Chamomile - The Health and Beauty Flower

Warm Summer Greetings To All!  Hope everyone is healthy, happy, and soaking up the vitamin D!  Here in Maine, summer is short, so I try to get outside as often as I can and revel in her glory as fall will arrive all too soon!  As I was walking through my garden this morning, I discovered that my little patch of German chamomile was in full bloom. Here's a photo of the herb, if you're unfamiliar . . . it's about 12" +/- tall.


When you purchase chamomile tea, either loose or in tea bags, or a bulk bag of dried chamomile from an herb shop, what you get are the dried tiny yellow flowers w/ bits of petals attached that smell delightfully fragrant, slightly sweet, herbaceous, and a hint musty.  If you have room in your garden, please plant a patch.  Fresh flower tea is sooooo much sweeter, with a heady apple-like aroma and flavor.

Allow me to extol the virtues of German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) . . .

Pleasing and relaxing to the senses, that's how I'd sum up a cup of chamomile tea. A cup of tea taken after your evening meal will ease the stomach, relax the body, and reduce stress from a long, tension-filled day. Drunk right before bedtime, chamomile will promote deep sleep. Chamomile has a cooling energy with anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties which assist in the healing of duodenal and gastric ulcers, plus it's great for those of you with painful diverticulitis, as well as babies who are teething or are experiencing colic. Got hyperactive children?  Chamomile's a wonderful nervine (relaxant), and if you mix strong chamomile tea 50/50 with apple juice, it makes the perfect beverage to calm rowdy children!  Soooooothing and comforting . . . that's chamomile!

For making chamomile tea with dried herbs: I add 1 relatively level tablespoon per 1 cup of boiling water, remove from heat, and steep for 10 minutes.  Strain.

For making tea with fresh flowers:  I add 1 heaping tablespoon per 1 cup of boiling water, remove from heat, and steep fro 20 minutes.  Strain.

Chamomile and body care . . .

To relieve and revive sore "computer" eyes and reduce puffiness and dark circles, soak chamomile tea bags in a small amount of hot water (just enough to thoroughly soften the herb), the allow to cool or refrigerate them for 20 minutes. Lie down, relax, and place them on your closed eyes for about 10 minutes. Ooooo - that feels good!

Chilled chamomile tea makes an excellent toner for all types of skin, but especially sensitive, irritated, sunburned, windburned, inflamed (acne and/or rosacea), and dehydrated. After cleansing, apply a generous amount of tea to your face and neck (or where you need pampering) with a soaked cotton ball. Do 2x daily.  Follow with your favorite moisturizer.  A cup of "toner tea", covered, will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Classic chamomile "brightening" hair rinse - to enliven light brown or blonde hair, make 1 quart of strong tea, allow to cool, and use as your final rinse liquid following your shampoo.  Used consistently - at least a couple times per week - this should improve the color and texture of your hair while imparting a delightful, subtle, sweet fragrance.

Chamomile infused oil - one of my favorite chamomile products, is made by macerating (steeping) the fresh or dried flowers into almond, jojoba, or sunflower oil for 1 month. This is an exquisite oil that can be used everyday as an all over moisturizing/conditioning body oil, facial oil, or diaper rash preventive oil for baby's bum. Perfect for thin, fragile, and sensitive skin of all ages . . . from infants to elderly. It sinks right in with nary an oily residue. Today, I'm going to share a recipe for this oil, "Chamomile Baby Massage Oil" - taken from my book, "Hands-On Healing Remedies" (Storey Publishing, c2012). The recipe is on page 106 - if you have the book. Even though it's called 'baby massage oil', it can be used by everyone - please keep that in mind.

Chamomile Baby Massage Oil

Delicate, fragile, tender skin needs ultra-mild, conditioning care to keep it soft, supple, hydrated, nourished, and healthy as an effective barrier to the outside world. This fresh and oh-so-useful recipe is straight from the garden.  The simple luxury of almond, sunflower, or jojoba oil infused with chamomile flowers, with their anti-inflammatory and vulnerary (tissue healing) properties and apple-like, relaxing aroma, is all that's needed to care for your young one's skin (or your own sensitive skin, for that matter).

If you grow only one herb in your garden, you MUST grow a patch of German chamomile flowers.  In addition to using them for bath, facial, and massage oils, you can brew them for tea, make sleep pillows, and use the infused oil for sleep and dream balms. 

Ingredients:

- 2 cups dried or 3 cups freshly wilted chamomile flowers (To wilt flowers, lay them out in a single layer on paper towels or a kitchen cloth for 48 hours - away from heat and sunlight. This allows the excess moisture to evaporate prior to adding them to the oil.)

- 3 to 4 cups almond, sunflower, or jojoba base oil (enough to completely cover flowers)

- 2,000 IU Vitamin E oil

Equipment: Widemouthed 1-quart canning jar, stirring utensil, plastic wrap, strainer, fine filter, funnel, glass or plastic storage containers

Prep Time:  1 month

Yield:  Approximately 2 1/2 - 3 cups

Storage:  Store at room temperature, away from heat and light; use within 1 year (if using jojoba oil, then shelf life is 2 years)

Method:  If using fresh flowers, it's okay to have bits of fine stem and leaves in the mix - as long as it's not more than 10%.  Place the chamomile flowers in a 1-quart canning jar.  Drizzle the base oil over the plant material until the oil comes to within 1 inch of the top of the jar.  The dried herb may pack in the bottom and the wilted herb matter will settle with the weight of the oil, so don't worry if it looks as though you don't have enough plant matter in the jar.  Gently stir to remove air bubbles and make sure that all the plant matter is submerged.

Place a piece of plastic wrap over the mouth of the jar (to prevent the metal lid from coming into contact with the flowers) and tightly screw on the lid.  Shake the jar several times to blend the flowers and oil thoroughly.  Place the jar in a warm, sunny location such as a south-facing windowsill, and allow the herb to infuse for 1 month.  Shake the jar every day for 30 seconds or so.

After 1 month, carefully strain the oil through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a fine filter such as muslin cloth or, preferably, a paper coffee filter, then strain again if necessary to remove all herb debris.  Squeeze the flowers to extract as much of the precious oil as possible.  Discard the marc, or spent herbs.  Add the vitamin E oil and stir to blend.  The resulting chamomile oil will be golden in color, varying a bit depending on which base oil you chose.

Pour the finished oil into storage containers, then cap, label and date, and store in a dark cabinet.

Application Instructions: After a warm bath, pat the skin almost dry.  Apply a small amount of infused oil onto slightly moist skin, massaging it in with gentle, circular motions (always towards the heart) until it is completely absorbed.  If there is an oily residue, you've used too much. Use less next time.  This oil can easily be massaged into dry skin anytime you desire - it sinks in so nicely.  Allow oil to soak into skin for at least 5 minutes before dressing.

For use as a facial oil:  Place 5-8 drops into palm of hand, rub hands together to warm and thin the oil, then gently massage into freshly clean, slightly damp face, neck, and chest for 1 minute. Follow with an application of your favorite mineral-oil-free moisturizing cream or lotion, if desired.  Repeat 2x per day.

   
Note: This blog was written by Stephanie Tourles, Lic. holistic esthetician, certified aromatherapist, and herbalist, and adapted from her book, "Hands-On Healing Remedies", Storey Publishing (c2012). The information is true and complete to the best of her knowledge. All recommendations are made without guarantee on the part of Ms. Tourles. She disclaims any liability in connection with the use of this information. It is for educational purposes only.

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