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I’ve just discovered the beneficial qualities of chamomile tea. This was quite by accident. I suspect I might be developing an allergy to food, specifically tomatoes or onions or spicy foods containing these ingredients. I only know that for weeks I’ve been subjected to frequent stomach and intestinal upsets and so I began to search for tried and true methods of relief. As a Janeite I asked: “What would Jane have done?”

Women during the Georgian era, including the Austen women, made their own medicinal remedies for all sorts of ailments. Many recipes were handed down in the family over the generations, others were acquired in Cookery Books.

chamomile2

Thumbnail image from Cup & Leaf

One common easy-to-make remedy for an assortment of ills was herbal tea or tisane. I looked up information online, found teas that aided digestion, then checked my tea shelf and found four of the suggested herbal teas for indigestion: chamomile tea, green tea, ginger tea, and hibiscus tea. (There are more.)

I chose the chamomile as being a likely candidate, for I like the taste. After a few days my indigestion largely calmed down. According to the Dictionary of 18th Century Herb Usage from Chadds Ford Historical Society,

Chamomile [is] infused as a tea for indigestion, gas, and stomach aches. Also used as a strewing herb and insect repellent.” Link to  Dictionary of 18th Century Herb Usage PDF doc

In European records, medicinal use of Chamomile was practiced for centuries.

Ancient physicians prescribed herbal teas regularly to aid in digestion and help relieve symptoms of the common cold and flu. Before the advent of cold medicines and antibiotics, herbal teas were often the only way to treat illnesses.” – Greek Mountain Tea, Chamomile, and Fennel

Chamomile tea is commonly infused from a plant known as Matricaria recutita. The tea is made from the dried flower, not the stems and leaves. The brew is delicate and yellowish and has a lovely floral or fruity aroma. It is often flavored with mint leaves or shaved fresh ginger, but I like it plain. Three cups a day did the trick.

Image of Bingleys teas, chamomile flowers, and favorite teapot/cup

A product description for “Compassion for Mrs. Bennet’s Nerves” on Bingley’s Teas can be seen on my large monitor screen. Chamomile flowers screenshot sits on my laptop (love my standing desk). Sitting on the top ledge are my favorite tea pot/cup and an annotated edition of Pride and Prejudice (I recommend the DK Illustrated Classic edition for newcomers to the Jane Austen oeuvre, like my sister-in-law). Image by Vic Sanborn.

The tea’s success in reducing my symptoms prompted me to research 18th century recipes. So far I’ve had no success, but that means nothing (there should be references that a dedicated researcher would find). I also looked up to see if Jane Austen mentioned the brew in her letters, but found no references. Still, the flower, which looks like a daisy, is common in Europe and easy to grow in an herb garden. One cannot help but surmise that Mrs. Austen and her two daughters knew exactly how to make a cuppa with freshly harvested chamomile flowers.

Cropped illustration of Mrs. Bennet by Hugh Thompson

Hugh Thompson illustration

While I could not find references to Jane’s having made chamomile tea (its properties, aside from soothing intestinal ailments include reducing anxiety, tension, and headaches and promoting sleep), I did find this delightful product description by Bingley’s Teas for a modern tea named “Compassion for Mrs. Bennet’s Nerves.”  

At last there is compassion for what poor Mrs. Bennet suffers with her nerves! A tisane of chamomile, peppermint, passion flower, rosehips, and lavender, sooth the most agitated of moments in a delicious cup. We recommend a touch of local honey for added bliss!”

As for chamomile tea’s efficacy,

The National Institutes of Health funded a study at the University of Pennsylvania on people with generalized anxiety disorder where the anxiety interferes with their lives. Chamomile was shown to to have promising results in reducing the participants’ anxiety.” – The Tea Maestro

Sources:

  • Greek Mountain Tea, Chamomile, and Fennel, October 4, 2016, The National Herald, click on this link. 
  • Introduction to chamomile, PDF document from abc.herbalgram.org. Click on this link.
  • Tea Time at Reverie: Compassion For Mrs. Bennet’s Nerves Herbal Tea from Bingley’s Teas, pA bibliophile’s Reverie. Click on this link.
  • The Health Benefits of Chamomile Tea, The Tea Maestro. Click on this link.
  • How to Make Chamomile Tea: 5 Recipes From Simple Tea to a Hot Toddy, Cup & Leaf. Click on this link.
  • Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future, Janmejai K Srivastava, Eswar Shankar,and Sanjay Gupta, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 11-1-2010. Click on this link.

 

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