Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is a fragrant, flowering herb that makes delicious tea. Chamomile tea is derived from the daisy-like flower of two varieties of the chamomile plant: German chamomile and Roman chamomile.
The popularity of chamomile extended from Ancient Greece into medieval Europe, when it was made into an aromatic tisane (a tea-like drink brewed without caffeine).
Chamomile found fame initially in Germany, where people would dry and steep the flowers for teas to benefit from their calming effects. Its medicinal uses soon spread across England, where it remains a favorite today.
Harvesting and drying your own chamomile flowers for your own cup of tea isn’t as hard as you might think. Here are some tips on growing and drying chamomile for use as a herbal tea.
Choose The Right Type Of Chamomile
Although there are many varieties of chamomile, not all of them are suitable for making tea. As we mentioned, the two main types of chamomile used for herbal teas are German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) or Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile).
These varieties have similar flavor profiles, but they differ in their growing habits and medicinal properties.
Find The Optimal Growing Conditions
Both types of chamomile plant will thrive in a full sun location with well-draining soil that doesn’t become waterlogged when it rains.
If you live in a colder climate where the plants might get too cold or get killed off by frost, then consider planting them in containers that can be moved indoors during cold months or sheltered from frost by cold frames.
Plant Your Seeds
It’s best to plant chamomile seeds in the spring when the danger of frost has passed. Chamomile is easy to grow from seed, so start by sowing them directly into a prepared garden bed or container.
The plants will bloom in late spring or early summer, depending on weather conditions, and will readily self-sow in subsequent years given the right conditions.
In order to get healthy growth, you’ll want to prepare the soil before planting your seeds or transplanting your seedlings. Make sure that the soil is loose and well-drained with a pH between 6-7.5.
You also want to add some organic matter such as compost or well rotted manure in order to give your chamomiles an extra boost of nutrients.
If starting indoors, sow seeds ¼ inch deep into individual peat pots 2–3 weeks before the last expected spring frost date.
For outdoor planting, gently rake the soil and scatter your seeds evenly over the surface about 6 inches (15 cm) apart, then lightly cover with 1/4 inch of soil.
Make sure you keep the seeds moist until they germinate, usually within 7–14 days from sowing. Thin out seedlings if overcrowding is apparent after germination.
You should water your plants regularly, giving them about one inch per week in dry spells or during hot weather conditions.
This will guarantee big, plump blooms throughout the season and help produce high quality dried flowers later on in the year.
Harvest When Ready
The peak time for harvesting chamomile blossoms is just before they fully open—you should be able to tell if they’re ready depending on the aroma that emanates from the flower heads when touched or brushed lightly with fingers.
Don’t wait too long, though; harvesting too late could significantly reduce their potency and flavor since essential oils quickly evaporate from dried herbs if left too long on plants.
When harvesting flowers for drying purposes, always use scissors rather than pulling them off by hand, as this could damage both your plant and the flowers themselves by tearing off foliage along with them.
The best time to harvest is when most of the petals have opened up during early morning hours after any dew has evaporated away, giving way to sunny skies.
If you do damage any foliage, this can encourage fungal growth on wet leaves and can weaken plants later in the season.
When harvesting is complete, your plants will look brownish and almost dead; don’t worry—they will come back even thicker next year if taken care of properly!
Dry Out Chamomile Flowers For Tea Preparation
The next step is to chop off 3 cm long flower stems at the joint closest to the base of the plant, so the whole stem is harvested, which contains more concentrated scent than just flower heads alone.
Once cut, transfer the stems onto a drying rack away from direct sunlight as this may cause discoloration or alteration of flavor profile over time due to UV exposure; the ideal time frame for drying outdoors should take no more than 4 days depending on conditions like humidity etc.
Alternatively, preheat the oven 150 degrees Celsius. Then place batches onto a mesh strainer/colander prior to inserting into the oven rack then bake between 1 ½ to 2 hours depending on desired texture preference.
100% wilted is the most preferred option here typically speaking! Discard stems afterward as they won’t provide much flavor once dried.
Your chamomile flowers should now be ready to use to make a delicious and calming cup of tea.
Medicinal Benefits Of Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea has been used for medicinal purposes since the dawn of civilization. Ancient Egyptians drank it as a tonic for longevity.
In Europe, it was drunk to cure sore throats; and during World War I and II it was used as a topical remedy for wounds. But what are some more specific medicinal benefits of drinking chamomile tea?
Chamomile Tea Is Rich In Antioxidants
One of the primary health benefits of chamomile tea is its rich content of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your body against diseases like cancer by fighting off free radicals, which can damage healthy cells.
Getting enough antioxidants in your diet helps keep you healthy and can even slow down aging.
Chamomile Tea May Help Relieve Stress
Another advantage of chamomile tea is its calming effects, which make it an ideal beverage when you’re feeling stressed or anxious.
The flavonoids contained within the plant have been linked with decreased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) providing an overall sense of relaxation throughout your body.
Plus, sipping on a hot cup can help you unwind from the day’s events – making it easier to fall asleep at night.
Chamomile Tea Can Help With Digestion Issues
If you’re suffering from digestion issues such as indigestion or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), drinking a cup of warm chamomile tea can soothe symptoms like cramping (see also: What Tea Helps With Cramps?)and bloating.
Its anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce inflammation in gut tissues while simultaneously relaxing spasms that occur during digestion, allowing food to pass through the digestive system more easily.
Chamomile Tea Could Improve Heart Health
High cholesterol is one risk factor associated with heart disease. Luckily drinking several cups of chamomile per day may lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol levels while increasing HDL (or “good”) cholesterol levels in individuals.
This could lead to improved blood vessel function, reduced risk for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, as well as better overall health outcomes!
Making chamomile tea at home is easy and can provide a variety of health benefits. To make the tea, simply grow and dry chamomile flowers, then steep them in hot water for a few minutes.
The tea is rich in antioxidants, may help relieve stress, improve digestion issues, and even improve heart health. So why not give it a try?