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Chamomile








No Simple in the whole catalogue of herbal medicines is possessed
of a quality more friendly and beneficial to the intestines than
Chamomile flowers. This herb was well known to the Greeks,
who thought it had an odour like that of apples, and therefore they
named it Earth Apple, from two of their words, kamai--on the
ground, and melon--an apple. The Spaniards call it Manzanilla,
from a little apple, and they give the same name to one of
their lightest sherries flavoured with this plant. The flowers,
or blows of the Chamomile belong to the daisy genus, having an
outer fringe of white ray florets, with a central yellow disk, in
which lies the chief medicinal virtue of the plant. In the cultivated
Chamomile the white petals increase, while the yellow centre
diminishes; thus it is that the curative properties of the wild
Chamomile are the more powerful. The true Chamomile is to be
distinguished from the bitter Chamomile (matricaria chamomilla)
which has weaker properties, and grows erect, with several
flowers at a level on the same stalk. The true Chamomile
grows prostrate, and produces but [85] one flower (with a convex,
not conical, yellow disk) from each stem, whilst its leaves are
divided into hair-like segments. The flowers exhale a powerful
aromatic smell, and present a peculiar bitter to the taste. When
distilled with water they yield a small quantity of most useful
essential oil, which, if fresh and good, is always of a bluish colour.
It should be green or blue, and not faded to yellow. This oil is a
mixture of ethers, among which chamomilline, or the valerianate
of butyl, predominates. Medicinally it serves to lower nervous
excitability reflected from some organ in trouble, but remote from
the part where the pain is actually felt; so it is very useful for
such spasmodic coughs as are due to indigestion; also for distal
neuralgia, pains in the head or limbs from the same cause, and for
nervous colic bowels. The oil may be given in doses of from two
to four drops on a lump of sugar, or in a dessert-spoonful of milk.
An officinal tincture (Tinctura anthemidis) is made from the
flowers of the true Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) with rectified
spirit of wine. The dose of this is from three to ten drops with a
spoonful of water. It serves usefully to correct the summer
diarrhoea of children, or that which occurs during teething, when
the stools are green, slimy and particoloured. The true Chamomile,
the bitter Chamomile, and the Feverfew, are most obnoxious to
flies and mosquitoes. An infusion of their respective leaves in
spirit will, if used as a wash to the face, arms, or any exposed part
of the body, protect effectually from all attack by these petty foes,
which are quaintly described in an old version of our Bible as the
pestilence that walketh in the darkness, and the bug that destroyeth
at noonday. Chamomile tea is an excellent stomachic when taken
in moderate doses of half-a-teacupful at a [86] time. It should be
made by pouring half-a-pint of boiling water on half-an-ounce of
the dried flower heads, and letting this stand for fifteen minutes, A
special tincture (H.) of Chammomilla is made from the bitter
Chamomile (Matricaria), which, when given in small doses of
three or four drops in a dessertspoonful of cold water every hour,
will signally relieve severe neuralgic pains, particularly if they are
aggravated at night. Likewise this remedy will quickly cure
restlessness and fretfulness in children from teething, and who
refuse to be soothed save by being carried about.

The name, Matricaria, of the bitter Chamomile is derived from
mater cara, beloved mother, because the herb is dedicated to
St. Anne, the reputed mother of the Virgin Mary, or from matrix,
as meaning the womb. This herb may be known from the true
Chamomile because having a large, yellow, conical disk, and no
scales on the receptacles.

Chamomile tea is also an excellent drink for giving to aged
persons an hour or more before dinner. Francatelli directs that it
should be made thus: Put about thirty flowers into a jug, and pour
a pint of boiling water on them; cover up the tea, and when it has
stood for about ten minutes pour it off from the flowers into
another jug, and sweeten with sugar or honey. A teacupful of this
Chamomile tea, into which is stirred a large dessertspoonful of
moist sugar, with a little grated ginger added, will answer the
purpose now indicated. For outward application, to relieve
inflammatory pains, or congestive neuralgia, hot fomentations
made of the infused Chamomile blows are invaluable. Bags may
be loosely stuffed with the flowers, and steeped well in boiling
water before being applied. But for internal use the infusion and
the extract of the herb are comparatively [87] useless, because
much of the volatile essential oil is dissipated by boiling, or by dry
heat. This oil made into pills with bread crumbs, and given whilst
fasting two hours before a meal, will effectually dispel intestinal
worms. True Chamomile flowers may be known from spurious
ones (of the Feverfew) which have no bracts on the receptacle
when the florets are removed.

It is remarkable that each Chamomile is a plant Physician, as
nothing contributes so much to the health of a garden as a number
of Chamomile herbs dispersed about it. Singularly enough, if
another plant is drooping, and apparently dying, in nine cases out
of ten it will recover if you place a herb of Chamomile near it.

The stinking Chamomile (Anthemis cotula) or Mayweed, grows
in cornfields, having a foetid smell, and often blistering the hand
which gathers it. Another name which it bears is dog's fennel,
because of the disagreeable odour, and the leaf resembling fennel.
Similar uses may be made of it as with the other Chamomiles, but
less effectively. It has solitary flowers with erect stems.

Dr. Schall declares that the Chamomile is not only a preventive of
nightmare, but the sole certain remedy for this complaint. As a
carminative injection for tiresome flatulence, it has been found
eminently beneficial to employ Chamomile flowers boiled in tripe
broth, and strained through a cloth, and with a few drops of the oil
of Aniseed added to the decoction.

Falstaffe says in Henry IV.: Though Chamomile, the more it is
trodden on the faster it grows; yet youth, the more it is wasted the
sooner it wears. For coarse feeders and drunkards Chamomile is
peculiarly suitable. Its infusion will cut short an attack of delirium
tremens in the early stage. Gerard found the oil of the flowers [88]
a remedy against all weariness; and quaint old Culpeper reminds
us that the Egyptians dedicated the Chamomile to the sun because
it cured agues. He slyly adds: They were like enough to do it, for
they were the arrantest apes in their religion I ever read of.





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