|Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) (photo credit)|
I told him it is a flower and common 'weed'. While this answered his immediate curiosity, he asked me to dig deeper and see what else I could tell him. My digging has been interesting so let's sit down together and learn about chamomile over a nice hot cup of tea! ;)
Chamomile comes from the Aster family (Asteraceae) and is a common name that is used for several different daisy-like plants though it is the German chamomile that is commonly used in tea. A chamomile plant typically has several flower heads with white ray flowers (exterior petals) and a 'button' of yellow disk flowers in the center. It is sometimes referred to as the pineapple plant because that 'button' of disk flowers looks like a pineapple and the plant has a sweet smell that is released at the slightest touch. The plant is labeled a weed by many because it is extremely easy to grow from seed and can grow in some of the lowest quality soils. Care should be taken if you plant chamomile in your herb garden, to dead head the flowers before they go to seed to keep them from becoming a weed problem.
Chamomile has been used as a household herb for centuries. It was commonly strewn over the floors of homes to cover unpleasant smells and as a insect repellant in medieval Europe. At some point people recognized that it has a calming effect as well and began to drink it as a tea to relieve stress and prepare for getting a good nights' rest. Even today it is drank by many for that exact reason. It is also called upon as a soothing beverage for an upset stomach, or can be used as a yellow dye if you are looking for a natural dye. The National Gardening Association has a variety of articles relating to chamomile and it's current and historical uses if you want to do some exploring.
Next time you need a warm beverage to soothe away the stresses of the day, grab a cup of chamomile tea and relax with a good book for a few minutes before you head off to bed for the night.
Happy Herb Gardening! :)