Vampire’s Garden: Chamomile

vampire's garden chamomile, aspasia s. bissas
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Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained in botany and herbalism, she still has a garden and studies plants. This post is seventh in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Botanical Name: Matricaria chamomilla (German chamomile) and Chamaemelum nobile (Roman or English chamomile).

Common Names: chamomile, camomile, German chamomile, Italian chamomile, Hungarian chamomile, wild chamomile, scented mayweed, Matricaria recutita, Roman chamomile, English chamomile, garden chamomile, Water of Youth, ground apple, mother’s daisy, whig plant, Anthemis nobilis, Anthemis, chamomilla, Flores Anthemidis, Grosse Kamille, Romische Kamile, manzanilla, sweet chamomile

History: Found near populated areas throughout temperate parts of the world, chamomile will grow in any disturbed soil, including along roadsides, near landfills, and in cultivated fields. It has been used medicinally since at least Ancient Egypt, and in beer making (and love potions!) since the Middle Ages. Roman chamomile was thought to be the superior form, hence the use of “nobile” (noble) in its botanical name, although research shows that German chamomile is actually the more potent of the two. Chamomile is the national flower of Russia.

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: Patience

Cultivation: Zones 3 to 9. German chamomile is an annual that readily self seeds. Roman chamomile is a perennial. Chamomiles like moist but well-drained soil and full sun (or part shade in hotter climates). Start seeds six weeks before last frost. Seeds need light to germinate, so scatter on top of potting mix, press firmly into the mix, and keep moist. Transplant outside after risk of frost has passed. (You can also directly sow seed outdoors in autumn.) Thin plants to 15 to 18 inches (38 to 45 cm) apart. Blooms June and July. After (Roman chamomile) plants flower, cut them back to soil level to ensure strong plants next season.

Uses:

Medicinal: Whichever type of chamomile you use, make a tea from the flowers and drink or apply externally, depending on what you’re treating. German chamomile in particular has been found to be antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory, making it ideal for menstrual and intestinal cramps, as well as coughs and colds. Chamomile is calming and has been traditionally used to help anxiety and insomnia. Cooled tea can be applied to skin to calm irritations and help with swelling (it can also be used as a mouth rinse for sores or inflammation). You can make a pot of strong tea and add it to bath water for a healing bath. Chamomile is a mild laxative, but has also been found to help treat diarrhea in children.

Caution: Chamomile can cause allergic reactions in anyone allergic to pollen or plants in the ragweed family. Chamomile may also negatively interact with other herbs and medicines. Avoid using if you’re taking anti-coagulants, NSAIDS, or sleep aids (including herbal kinds).

Caution 2: Pregnant and nursing women are advised to avoid using Roman chamomile. Infants should not be given chamomile, as (like honey) it may be contaminated with botulism spores, which a baby’s immature immune system can’t handle.

Cosmetics: Chamomile extract or essential oil can be added to skin creams as a soothing ingredient. Cooled chamomile tea can be used as a hair rinse to bring out blond highlights. Chamomile can also be added to homemade bath products, such as bath bombs.

Food: Home brewers can use the entire chamomile plant to add bitterness to beer. Chamomile flowers can be used in drinks (lemonade, smoothies, cocktails), in homemade popsicles, or in baking and other desserts. The flowers have a sweet apple or pineapple scent, and are worth experimenting with.

Crafts: Chamomile makes a nice addition to potpourri. You can also scent your home by gently simmering chamomile (fresh or dried leaves and/or flowers) in a pot of water on the stove (do not leave unattended; keep a close eye on water levels).

Gardening: Prevent damping off in seedlings by watering them with cooled chamomile tea. Planting chamomile near sick plants often results in healthier plants.

Mara’s Uses: Mara orders a cup of chamomile tea in Blood Magic (download your free copy here). Chamomile would also be included in remedies she sells via her apothecary business in Love Lies Bleeding, as well as the ones she used to help her fellow passengers in Tooth & Claw (download your free copy here).

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

 

Further Reading:

Flower meanings

Wikipedia: Chamomile

Wikipedia: Roman Chamomile

Wikipedia: German Chamomile

The Flower Expert

German Chamomile

NIH: Chamomile

What Are the Benefits of Chamomile Tea?

WebMD

23 Ways to Use Chamomile

What Is Chamomile?

How to Grow Chamomile

 

 

Happy Solstice!

photo of sunflower
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Are you doing anything special to mark the longest (or shortest, if you’re in the southern hemisphere) day of the year?

If you need some ideas, here are a few to get you started…

 

Make Sun Tea

clear glass bowl beside yellow flower
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Make a Flower Crown

man with pink floral headdress
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Do some cooking, or bake Solstice cookies or cake.

slices of lemon on white plate
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Wishing you a Happy Solstice…
Aspasía S. Bissas

Last Meal

I’ve never given much thought to last meals. As something one generally doesn’t get to choose, it’s a topic that, for me, ranges from pointless to depressing (I’d much rather think about my next meal). But others find it a fascinating subject, agonizing in detail over what they would have, or in the case of J.B. Gish over at Quirk Books, what famous literary characters might have.

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Gish has imagined Hermione Granger, imprisoned for identity theft by unknown means, would have boomslang skin, lacewing flies, a bit of a guard’s hair, and the rest of the ingredients for Polyjuice Potion (imagine making that request). Meanwhile Shadow Moon (American Gods) might opt for a more conventional last meal of cheeseburger, fries, and American beer.

In the spirit of pure speculation, I’ve given some consideration to what my character Mara (Love Lies Bleeding) would have eaten for her last meal as a human before she was forced to convert to an all-blood diet. As the daughter of an upper-class English Knight in Medieval Ireland, Mara would have had access to higher quality food than the average person. Her last meal would have been a typical everyday light supper in her household (at least for her and her father–the servants likely didn’t eat as well).

Mara’s Last Supper

  • wheat bread with fresh butter
  • fish stew made with onions, parsnips, trout, bacon, and wild garlic and herbs that Mara foraged
  • baked apples with honey and currants
  • wine

What do you think–is it a good last meal?

And because I couldn’t talk about food without including recipes, here are some modern versions of Mara’s last supper:

soda bread

Irish Soda Bread (Brown Bread)

fish stew

Irish Fish Stew

baked apples

Honey Baked Apples with Raisins and Cinnamon

(Note: I haven’t tried these recipes, so let me know if you do and how they turned out.)

You can read more about Mara in my new FREE short story “Blood Magic,” available for download at Smashwords and other online booksellers. And if you haven’t already, now is a great time to also get a copy of my novel Love Lies Bleeding. Happy reading (and eating)!

BLOOD MAGIC by Aspasia S. Bissas