“One tablespoon, taken at bedtime,” said Mrs. Rabbit pouring a Peter a bit of chamomile tea. Peter rabbit was feeling rather poorly after dining on too much lettuce, French beans and radishes in Mr. McGregor’s garden.
Mrs. Rabbit was one smart mama bunny. She knew her medicinal herbs. Chamomile has been used for thousands of years for numerous ailments, including sleep disorders, anxiety, digestion and intestinal conditions, skin infections and inflammation (such as eczema), wound healing, infantile colic, teething pains, and diaper rash. Chamomile is an uber-herb, a veritable one-stop cure all. It’s even the national flower of Russia!
In the U.S., chamomile is best known as an ingredient in herbal tea preparations advertised for mild sedating effects. There are two plants known as chamomile. One is the more popular German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), while the other is called the Roman, or English, chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Although they belong to different species, they are used to treat similar conditions. I know I’m not the only one who has sipped on chamomile tea hoping I’d soon feel sleepy or at least less stressed.
Chamomile in our herb garden is plentiful. Their cheery, little yellow faces smile at me, surrounded by a halo of white petals. It’s tempting to pluck them and weave a daisy chain to adorn my neck or sit atop my head. Take me back to my hippie days, bare feet on the grass and ankle-length “granny dresses.”
But this summer I’ve got other plans for our miniature daisies (Chamomile is a member of the daisy family) because I recently found a recipe for Chamomile Cordial. Cordials are sweetened syrups infused with herbs, spices or plants. They are a snap to make (like the lavender syrup I blogged about a few weeks back) and the possibilities of herbs that can be infused is endless.
Fresh (or dried) German chamomile flower heads are used. Chamomile is easy to grow and it makes a fun addition to an herb bed or edging along a walkway. Or, it’s readily purchased at most any grocery store.
For our first round of tasting, we sampled our Chamomile Cordial sans booze with ‘Lavender DRY Soda’ as a spritzy mixer. It was lovely and lightly herby, a drink that was both refreshing and peaceful on the palate.
The next time we enjoyed our flowery cordial, we pulled out the big guns and floated cognac on top as the recipe below instructs. Big Papa and I sat outside on our garden bench enjoying a warm summer’s night. Stress melted away. I felt relaxed, slightly sleepy even. Hmmm…could it be the chamomile or was that the cognac talking?
How the Doctor’s brow should smile, Crown’d with wreaths of camomile.
~Michael Eyquen de Montaigne
Note: Chamomile is also part of the Asteraceae plant family, which includes ragweed and chrysanthemum, so people with allergies may react when they use chamomile either internally or topically.
Makes about 2 cups/30 minutes start to finish
- 2 tablespoons dried chamomile flowers (or 1 tablespoon fresh chamomile flower heads)
- 2 cups boiled water
- ¼ cup honey
Add chamomile flowers to a muslin steeping bag or fine mesh tea strainer Chamomile seeds are quite small and thin so be sure to use fine mesh so they don’t escape and float in your syrup. Steep in boiled water until liquid is stained yellow and perfumed, about 20 minutes. Press any reserved liquid out from the muslin bag and discard the solids. Add the honey and stir until dissolved. Keep in the refrigerator until cool.
Once cooled completely, add crushed ice to a glass. Pour in about ½ cup of the chamomile cordial and top with equal amounts seltzer water. Garnish with a thin slice of cucumber to fancy it up. If you like, add a float of cognac and serve immediately.
Store cordial in a clean jar or bottle, covered in the fridge where it will last for several weeks.
Want to sip on some more? Check out Wanderfood Wednesday!