Last winter I did a post on how to tell the difference between the various chamomiles, mostly because both nursery chamomile plants and dried chamomile herb are rarely labelled by their botanical name when being sold and I wanted to be able to ID them so I’d know which one I was growing and using. But I also wanted to be able to ID the wild varieties of that family and learn which were medicinal. The most obvious of the wild ones here in NZ is the rayless chamomile, but while I have seen it off and on in the past I’ve not seen it locally and I’ve rarely seen it anywhere in abundance.
Then in December I couldn’t believe my luck when visiting a local organic farm I stumbled upon this beautiful swath of rayless chamomile in flower.
You can read about identifying the different chamomiles in the previous post, but the main keys for the rayless one are:
~ the absence of petals as the flower opens:
~ the finely cut leaves:
~ and the pineapple smell when the plant is crushed (it’s sometimes known as pineapple weed).
That last photo shows a lush and largish plant – most of the ones I’ve seen in the past are smaller than this and it can grow quite low to the ground in a spreading fashion.
I harvested some of the plants (leaves, flowers, stalks) last December, hanging some in bunches to dry and putting some up in vinegar. I’ve made tea a few times and found it interesting, with subtle chamomile flavour. There was a mild relaxing effect but not very strong (I’d like to experiment with a stronger infusion). But it was recent tastings of the vinegar that I had finally decanted that impressed me. The scent is strongly of the plant, and the taste is of the smell – distinctly chamomile with pineapple undertones, so those constituents extract well into vinegar.
I took 1 tablespoon of the vinegar in a glass of water one evening. Within half an hour I was yawning and barely able to keep my eyes open. This effect passed when I got up and moved around so it wasn’t so much sedative as strongly relaxing. I’ve had the same effect several times since. The vinegar is noticeably diuretic for me, so I’m not sure if it would make such a good sleep aid but your mileage may vary. I’d like to try the tea and tincture for the relaxing effect as well and will certainly be experimenting with this plant some more.
It was one of Henriette Kress’ blogposts on using chamomile greens that tipped me off to the medicine of pineapple weed.
Kiva Rose’s plant monograph on chamomile.