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Every few thousand years or so, a plant comes along that is stunning in its healing powers

Every few thousand years or so, a plant comes along that is stunning in its healing powers. Chamomile is just such a useful and versatile herb. It is one of nature's safest medicinals as prized by herb lovers today as it was in the times of the ancient Greeks, Romans and

Taken orally as a tea, infusion or tincture, chamomile has a relaxing effect on the nervous and digestive systems and is helpful in the treatment of sleeping problems, stress, anxiety, sore throat, cough, peptic ulcers and stomach cramping, to name a few.

Once harvested and put through the extraction process, the flowers and leaves of the chamomile plant release a beautiful blue volatile oil called azulene. This important active ingredient fights bacteria, fever and swelling. It is an excellent anti-inflammatory that can be taken internally or applied directly (via creams or compresses) to achy joints or other areas of inflammation.

The topical uses of this beloved botanical are equally diverse as the internal ones. Skin and scalp conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and dandruff are often improved by an application of this soothing plant, as are infected wounds, leg ulcers, hemorrhoids and insect bites. Chamomile poultices or compresses can be used to help heal bruises, burns, sprains or calluses.

Bathing with chamomile can bring relief to dry, itchy, irritated skin, sunburn or sore muscles. It helps induce full mind and body relaxation. Wrap a handful of the dried herb in a piece of muslin tied with an elastic band or simply steep three or four chamomile tea bags in the warm bath water. For an additional calming effect, try combining the chamomile with lavender blossoms. Both herbs are powerful rejuvenators when added to a foot bath for tired feet.

Besides lavender, chamomile's scent mixes well with that of bergamot, geranium, marjoram, neroli and lemon. Combine any of these ingredients to create simple yet aromatic sachets and herbal bath mixtures. (If pregnant or nursing, consult a certified aromatherapist before using essential oils.)

A couple of drops of chamomile essential oil added to the evening bath water is great for gently transitioning babies or young children into a peaceful, more relaxed state, and will help them settle down at bedtime. A baby's diaper rash will also benefit from this bath.

Chamomile is used commercially in personal care products, mostly for face, skin and hair. It can restore shine and add highlights to blonde hair, but is suitable for other hair colours as well. After shampooing, try saturating your hair with several cups of a warm, strong infusion made from either chamomile tea bags or the bulk dried herb. Wrap hair in a towel for 30 minutes, then rinse and condition as usual. This should leave your hair and scalp feeling revitalized.

You can make your own facial sauna by simply steeping three tablespoons (45 milligrams) of dried chamomile in three cups (750 millilitres) of purified water at a near-boil for 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and lean over it with a towel covering your head for another 10 minutes. This allows your pores to open up fully. Pat face dry.

To soothe tired, sore eyes, place two chamomile tea bags soaked in warm water for several minutes over closed eyelids for 10 minutes or more. This same treatment is also useful for conjunctivitis (pink eye) or for under-eye swelling and puffiness.

If you don't grow your own chamomile plants, the dried herb can be purchased inexpensively in many health food stores. Why not treat yourself to a bag soon? As you mull over the many possibilities for its use, remember to put your feet up, clear your busy mind and soothe your soul with a calming cup of chamomile tea!

Scentual Summer Mist

Looking for a new scent this summer? This multipurpose aromatherapy blend is an alive office favourite. A few spritzes make the editorial department swoon in their chairs the smell is absolutely divine! As alive assistant editor and certified aromatherapist Wendy Bone explains, it's perfect as a house spray, facial mist, chemical-free perfume or sunburn soother.

In a 60-millilitre glass spray bottle, add:

8 drops chamomile essential oil
8 drops lavender
4 drops geranium
purified water

Shake first then spray as desired. Store in a cool place for up to six months.



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