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Historical Zoom: Chamomile in Ancient Egypt

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Historical Zoom: Chamomile in Ancient Egypt

Ouid herbal smoking blends are designed with the principles of herbalism at the top of our minds. In most parts of the world, remedies based on modern medicine have displaced herbalism as the go-to for sick patients. But before herbalism was considered “folk” medicine, it was just called medicine. Since before recorded history, humans have used trial and error with different plants to determine if they have medicinal value. Aided by exploration, migration, and technology, herbal medicine travelled across continents, and the same herbs were used in similar remedies in very different civilizations.

Chamomile is the perfect example of a herb that transcends geography and millennia and has proven extremely useful for human health. We’re going to take a closer look at chamomile because it features in our Relax blend. If you take a zoomed in look at the blend below, you’ll see teeny yellow dried flowers. They are chamomile flowers, and they do a lot for us.

Biochem 101

Chamomile is one of the oldest, most widely used, and well-documented medicinal plants in the world. Thanks to modern medicine and technology, we now know exactly why that this. The biochemical properties of chamomile lend themselves to lots of medicinal applications, but let’s focus on the sedative effects since that’s what we’re harnessing in the Relax blend. Chamomile contains the flavonoid apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain in order to reduce the excitability of neurons. Does benzodiazepine sound familiar?  It’s a common name for sedatives and sleeping pills (benzos for short.) Benzos and the apigenin in chamomile seek to do the same thing, which is to slow down the firing of neurons, reducing anxiety and encouraging relaxation.

Ancient Texts

We know chamomile was used in ancient medicine because of primary sources from the time. The Ebers Papyrus is probably the most significant source. It was discovered in the 19th century between the legs of a mummy in the Theban necropolis on the banks of the Nile. It dates to 1500 BCE and is widely considered one of the greatest medical documents in recorded history. In it, we get a glimpse into ancient Egyptian society, values, and beliefs. We know from that document and from studies of mummies that chamomile oil was an essential ingredient for embalming the dead. It was so revered for its scent and power that ancient Egyptians used it in that most sacred ritual.

From other accounts of ancient Egyptian society, we know that chamomile was used as an almost universal cure including to soothe headaches, insomnia, stress, and digestive disorders. It was one of the most highly regarded herbs. Associated with the sun god Ra, chamomile was used in offerings to him. Ancient Egyptians also used chamomile cosmetically, to reduce inflammation and to add a pleasant aroma. Women of ancient Egypt would make chamomile poultices for their eyes to reduce puffiness.

Ancient Romans and Saxons also used chamomile medicinally and cosmetically. In fact chamomile is one of the Nine Sacred Herbs of the Anglo-Saxons given to the people by the warrior god Woden (we actually use another of the nine in our blends- mugwort!).

Chamomile Today

Chamomile is still cultivated in Egypt today. In addition to commercial cultivation, gardeners all over the world love chamomile for the curative effect is has on sickly neighbouring plants. It’s known as the “Plant’s Physician.” It's a perennial herb that is so versatile and low maintenance that some people plant an entire lawn of chamomile. 

Additionally, it's one of the world's most popular herbal teas. And why not? Many of us were taught from a young age that chamomile tea soothes the nerves when we read that Mrs. Rabbit sends Peter Rabbit to bed after a cup of chamomile tea when he is stressed after getting into it with Mr. McGregor. Some numbers suggest that 1 million cups of chamomile tea are consumed daily around the world. 

Chamomile in Ouid

So there you have it- proof from the ancients that chamomile works. Have you tried the Relax herbal smoking blend? Did you notice your neurons firing at a slower rate? Let us know in the comments on hit us up on Instagram @ouidblends

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