There are two main varieties. The height that each will actually grow to will vary a lot from region to region.
An annual herb that grows to 35 inches tall (90 cm.) It has plain, daisy-shaped white flowers.
A perennial creeping herb that is small and short, only growing to about 10 inches (25 cm.) It has plain, daisy-shaped white flowers. The entire plant has an apple-like smell to it.
There are many medicinal claims around Chamomile, re-enforced by centuries of folk-medicine tradition. But there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support any of the following claims about Chamomile:
- reducing side-effects of cancer treatment;
- sedation, inflammation and intestinal cramps;
- sedative to induce sleep, soothe stomach discomfort;
- calming the mind, easing stress, reducing pains from swollen joints or rheumatoid arthritis;
- reducing inflammation caused by sunburn, rashes, eczema, dermatitis;
- menstrual disorders, migraine headaches, eye irritation and haemorrhoids.
When applied to the skin Chamomile can cause dermatitis in some people
Continue to enjoy a cup of Chamomile tea, and enjoy both its taste and romance. But don’t put too much faith in its ability to cure any of your ills, physical or mental.
Its English name comes from the Greek word for it: kamai (‘on the ground’) and melon (‘an apple’) because the plant has an apple scent.
It was used by the Egyptians as a cure for “Acute Fever”. It was recommended by Greek and Roman medical writers (Dioscorides, in De Materia Medica, and Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), in his Natural History, as a treatment for headache and problems of the kidney, liver or bladder. But Romans also used it in incense for its aroma, and in beverages for its taste.
The name “Roman Chamomile” for one of the varieties dates only from the 1800s, given by a plant collector who found some growing in the ruins of the coliseum.
Anglo-Saxons believed that the god Woden had given humanity nine sacred herbs, of which “maythen” (Chamomile) was one.
Wiccans used Chamomile in spells to remove curses and bad spells, to attract love, and to bring prosperity.
In the Middle Ages, low-growing Chamomile was planted as walkways and ground cover because it releases its scent when walked upon. People also strewed it about to improve the smell at gatherings and festivals (small wonder back then).
In Spain, it is still used to flavour Manzanilla Sherry — Manzanilla being the Spanish word for Chamomile, meaning “little apple”.
Literature & Lore
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.” — Shakespeare.
The Roman Chamomile is Chamaemelum nobile; the German Chamomile is Matricaria recutita.