Local herbs - Chamomile substitute - Matricaria maritima, Sea Mayweed
I have been interested in gardening for a long time and have mostly liked flowering plants, for their scent and beauty. Part of the thrill of gardening is the challenge of growing delicate and difficult plants. When that goes well, success is sweet. But when one is growing plants to use them, either to eat or to use them in creams or soaps, then everything changes. The most important thing becomes not to find something exotic, but to find varieties that grow well in this climate. I now have a small allotment garden and along with the vegetables I grow a few medically beneficial plants. I inherited some Mint from a German neighbor who also donated a Comfrey plant and gave me some beens to sow. I have sown Calendula and violas. Both are good for the skin, so I'm macerating their flower petals to use later.
But what I have realized is that there are so many plants here that grow like weeds (and actually are weeds) that are medicinal and quite wonderful plants. And I haven't been using them. The grass is always greener on the other side, isn't it? One of those underutilized plants is the Sea Mayweed - Baldursbrá. It grows everywhere and I remember that we used to pick it when I was little and take off the white petals and chant: "He loves me, he loves me not, he loves...." But I digress. What I hadn't realized is that this humble plant, which is a close relation to the Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), shares most of the benefits even if it lacks the smell.
I have just picked a bunch of them and they are now drying in the oven on very, very low heat. I could actually smell a whiff of the essential oils when I opened the oven door. So I lowered the heat to next to nothing. I'm so thrilled to have made this discovery and I can't wait to use the dried flowers. I'm now planning some trips to collect more and dry a bunch for use this winter. Now is the perfect time, they are at their peak.
As far as I can tell from my research Matricaria maritima has a number of benefits. Among a host of other things it is anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, it is a mild muscle relaxant, anti-infective and what is most relevant for me: It is good for eczema and dry skin. The only thing that is seems to lack, that the Chamomile has, is the well known calming and sedative properties. So I won't try to use it as a late night tea, but I am going to use it instead of regular Chamomile in my Lemony shampoo bar for blondes and see if I notice a difference. It might also make it's way into a face cream or even a body lotion, now that I have an abundant supply.