Putting some order into Matricaria recutita et Chamaemelum nobile

The choice of Chamomile came up for the first edition of our magazine by chance but one of those chances where you feel that you are being gently pushed in a certain direction, A conversation on a herbal forum about the differences between Chamaemelum nobile L and Matricaria recutita triggered me into trying to put some order into this vast subject and pin point some of the differences between Roman and German chamomile.

ImageTo begin with chamomile is one of those plants that everyone has heard of as a herbal tea, it was probably the first herbal tea I made myself as a young student thirty years ago in London when I started to feel the need for plants in my diet. The only snag with this is that in most of these cases, it probably wasn’t chamomile but Matricaria recutita, ok so I am being too pernickety I hear you saying…maybe, but it is important to recognise the difference between what in English speaking countries is known as Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile (L)) and German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). In a herbal tea the difference in taste goes without saying, the former is really bitter and more or less undrinkable (to my palette anyway) and the latter has a much gentler, accessible taste…but they are still more often than not bagged together under the same name. This becomes even more complicated in France as other medicinal plants from the Asteraceae family are also known under the name of chamomile. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is known colloquially as Grande camomile and it too has tubular yellow flowers in the centre and white disc flowers, Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparissus) is known as Camomille amère or Camomille de Mahon, Chrysanthemum indicum is known as Camomille de Chine and the list goes on. The same thing can be found in English, Dyer’s chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria), stinking chamomile (Anthemis cotula), although these are actually the same genre as Anthemis nobilis…which is no longer the official name as the genre changed to Chamaemelum in 2003 (just to complicate things a bit more!).  On the subject of complications, in different books and internet sites one can find four Latin names given to Chamaemelum nobile as this plant was named by four different botanists these are Anthemis nobilis L, Ormeni nobilis (L) L.Gray, Chamomilla nobilis G.G and Chamaemelum nobile L, which is as already stated the official name.

So what does the word chamomile mean, what is its etymology? It comes from the Greek word khamaimélon, chamia meaning ‘ground’ and melon meaning ‘apple’, so we could say ‘earth apple’ which refers to the apply scent of Chameamelum nobile flowers. Well that is a sigh of relief; at least the root of the name seems to refer to our medicinal plant as feverfew, santolina, chrysanthemum and even Maricaria recutita (German chamomile) don’t smell of apples do they? Well Matricaria recutita a little bit maybe. Read the rest of this entry »

Making and Using flower essences!

I was 18 the first time I came across flower essences and working as a waitress in in London whilst at the same time studying to be a drama teacher. One of the other waitresses presented me with the list and uses of the Bach Flower remedies one evening before work and my first reaction was, “Yes I need them all!” I began using Bach flower remedies straight away and carried on doing so for many years. I am sure their subtle but effective action on my emotional and mental states throughout the years have played a crucial role in my own healing journey.

Since then I have gone on to discover other flower essence makers and now many of the essences I use, I make myself.

Dr Bach was a homeopath and believed that the cause of disease was emotional, a conflict between soul and mind that needed spiritual and mental effort to eradicate it. He speaks in his work ‘Heal Thyself’ about his belief in the existence of the soul and how the root of disease and unhappiness is often linked with conflict from either the material world or other people leading one away from the soul’s real path. The second major theme that Dr Bach relates to health is that of unity and interrelatedness, he outlined some of the human defects that he believed to be adverse to unity such as pride, cruelty, hate, self-love, ignorance and greed stating that illness sets in if one continues in these defects after knowing they are wrong.

I have met flower essence practitioners who will only work with the 38 Bach remedies believing that Dr Bach created a range of remedies that were complete and that there is no need to diverge from them. I personally believe that the system and remedies that Dr Bach offered to the world in the 1930’s had and still have their work to do but there is absolutely no reason why his system shouldn’t be used to experiment with other plants and continue to add to what is now becoming a vast information base of flower essences. There are as many essences out there as there are plants; by making one’s own essences, herbalists and practitioners will find the flowers that speak to them personally and through this relationship be able to hear when it is the right time to suggest one to a patient.

What are flower essences?

ImageFlower essences are the vibrational message of a flower transmitted to water by solarisation, and the vibrational resonance of the flower is memorised by the water.

Today in my work as a herbalist, I make flower essences to use with patients. A certain plant will attract my attention and I may feel drawn to make an essence. Just before or during the process, I sit with the flower and listen and meditate (over the years I have learnt to listen and not get way-laid with mental doubts or questioning); I jot down in my notebook what comes up. I will later trial the essence myself and ask colleagues to trial it too in order to build up a picture of the plant’s message and how it can be used in herbal practice. Read the rest of this entry »