Container Grown Chamomile Tea (Matricaria chamomilla in the city)

My Matricaria chamomilla grows on the edge of a pot overlooking a city street.
Container chamomilla
Chamomile is actually a catch-all term for several plants within the Asteraceae family (the aster family). The most common two ‘chamomiles’ in cultivation are Matricaria chamomilla (German chamomile) and Chamaemelum nobile (Roman camomile). Chemically, Matricaria and Chamaemelum are quite different, unsurprising given that they are in different genera, however they both contain chamazulene, an aromatic compound sought after in the essential oils trade[1].

Chamomile has been used medicinally since the time of the Ancient Egyptians, where it was found to help alleviate the pain associated with malarial fevers[2]. While Matricaria chamomilla is currently the most cultivated version of chamomile in the United States[3], the Chamaemelum genus, until recently grouped within the Anthemis genus, has had a long history of significance.

The Anthemis genus

The Anthemis genus. John Hill, “Virtues of British Herbs. With the history, description, and figures of the several kinds”, London, M.DCC.LXX. [1770].

In 1770, John Hill wrote in his book[4] the following about Chamaemelum nobile, then Anthemis nobilis:

All parts of this excellent Plant are full of virtue. The Leaves, given in infusion, cure Colics; and dispel wind from the Stomach; and are excellent against Indigestion.

The Flowers are a fine and noble bitter. Few things are equal to them in strengthening the Stomach, and creating an appetite, as well as assisting digestions. But more than this, they will cure Agues. I have known them do it after the Bark has failed.

He may have given chamomile a little too much credit, but many studies have shown potential medical benefits, as least in non-human trials[5][6][7][8]. Plus, it’s just nice to sit with a fresh cup of homegrown chamomile tea.

Thankfully, chamomile is easy to grow and doesn’t need much space or care. To brew your own herbal infusion, you simply harvest the flowers at their peak and then you can use them fresh or dry. During chamomile ‘season’ (when the flowers are ready), I don’t bother with drying, and just use the flowers fresh.

Matricaria chamomilla flowers

All you need is a few flowers in an infuser or sieve, some boiling water, and a little patience and you’ll have yourself a wonderful pot of homegrown chamomile tea*. You can also steep the chamomile with a few slices of apple for something a little different.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp fresh chamomile flowers (rinsed) per 1 cup of boiling water (approximately)
  • Optional: anything else you might want for additional flavour, like apple slices, lemon, peppermint, honey, etc.

Directions

  • Place rinsed chamomile flowers into an infuser and place the infuser into the teapot
  • If you want to add additional flavourings do so
  • Pour boiling water over the infuser into the teapot and cover
  • Let infusion steep five minutes, longer if you’ve used less flowers
  • Take the infuser out, pour and enjoy**

*Other easy “Tea Garden” plants to grow for herbal infusions are peppermint and lavender. If you have the climate, or a nice indoor space, you can grow Camellia sinensis, the plant we harvest actual tea from.
**Make sure you’re medically able to drink chamomile tea first. While it is considered generally safe, there are people who might want to avoid it (WebMD).

References

[1] “German chamomile production”, Department of Agriculture, Forestry, Republic of South Africa, June 2009. Open Access PDF
[2] “RELEVANCE AND USE OF CHAMOMILE (MATRICARIA RECUTITA L.)”, R. Franke, H. Schilcher, 2006, ISHS Acta Horticulturae 749: I International Symposium on Chamomile Research, Development and Production. Pay-wall
[3] “German Chamomile”, Nancy W. Callan, Mal P. Westcott, Susan Wall-MacLane, James B. Miller, Leon Welty and Louise Strang. Montana State University, College of Agriculture. 2000. Open Access
[4] John Hill, “With the History, Description, and Figures, of the Several Kinds; an Account of the Diseases They Will Cure; the Family Methods of Giving Them; and the Management of the Patients in Each Disease”, London, M.DCC.LXX. [1770].
[5] “A Review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of chamomile tea (Matricaria recutita L.)”, Diane L. McKay, Jeffrey B. Blumberg, Phytotherapy Research, Volume 20, Issue 7, pages 519–530, July 2006. Pay-wall
[6] “Antiproliferative and Apoptotic Effects of Chamomile Extract in Various Human Cancer Cells”, Janmejai K. Srivastava† and Sanjay Gupta, J. Agric. Food Chem., 2007, 55 (23), pp 9470–9478. Pay-wall
[7] “An experimental study of the effects of Matricaria chamomilla extract on cutaneous burn wound healing in albino rats”, Morteza Jarrahi, Natural Product Research: Formerly Natural Product Letters, Volume 22, Issue 5, 2008, pages 422-427. Pay-wall
[8] “Wound healing activity of Matricaria recutita L. extract.”, Nayak BS, Raju SS, Rao AV, J Wound Care. 2007 Jul;16(7):298-302. Pay-wall

Basic care instructions for Matricaria chamomilla

(synonym Matricaria recutita)
Light: Full sun to partial shade
Water: Basic watering needs, water regularly, but don’t keep moist
Soil pH: 5.6-7.5
Hardiness: Annual, preferred temperature range of 7-26 degrees centigrade, although can survive hotter and near freezing temperatures for a period. Grows easily in much of North America.
Flowering Time: Early to mid summer
Seeds can be sowed directly outside before the last frost. Prefers well draining soil with some organic matter, but doesn’t need to be “well fed”.
References: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services, Dave’s Garden, Purdue Agriculture Department.

As Shakespeare wrote in Henry the IV,

For though the camomile, the more it is trodden on, the faster it grows, yet youth, the more it is wasted, the sooner it wears.

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45 responses to “Container Grown Chamomile Tea (Matricaria chamomilla in the city)

  1. Just dried som Chamomille yesterday! Thank you for the info and tea recipe! Thanks also for visiting my little garden blog!
    Stacey

  2. Great article! This is one of my favorite teas. I grew it a few years ago, but it didn’t thrive. I must try it again.

  3. seamistandmagnolias

    Very informative article. I don’t have any growing in my garden yet, but it’s on my list of things to plant; it really is a very pleasant tea.

  4. I attempted growing chamomile last year and although it grew well, along the stems of every plant were these tiny, tiny little green bugs that looked like baby grasshoppers and some like miniature spiders but all greenish white as if they were feeding off of my plant 😦 I’d like to try and plant some more this week sometime. Would you happen to know what bugs feed on these plants? I’d like to try and make this tea (without bugs :D) if I have success with them again.

  5. Thanks for dropping by and following my blog. My partner likes chamomile tea, so I’ll have to pass this on—maybe we can add it to our garden. (You don’t happen to know if it’s something deer like?) And you’ve reminded me that it’s time to harvest some herbs. Yikes, my gardening life just got busier—but I look forward to reading more!

  6. Oooh…I am an urban gardener and must try this! And…I adore raspberry leaf tea; you must try it if you’ve not already. And thank you much for enjoying my blog!

  7. Pingback: German Chamomile | Landscaping - Gardening

  8. Thanks for this post- and we love your blog…

  9. Hi there! I wanted to let you know that I love your blog and I’ve nominated you for a Versatile Blogger award! You can find the link to the nomination at: http://martasdomesticgoddessproject.com/2012/07/05/versatile-blogger-award/
    Congrats and I look forward to reading more!

  10. It is awesome what plants do for the air… I had never seen the information you provided. You have a very interesting subject matter. I really enjoyed the information. Thanks so much. Glad you stopped by Journey Along the Garden Path. Hope you will visit again. Jan 🙂

  11. Also Love Chamomile Tea.. and many others. Liked several of your posts.

  12. Forgot that my herb garden also has chamomile! Easy to overlook as it’s never really grown much or ever flowered. It’s probably too crowded tucked in among all the other herbs.

  13. I never realized it was the flowers in chamomile tea! Nice post.

  14. Your post was really interesting. I haven’t tried chamomile in our garden but do like Lemon Balm which self seeds everywhere. Thanks for looking at my blog.

  15. Very nice! We just moved, and chamomile is one of the herbs I want to add to my herb garden. Now to get the garden planted… and the fences moved… and boxes unpacked…!

    Do you have any concerns about your garden picking up nasty things from the exhaust from the traffic below? I’ve been told that eating things that grow along roads can seriously impact health because of the pollution the plants absorb. But I’m not the scientist-type. I’m the right-brain, visionary, artistic-batty type. 🙂

    • I do think about traffic emissions, but we’re awfully high up, so we probably don’t get any more stray particulates than any yard in the city or dense suburbs. If that amounts to things being better or worse than plant matter grown commercially, I honestly don’t know. Most automobile emissions are quite heavy too, so at 100 feet above the road, we might actually be getting less than a garden 100 feet away from the road.

  16. attheculdesac

    Fascinating! Thank you for the botany lesson and the how to. I’ll have to experiment and report back. I’ll definitely be visiting your page again!

  17. Learn something new EVERY DAY!!! I didn’t know chamomile looked like daisies to me. lol. I will certainly be getting some chamomile tea today.

  18. Pingback: A wild and beneficial one « justfarmin'

  19. Agi's Farmhouse Kitchen

    What an interesting blog and thank you for following mine! 🙂

  20. Loved the tea recipe! I enjoyed the smell of it brewing, reminded me of my Grandmother’s house. I may try to grow it following your instructions.

  21. You make me want to grow my own. Thank you for the follow!

  22. This is awesome! I’d love to start growing my own chamomile or lavender for tea! Thanks for all the tips.

  23. lovely post! i’m so glad you found me!

  24. What a terrific blog! I’ll know where to come when I have questions, and I have plenty after taking photos at the local Botanical gardens. About Chamomile, I tried growing it in a container, mixed with a few other herbs. It started to flower but I don’t think I had enough sunlight. I put it in a separate container, and it died two days ago.

    Also, I checked out the link on WebMD, but I didn’t see who should avoid the plant. I’ve used Chamomile recently as a topical soak for my dog’s arthritic joints. I’m not sure what kind I’m using, but I’ll try to find out. I don’t know if it has helped the dog’s pain, but he seems to enjoy the warm cloth.

    I like the photo of the flowers. Maybe one day I’ll get to brew some that I grew myself.

    • WebMD cautions pregnant women, people with allergies and certain hormonal conditions to be cautious about chamomile. I’ve never heard of dogs enjoying chamomile, but certainly a warm cloth on arthritic joints could help (and a little pampering is always nice, no matter what species).

  25. Great, informative article; love botanical info!

  26. Love it. Post and tea. I’ve been good this year and actually remembered to go out picking flowers for tea. There is just something so rewarding about drinking what you’ve made yourself. Thanks for the follow.

  27. Dear Scientist, thanks for following my blog too. I look forward to reading more from you. My objection to using herbals always comes down to dosage and the question ‘How Much?’, as in “how many flowers”, “how much water”, “how long do you steep”, “how much should/can I drink”? Some people think, well, it’s herbal so it’s good for me and then they add too much without knowing how much they’re ingesting. I hope you do a profile on Hypericum for depression … there are some crazy side-effects with self-medication.

  28. Dear Scientist, thanks for following my blog too. I look forward to reading more from you. My objection to using herbals always comes down to dosage and the question ‘How Much?’, as in how many flowers?, how much water?, how long do you steep?, how much should/can I drink? Some people think, well, it’s herbal so it’s good for me and then they add too much without knowing how much they’re ingesting. I hope you do a profile on Hypericum for depression … there are some crazy side-effects with self-medication.

    • I certainly agree. Many people have that ‘it’s natural so it should be safe and good for me’ feeling, which is simply not true. Natural supplements aren’t how I would recommend treating any actual medical condition. In the case of chamomile tea though, so long as you’re just looking for a soothing drink, I’m all for it. Most of the safe herbal infusions like chamomile reach a maximum saturation point fairly quickly, so you’re not really going to be drinking anything unexpectedly potent if you leave it to steep too long or put in too much.

  29. I assumed the tea was made from the leaves of the plant, not the flowers. What a surprise! Thanks for the good info. I want to try growing chamomile so I can try this.

  30. Love this. Flowers+tea+homegrown. Delish.

  31. I love chamomile tea because it is very soothing and relaxing to the body. the smell is quite great too. –

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