There are two varieties of chamomile: German and Roman. German and Roman chamomile are both used in essentially the same way — to make tea. The big difference between the two is that Roman chamomile is a perennial and is also slightly bitter while the German variety is an annual and is sweeter.
Chamomile is native to parts of Europe, North Africa, and Asia. The herb’s name comes from a combination of the Greek word khamai that means on the ground and the word melon, which means apple. One of chamomile’s characteristics is a pronounced apple scent.
Chamomile is an ancient enough herb to have been used in Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians used it as a febrifuge and for treating malaria. The Ancient Romans believed that chamomile tea promoted healing. Note that the Roman chamomile variety was not actually grown by the Ancient Romans. It got its name from the fact that discovered at the Coliseum in the 19th century.
In the Middle Ages, chamomile was used as a bitterant for beer in much the same way that hops would later be used. Monks cultivated it for its use in beer as well as for its value as a herbal medicine.
Chamomile would be introduced to the North American continent by European colonists and was quickly adopted by Native Americans who used it for its medicinal benefits.
Today, German chamomile is cultivated in Europe and parts of Asia, but can also be found growing wild. Roman chamomile is more common in Central Europe and North America.
Chamomile flavor profile
Along with the aforementioned apple fragrance, chamomile has notes of mint and citrus. It is also floral, which gives the overall flavor profile a distinctive herbaceous sweetness.
Health benefits of chamomile
Chamomile is a good source of flavonoids like apigenin and chrysin, which offer important health benefits. As far as vitamins and minerals are concerned it has trace amounts of important ones like iron and a moderate amount of manganese. Its main benefits come for its effectiveness for treating or preventing problems like:
- Menstrual pain: According to several studies, chamomile makes menstrual cramps less severe. One study showed that the benefits were evident after participants consumed chamomile tea for a month.
- High blood sugar: Researchers have found that chamomile lowers blood sugar among people suffering from diabetes. The results of one rat study suggest that chamomile may stop the increase in blood sugar thus preventing complications from diabetes.
- Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is the gradual loss of bone density that so often afflicts women after menopause. Chamomile tea may help to improve bone density, according to one study.
- Poor digestion: In addition to its benefits for relieving acid indigestion, chamomile is used to reduce flatulence, as well as diarrhea.
- Colds: You can use chamomile to reduce fever and headaches thus easing cold symptoms.
- Insomnia: One of the main uses of chamomile has been for promoting sleep. Apigenin is believed to be responsible for chamomile’s sedative effects. It is present in Bacopa, another herb that is considered a potent sedative.
- Cancer: Due to the presence of apigenin, chamomile may help to protect against different cancers.
Chamomile’s best-known use is for making tea; however, it is also used as it was in the ancient world for making beer. Chamomile is one of the main flavors in wheat beer and the Spanish still use it to flavor a variety of sherry known as manzanilla sherry. Manzanilla means little apple and refers to the taste of chamomile.