actions: SOOTHING * GROUNDING * PAIN-RELIEVING
systems: NERVOUS * DIGESTIVE * SKIN
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a familiar herb that most of us know as a relaxing sleep aid. Though it does excel in this function, it has so much more to offer us than just a snooze! Chamomile is an herb for irritability and inflammation - both in the physical and emotional realms. It cools what is hot and smooths out the rough patches. It is an excellent remedy for gastrointestinal distress, skin injury or irritation, and emotional irritability or frustration.
Like most aromatic plants, chamomile gently soothes and stimulates our nervous system at the same time. It has a toning effect on the nervous system, it can tighten things up where they are slack or release tension where things are too tight. These effects can be modulated by combining it with different herbs to bring the energy up or down. Our mind and our gut are directly connected though the vagus nerve and chamomile is so good at treating both sides of this connection! I find it particularly useful for GI troubles that "flare-up" or involve irritation, or those that are accompanied by pain or cramping. This is where its antispasmodic action really shines. It's a great choice for gut troubles caused or accompanied by nervousness and anxiety since it can directly modulate a person's mental/emotional state. A cup of chamomile tea will reduce spasms and inflammation in the guts while easing pain and soothing a troubled or anxious mind. I drink chamomile tea to ease the pain of mild menstrual cramps, and as a bonus it dials down irritability and other symptoms of PMS! This pain-relieving action can also be used to treat muscle pain and tension due to stress or bad posture.
One of my favorite ways to use chamomile is on the skin both to encourage healing and to maintain health. As a wound wash it's particularly well suited to children and pets, anyone who might throw a fuss over the sting of hydrogen peroxide. It is antiseptic, soothes pain, reduces inflammation, and encourages healing. To make a wound wash steep 1-2 tablespoons of chamomile in 8 ounces of boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Make sure to cover the tea while it steeps, strain it well, and apply liberally to the wound once it's cooled to a comfortable temperature. If you have a new piercing you can put chamomile into your salt soaks too, just be sure to strain it well! I also like to include chamomile in my homemade body butter, where its anti-inflammatory and vulnerary (wound healing) actions keep skin cells in top shape and help to heal small blemishes or sooth irritation from the get go.
I was once told that chamomile is a great herb for children or anyone acting like a child. Think whiny, cranky, grumpy, irritable, maybe irrational. Frustrated and fatigued, feeling overwhelmed and taking it out on anyone around. This is the shit for chamomile. She's tender and soothing, but puts our head back on straight in a no-nonsense way. Chamomile picks us up and tells us matter-of-factly we'll be alright, our wounds aren't that bad, kisses our boo-boos and sends us on our way. It is so effective and so versatile, I think every home should have a stash of chamomile on hand - it really earns it's keep!
**This post also appears in the zine POSEURS #14.