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I harvested my first German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) flowers today and really enjoyed it. I have a few self seeded plants (chamomile self seeds amazingly) that are ahead of my bed of chamomile that I planted. So I only had a small amount to pick. In the height of summer I can spend an hour a day harvesting chamomile! The smell of fresh chamomile flowers is just so beautiful. It smells nothing like the stale, old chamomile you get in most commercial herbal teas. When you pick fresh chamomile flowers and crush them between your fingers you are enveloped in a wonderfully aromatic, apple fragrance. There are a number of daisy plants that look similar to chamomile and this is the way you can tell whether you have the right plant. 
Chamomile is best picked after the sun has been up for a while because the flowers shut up at night. Pick the flowers when they are fully open. I pick most of my flowers by hand simply by plucking the heads off with my fingers. However when I have a lot of flowers that are ready at the same time then I do have a chamomile rake which I use. Chamomile flowers open very quickly and so if you do have a patch of chamomile then you will be able to pick new flowers every couple of days. Once the flowers are picked, spread them out in a single layer in a dry, dark place to dry. They will take 1 to 2 weeks to dry thoroughly. You will know if they are dry when the centre of the flower feels warm when you touch it. 
Chamomile can be used internally and externally. Chamomile has long been used in teas as a sleep aid as it has mildly sedating and muscle relaxing properties. It is effective yet mild enough to be used by everyone including children. In my Tranquillity Tea I blend chamomile with lemon balm and lavender which are herbs also known for their calming effects. It makes a lovely tasting, relaxing tea that is perfect to drink before bed. I usually make a pot of this tea every night for me and my family. 
Chamomile can also be used externally in creams and lotions to sooth skin rashes including eczema and sun burn. I infuse chamomile with calendula flowers in almond oil to make a soothing and healing lotion which is also great as a massage oil.

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