Chamomile, a daisy-look-a-like from the family Asteraceae, is commonly used in herbal teas as a sleep inducer and anxiety reducer. Brewing a hot cup of chamomile tea before bed can be a great natural alternative to over the counter store bought aids. There’s an abundance of ready to brew tea packets on the market. But, if you’re looking for something a bit more fresh and robust harvesting, drying and brewing your own chamomile might be the way to go.
Harvesting chamomile is easy. Simply make a clean cut with a pair of scissors a few inches below the flower (if you pinch the end of the stem it will increase the likelihood that the flower will grow back.) Once you’ve gathered a good amount, bundle them together with a rubber band. A bundle with a stem diameter of 1.5-2 inches will make 6-10 cups of tea (depending on the desired strength of course.) Give the bundles a gentle shake to remove any dirt or bugs then hang them upside down in a dark, warm place to dry. Drying should take about 2-3 days. If you’d like to skip these two steps entirely, you might be able to find dried chamomile flowers at your local farmers market or health food store.
Now that your chamomile is dry, it’s time to separate the flowers from the stems. Gently ‘pop’ the flower heads off with your thumb and forefinger and store them in an airtight container. A glass jelly jar works wonderfully.
Now it’s time to brew. Add 4 cups of water to a tea kettle or saucepan and bring it to a boil. Add two heaping teaspoons of the dried chamomile to the boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Next, remove from heat and let it sit (covered) until the water turns a golden yellow. Now, pour the tea through a strainer into your favorite mug and enjoy. Add some local honey or agave to sweeten (I also like to add a little grated ginger for some kick!)
Sidenote: Pregnant women should not drink chamomile tea because it can cause uterine contractions. For that same reason, I would also avoid drinking chamomile if you’re menstruating as it might increase cramping. No one wants that.