Chamomile Tea and Quality Standards
Answered by: Richters Staff
Question from: Mark Williames
Posted: Before April 1998

Do you have any information on chamomile tea? How do you make it?

The tea is made from the flowers only. Sometimes finely chopped leaves are included in teas but they are less active medicinally. Chamomile tea is most commonly made from dried flowers but fresh flowers can be used also. If you are using fresh leaves, pour 150 mL boiling water over 2 heaping tablespoons of flowers and let steep for 5-10 minutes and then pass through a strainer. If you are using dried flowers use only 1 tablespoon. Because chamomile both helps to calm the nerves and aids digestion, chamomile is a favourite after-dinner beverage.

Is it easy to grow?

Yes. There are two main types: German and Roman chamomile. The German variety (Matricaria recutita; or M. chamomilla in older books) is the one most commonly used in commercial tea. It is an annual that reseeds itself if some flowers are allowed to mature and set seeds. Seeds can be sown directly in the garden or field in spring and flowers can be harvested the same year in summer.

Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile; or Anthemis nobilis in older books) is a perennial hardy to zone 6. The English think that this variety is the better tasting of the two, but this view is not shared by tea drinkers on the European continent. Yields are less than the German variety so prices are higher. There is a double flowering form that is grown commercially for tea. There is also an ornamental variety of Roman chamomile called Treneague that does not flower at all and obviously has no value for tea production.

There are also closely related wild chamomiles that are often found growing in waste areas. These are rarely suitable for tea due to poor flavour.

Do you know anyone I could contact in the industry who could help me with any books or international industry standards?

Commercial chamomile is often assayed for their essential oils which are responsible for the unique aroma and flavour and for much of the medicinal effect. In German chamomile, bisbolol and its derivatives and chamazulene are among the oil components that are assayed. Oil contents of 1% or over are considered good. Flavanoids such as apigenin, and sesquiterpene lactones such as matricin are also thought to contribute to the medicinal and aromatic properties. High quality tea bags are made with homogeneous material not exceeding a particle size of 2 mm and not so small that a tea bag cannot hold back the fine particles.

Roman chamomile can contain over 2% essential oil, but the chemical constituents of the oil are different from that of the German variety. Pharmacologically, the oil of Roman chamomile has not been investigated thoroughly. Sesquiterpene lactones and flavanoids are also present in the Roman variety.

A good source of technical information on commercial herbal drugs made from the two varieties is the book Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals, edited and translated by Norman Grainger Bisset and published by CRC Press (1994). It is expensive so look for it at your local university medical or pharmacy library.

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