When I was a teen there was a racy TV show called The Camomile Lawn – not sure how it would fare through #MeToo tinted glasses, but it did inspire a love of all things camomile (or chamomile if you’re American).
My stepfather created a camomile lawn at the end of our townhouse garden. In summer, when it would flower with sturdy yellow daisies, I would sit by it and inhale the strong, honey-like scent, or pluck flowers and dry them to make tea. My parents told me it was good for calming me before my A-levels.
My parents were big on alternative remedies and camomile tea and honey is still my favourite bedtime treat, one that I have passed on to my children. Having grown up with fresh camomile, I favour a posh pyramid tea bag steeped for at least five minutes in hand-made mugs, with a teaspoon of the finest local honey – add lemon if you want to soothe a cough or sore throat.
Not many tea brands successfully mix camomile. But Voya – yes, the spa skincare company – have a camomile infusion that works for me. I wasn’t sure how they would get away with adding seaweed to the mix (it’s Voya’s USP after all), but it’s pretty damn delish. Added liquorish is a plus, and great for digestion, which can disturb sleep. I love it.
Soothing sensitive skin
It never occurred to me, until I entered the wonderful world of spa, that camomile was used in skincare. It makes sense since botanicals have been had medicinal and topical use in home-spun cures for centuries. Many natural herbs and flowers have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties; camomile has these in abundance, plus is considered calming and soothing for skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea.
This face cream is so soothing, especially after a run or hot bath, as it instantly calms any redness or irritation. Camomile is the soothing ingredient along with other wholesome botanicals. The packaging – glass jar, pink lid and foil cover – reminds me of cold cream, which is no bad thing. I feel like I’m getting some real nurturing mother-love. The effect on my skin is wonderful: it smooths, cools, evens the tone and there’s definitely lots of hydrating plumpness.
I’ve become a bit of an Ayurveda convert over the years: the treatments always send me to Nirvana. Mauli oils are Ayurveda inspired with that velvety richness and a meadow-y fragrance that has made them popular in fashionable spas, such as Bulgari (where this oil was created) and The Agua Spa.
I’ve been feeling a little sluggish and unmotivated in lockdown, tinged with anxiety; camomile is used in this oil to banish sadness and disappointment and induce a happy feeling. It certainly does that. I rub it into my shoulders and arms whenever I feel like an uplift – it also makes my lockdown sweatshirts smell spa-like and gorgeous. Frankincense, ylang ylang, orange peel and other essential oils create a warming, nurturing home-massage treatment.
Camomile for me is ultimately comfort – TLC for those rainy days. Of course, Temple Spa’s lovely body lotion – “a hug for the skin” – would have camomile as a key ingredient, along with lavender, liquorish, frankincense and myrrh (those wise men were onto something). My body skin gets dry and tight easily – where I live, the water has too much lime in it – hence my excessive love of rich body creams and oils. But a dollop of Duvet and it feels supple and youthful, staying hydrated all day.
If your skin - or your digestion - is at all easily irritated, camomile may well be your ‘erb, as it has long been mine. My daughter bought me some camomile seeds for Mothers’ Day, which have just begun to sprout, so I can make my own tea – and maybe my own camomile lawn.