Nature’s Panacea: Chamomile Tea

In colds or consumptions, I pledge you my word,
Or in chills, or in fevers, d’ye see,

There’s nothing such speedy relief will afford,

As a dose of good chamomile tea.

Your famed panacea, spiced rhubarb and stuff,
Which daily and hourly we see,

Crack’d up for all cures, in some newspaper puff,

Can’t be puff’d into chamomile tea.

David P. Brown’s 1836 lighthearted ditty about the wonders of chamomile tea expresses an appreciation shared by many. The soothing, apple-scented tea has been used for centuries as an inexpensive cure for stomach ailments, heat sickness and insomnia, lulling frazzled nerves and taxed bodies into a state of gentle calm.

Luckily chamomile grows readily in temperate climes and near populated areas. It even aids the growth of nearby plants, making herbs like mint and basil increase their production of essential oils. Remarkably hardy, chamomile was known as “The Rebel Flower” during the American Revolution, because, as a patriotic hostess explained to a British officer who asked the plant’s name, the “harder it is trodden, the more it spreads.”

Here’s a recipe for chamomile tea from Mrs. Hale’s Receipts for the Million (1857). Serve the tea with honey and milk or a splash of fresh lemon juice.

Chamomile Tea

Take of chamomile flowers one ounce, boiling water, one quart; simmer for ten minutes and strain. […] A small cupful of tea, cold, taken in the morning, fasting, is often serviceable for indigestion.

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