Dyers Chamomile Safe for Teas?
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Jeanne and Terry
Posted on: October 5, 2003

Do you have any information on dyers chamomile? Anthemis tinctoria? Is it safe for teas?

Dyers chamomile is not used in the same ways as the familiar tea chamomiles, german chamomile (Matricaria recitita) and roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), are used. The association with chamomile comes from the fact that dyers chamomile belongs to the same botanical genus, Anthemis, that roman chamomile was once assigned to; the former botanical name for the roman variety is Anthemis nobilis.

Despite the taxonomic closeness to chamomile, dyers chamomile doesn’t look much like the true chamomiles anyway; its daisy-like flowers are much larger, with bright yellow petals instead of the white petals the true chamomiles possess. We prefer to list it in our catalogue (under the "M" herbs) using its more common name "golden marguerite" to distinguish it from the true chamomiles. Dyers chamomile, as the name suggests, is a source of a natural dye, in colours ranging from yellow to gold to khaki.

According to the Mrs. Grieve, author of the classic 1933 herb reference, "A Modern Herbal", dyers chamomile has medicinal properties similar to mayweed (Anthemis cotula; also known as "stinking chamomile"). Mayweed, she wrote, is an antispasmodic and an emmenagogue (see http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/m/maywee26.html). Aside from this comparison to mayweed, there is not much of a history of dyers chamomile’s use as a medicinal plant; as far as I know it is not in use today as a medicinal herb, and certainly it is not used as a tea herb like the true chamomiles.

Jim Duke, the acclaimed author of herbal books and former researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, includes a reference in his ethnobotanical database that dyers chamomile has anticancer properties. It worth noting that of the thousands of plants that have anticancer properties only a relative few are in use for the treatment of cancer today. Dyers chamomile is one of the many anticancer herbs that is not in wide use because, I suspect, its effect is too weak and it has been supplanted by other more effective herbs.

Thank You. I have dyer’s chamomile in my garden. It is attractive because the yellow flowers are so profuse. (and my rabbit liked them) I have made teas out of it for a number of years, but I began to wonder about possible effects of the dyes. (Although they must not be water solulble, because they do not colot the water much.)

We have no information on the long term safety or hazards of the tea, unfortunately.

How have you found the taste of the tea? You are making it from the flowers only, not the leaves, right?

I use flowers only. The tea does not have much flavor, and it is not a taste I can identify. "Mild" is about all I can say. Along the lines of some brands of "sleepytime" tea. Usually I mix it with monarda, and mint or lemonbalm, or whatever else strikes my fancy. Then I add a touch of lemon. I would not mix it with lavender, the flavors would clash.

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