The Medicinal Properties of Chamomile (Pineappleweed)




By Jordan Miller;

The herb chamomile has been in constant use for thousands of years. It has been used to treat a many ailments and health troubles, such as stomach upset, diarrhea, gas, insomnia and even anxiety. This rather common plant grows abundantly around the world. Here in Canada, you may have come to understand it as false chamomile or pineapple weed. Wild chamomile grows in disturbed areas with poor compacted soil. It can be seen blooming along footpaths, garden edges, natural places where people gather, in the spring and early summer.

Wild chamomile's scientific names (Matricaria discoidea, Matricaria matricarioides) are from the Latin matrix, meaning "mother" and caria meaning "dear" and refers to the plant's many uses for women and children. Pineapleweed grown back ever year. It is characterized as having many leafy branches. When crushed, the smell resembles pineapple, hence its name. The stems grow from 5 to 30cm in height and the leaves are highly dissected, almost fern like. The plant also spawns yellow green flowering heads that are quite numerous and conical. Unlike its cousin, German chamomile (Matricaris recutita), it doesn't have white petals.

Harvest Time

The optimum time to gather wild chamomile is as soon as the tiny, yellow-green disc flowers appear, but they can also be gathered throughout the summer months.

Food

Wild chamomile flower heads were often gathered for food, especially by children. Today, they are used to make a pale, golden tea. The flower heads have also been added to muffins and breads. The plants may be eaten as a trail nibble or a salad ingredient, but they can be quite bitter. Powdered plants were often sprinkled on alternating layers of meat and berries to keep flies away and reduce spoilage.

Medicine

German chamomile tea is a well known herbal remedy for treating nervous tension, irritability and a variety of digestive complaints, such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, peptic ulcers, and hiatus hernia. It is especially suited to teething children. A wide variety of pharmacological activity has been documented for German chamomile, including antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, anti-ulcer and antiviral activities. The flowers are used topically for wounds, sunburn, burns, hemorrhoids, mastitis and leg ulcers. Animal studies have demonstrated that ingestion of the oil, at a dose of 0.2 mL/kg, lowered blood pressure and depressed cardiac and respiratory function. In a human study, a chamomile extract administered to patients undergoing cardiac catheterisation induced a deep sleep in 83 percent of the cases. Pineappleweed tea has been used in a similar manner to German Chamomile to treat colds (Especially in children), upset stomachs, diarrhea, fevers and menstrual cramps. It was also taken by woman to build up their blood at childbirth, to aid in delivering the placenta and to encourage good, healthy milk. As a mild sedative, it helps to expel gas and sooth muscle contractions in the stomach, relieving the heartburn and soothing the fevers.

Other Uses

Native peoples used these aromatic plants as perfume, sometimes mixing them with fir or sweet-grass and carrying the mixture in small pouches to concentrate the fragrance. Pineappleweed provided a pleasant smelling insect repellent, and the fragrant dried plants were used to line cradles and stuff pillows. 

Steve Johnson, founder of the Alaskan Flower Essence Project and author of the Essence of Healing, says that pinneappleweed is indicated for use "when we feel a lack of harmony with our physical environment; unaware of the support and nurturing that is available from nature; and a weak nurturing bond between mother and child." He adds, "The essence helps us maintain a calm awareness of ourselves and our surroundings as that we can remain free from injury and risk; promotes harmony between mothers and children, and between humans and the earth."

Your question(s): Have you ever come across pineappleweed? (post your comments below)

Sources:
Edible & Medicinal Plants of Canada; MacKinnon, Kershaw, Arnason, Owen, Karst, Hamersley, Chambers. 
The Boreal Herbal; Gray
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About the Author : Jordan Miller is the co-founder of guidinginstincts.com. He has overcome illness through dietary/lifestyle changes, and practicing a positive mindset daily. Jordan is currently learning about traditional North American medicinal herbs, in hopes of becoming a Certified Herbalist.

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