Chamomile (Papatya in Turkish)

In March, the pretty white and yellow flowers of wild chamomile (Matricaria recuitita/chamomilla) can be seen growing in fields, open ground and meadows throughout Northern Cyprus. Chamomile is an annual which generally grows to about 25cm in height.

The flowers can be cut and dried to make herbal tea. Chamomile is sometimes used in cosmetics for lightening hair.

To dry the flowers either cut with their stalks and tie up and allow to dry naturally or cut just the heads and spread over a non-reactive tray and dry either outside or inside out of direct sunlight.

To make Chamomile tea, add 1 tbsp of flowers to a medium sized teapot and allow to brew for 5 minutes. Use a strainer to serve.

Health Benefits

Chamomile tea is loaded with antioxidants which may play a role in lowering your risk of diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. Chamomile may also aid sleep and digestion.

Improving Sleep Quality - Chamomile contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to certain receptors in your brain that may promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia, or the chronic inability to sleep. Regular chamomile tea drinkers report fewer symptoms of depression, which is often linked with sleeping problems. Drinking chamomile tea before bed is worth trying if you have trouble falling or staying asleep.

Digestive Health - Proper digestion is extremely important for your overall health. Chamomile may promote better digestion by reducing the risk of certain gastrointestinal conditions. Studies have found chamomile extract has the potential to protect against diarrhea, due to its anti-inflammatory properties. It is also thought to prevent stomach ulcers, as it may reduce acidity in the stomach and inhibit the growth of bacteria that contribute to ulcer development and helps to reduce nausea and gas.

Cancer - The antioxidant, apigenin, found in chamomile tea have been linked with a lower incidence of certain types of cancer, especially breast, digestive tract, skin, prostate, thyroid and uterus.

Blood Sugar Control - drinking chamomile tea, especially when consumed with a meal, may aid in lowering blood sugar levels. Its anti-inflammatory properties may prevent damage to pancreatic cells, which occurs when blood sugar levels are chronically elevated. Pancreatic health is extremely important, as it produces insulin, the hormone responsible for removing sugar from the blood.

Heart Health - Chamomile tea is abundant in flavones, a class of antioxidants. Flavones are believed to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, important markers of heart disease risk. Studies have shown drinking chamomile tea regularly improves total cholesterol, triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.

Other Potential Health Benefits

⦁ Boosts immune health: often recommended for preventing and treating the common cold and soothing sore throats

⦁ Relieves anxiety and depression:  may reduce the severity of ⦁ anxiety and depression,

⦁ Improves skin health: applying chamomile to the skin via lotions, eye creams and soaps, may be moisturizing and helpful for reducing skin inflammation

⦁ Prevents bone loss:  chamomile tea may help prevent bone loss that leads to conditions like osteoporosis.

Drinking chamomile tea is generally safe for most people, a few people report chamomile allergies, which are most likely to occur in individuals who are allergic to plants in the daisy family, such as ragweed and chrysanthemums. Cosmetic products containing chamomile may be irritating to the eyes if in direct contact.

Chamomile Conditioning Rinse

Chamomile flowers can kelp to keep blonde hair a bright, clear colour. It will not enhance medium to dark blond hair, but will brighten naturally fair hair, as well as leaving a pleasant fragrance.

⦁ 125ml chamomile flower

⦁ 600ml water

⦁ 1 handful of scented geranium leaves

Place the flowers and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for approx. 15 minutes. When the liquid is still hot, strain onto the scented geranium leaves. Leave to soak for 30-40 minutes. Strain again into a bottle. Apply to the hair after shampooing.

Chamomile and Honey Mask

⦁ 1 tbsp dried chamomile flowers

⦁ 175ml boiling water

⦁ 2 tbsp bran

⦁ 1 tsp honey, warmed

Pour the boiling water over the chamomile flowers and allow them to stand for 30 minutes. Strain and discard the chamomile flowers. Mix 3 tbsp of the liquid with the bran and honey and rub over your face. It may be a little stiff at first but will smooth out over the skin. Leave the mixture for at least 10 minutes, then rinse off with warm water. It will smooth and softens the skin.

Source: The Floral Charm of Cyprus, by Valerie Sinclair; Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean by Marjorie Blamey and Christopher Grey-Wilson;; Engin Sah photos; Herbal Pleasures, Cooking & Crafts by Katherine Richmond

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