Growing chamomile for tea is easier than you think. Once the plants are established, it is drought tolerant and trouble free.
There is something so comforting to taking a break during the busy day and enjoying a cup of chamomile tea. I like to add a drop of local honey to sweeten it just a bit. Then I take a deep lingering breath over the cup as the tea steeps and cools down enough to drink.
Chamomile is a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae) and is best known for its soothing and calming properties and its fruity, apple-like flavor. Chamomile is documented through Egyptian, Roman, and Greek history as one of the most ancient medicinal herbs. Chamomile’s reputation as a remedy for relieving anxiety was confirmed in a 2009 study (Source).
Today, chamomile is commonly used for many ailments including hay fever, menstrual disorders, inflammation, insomnia, muscle spasms, gastrointestinal disorders, and rheumatic pain. It can be applied to the skin for inflammations and skin diseases.
Two most popular types of chamomile are German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), an annual that can grow up to 2-feet high; and Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), a perennial that grows 12-inches high. Both contain essential oils and anti-oxidants that are calming and relaxing. Once I learned how easy it is to grow chamomile from seed, I have been growing chamomile for tea ever since.
Growing Chamomile from Seed to Tea
German chamomile grows best in a sunny location in the garden but can tolerate some shade. It can grow in containers but may become top heavy, so larger containers are recommended.
Once established, chamomile is pretty drought tolerant and trouble free. It isn’t a heavy feeder so will not need additional fertilizer through the growing season unless your soil is poor.
1. Sow Seeds Indoors Under Lights
Start German chamomile from seed indoors about 6 weeks before your last expected frost date. Sow seeds by scattering a small pinch of the tiny seeds on the soil surface, mist with water, and tamp lightly.
Chamomile seeds need light to germinate, so do not cover the seed with soil before misting with a spray bottle to water.
2. Thin Chamomile Seedlings
Germination usually occurs within two weeks. Once the seedlings reach 4-inches high, select the strongest and healthiest plants and thin by snipping the others at the soil surface.
3. Transplant Chamomile Seedlings to the Garden
Harden off your chamomile seedlings and transplant to the garden after danger of frost is past along with other heat loving plants. Space the plants about 8-10 inches apart and water frequently until they are established and produce new growth. Usually within several weeks after transplanting, the first stems will begin reaching for the sky and the flowers begin to form and bloom.
4. Harvest Chamomile at Peak for the Best Flavor
Flower heads are ready to gather when the petals are flat or begin to fall back from the center. Gather the flowers on a sunny day after the morning dew has dried. Harvest blossoms by snipping them off when they are fully open.
5. Dry the Chamomile Blossoms
Air-dry chamomile by layering the blossoms on a plate, and allow to dry naturally in an upper cabinet away from dust and sunlight. You can also spread the chamomile out on a window screen or drying screen to dry. Depending on the humidity, this usually takes 1-2 weeks.
Alternatively, you can use a food dehydrator to dry chamomile quickly. Lay the flower blossoms out on the drying screens and run at the lowest setting until dry.
You can tell when chamomile is dry, by crushing a blossom or two. It should crumble easily.
- See How to Harvest and Dry Herbs for Storage for more information on drying herbs.
6. Store the Dry Chamomile Flowers for Tea
Once the chamomile is dry, store whole flower buds in a glass jar away from direct sunlight.
7. How to Make Chamomile Tea
To make tea, use about a teaspoon of dried chamomile flowers per cup. Place the chamomile blossoms in a tea infuser, pour boiling water over the chamomile flowers, and then steep for 5 minutes. When it is hot outside, I add ice cubes after steeping for a fresh flavored iced tea. Freshly harvested chamomile can be used for tea as well, but you will need twice as much. Drying concentrates the oil and flavor.
I enjoy a cup of chamomile mid-afternoon especially when things are busily humming along. It gives me a moment to sip, gather my thoughts, and plan my next move.
Growing your own culinary and medicinal herbs is very rewarding. Here are some additional articles on growing and preserving your own herbs:
- 7 Culinary Herbs to Start from Seed
- 5 Herbs That Thrive Inside
- How to Grow, Harvest, and Preserve Bee Balm (Monarda)
- How to Harvest and Preserve Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
- How to Make Your Own Herbal Drying Screen via Herbal Academy
- How to Propagate a Rosemary Plant from Stem Cuttings
- How to Divide Chives
- How to Harvest and Dry Herbs for Storage
- 23 Ways to Use Chamomile via Herbal Academy
Sources and Further Reading:
- Klenner, Amanda. “How to use Chamomile to Reduce Stress.” Herbal Academy of New England.
- Foster, Steven. “How to Grow, Use and Identify the Chamomile Herb.” Mother Earth Living.
- Singh, Ompal, Khanam, Zakia. et al. “Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.): An overview.” The National Center for Biotechnology Information.
- Amsterdam, Jay, Li, Yimei, Soeller, Irene, et al. “A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Oral Matricaria Recutita (Chamomile) Extract Therapy of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology. Wolters Kluwer Health.
Disclosure: Any medical information is for informational purposes only. Always do your research and exercise caution when using any herbs or plants as medicine. Chamomile is not recommended for women who are breastfeeding or pregnant, and can cause allergic reactions in people with hay fever and some types of flower allergies.
This article was originally published on August 6, 2014. It has been updated with additional information, photos, and video.