I first encountered camomile (often spelt "chamomile") as an ingredient in a packet of herbal tea leaves. Now I'm much more familiar with the herb in a professional environment.
Dried camomile flowers
|Species:||Anthemis nobilis, aka. chamaemelum nobile.|
Camomile has been native to the Mediterranean region since ancient times. Before World War II, camomile was cultivated in Belgium, France and Saxony and it has also been cultivated for some time in Mitcham, Surrey.
Asteraceae (daisy family).
The fresh plant is strongly and agreeably aromatic, with a distinct scent of apples.
The botanical genus name chamaemelum and common name "camomile" are derived via Middle English camemille, from Medieval Latin camomilla, Late Latin chamomilla and originally Greek kamaimēlon "ground apple", from kamai "on the ground" and mēlon "apple". The Spanish name manzanilla signifies "a little apple", from the apple-like smell of its flower. The species name nobile is Latin for "noble".
Camomile, or chamomile, is one of the oldest favourites amongst garden herbs and its reputation as a herbal medicine shows no sign of decline. The Egyptians revered the plant from a belief in its power to cure ague and they dedicated it to their gods. No plant was better known to country-dwellers, it having been grown for centuries in English gardens for its use as a common domestic medicine as well as an ornamental lawn shrub.
In England in the Middle Ages it was used as a strewing herb for its fragrance, in Spain it was used to flavour one of their lightest sherries which was given the same name. Fresh flower heads can be added to salads for fragrance and decoration and dried leaves can be made in to a tea. Infused camomile has various other culinary applications, including colouring and flavouring cooked rice.
When walked on, the strong, fragrant scent of the plant often reveals its presence before it is seen, for which reason it was employed as an aromatic strewing herb in the Middle Ages and used often to be purposely planted in green walks in gardens. The camomile used in olden days was known as the "plants' physician" because of a widespread belief that sickly plants will recover if camomile is planted near to them. Camomile is also used cosmetically, primarily to make a rinse for blonde hair.