This post was most recently updated on July 31st, 2020
Manzanilla tea, also known as chamomile, is a gentle but powerful herb. Read more about the benefits of manzanilla tea, how to make a perfect cup, and how to grow your own!
Please read: This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions in partnership with a qualified health care professional.
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This post is written by Melissa Keyser, a professional organizer and ecological landscape designer dedicated to helping people simplify, live sustainably, and love their home.
Neither Melissa nor I am a doctor, please consult your healthcare professional before starting any herbal treatments. This information is for entertainment purposes only.
What is Manzanilla?
Manzanilla is a Spanish word, meaning “little apple”. Manzanilla in English it is called chamomile, referring to the variety known as “German chamomile”. The Latin name is Matricaria recutita.
Manzanilla is can be used fresh or dried, and is a rather delicate plant. It grows about knee height, on feathery dark green leaves.
The small and abundant flowers are daisy-like, with yellow centers and white petals. If you brush against it, you might have a reminiscence of pineapple.
The flowers are the primary part used in herbal preparations, although the leaf can be used as well. It is a common herb found in natural food stores, sold loose in bulk.
Or, it’s very easy to find in standard supermarkets or grocery stores in tea bags. Because manzanilla is an herb, and not from the actual tea family, brewing up a cup would be considered an herbal infusion, or a tisane.
Benefits of Manzanilla Tea
Manzanilla is a gentle, delicate plant- in growth, appearance, and healing powers. But gentle doesn’t mean less effective. Research shows that it’s healing properties are wide-ranging and potent. It is rich in flavonoids and volatile oils, particularly one called azulene, which has many active properties that serve as anti-inflammatory and anti-fever agents.
Studies have shown that manzanilla “binds to the same receptors as Valum by activating monoamine transporters, thus reducing anxiety and causing a sense of relaxation (Stephan Orr, The New American Herbal)”.
It’s has been used to treat conditions related to indigestion, tension, inflammation, and infection. Perhaps most well known is it’s support for the nervous and digestive system. A cup of manzanilla tea is often drunk to ease stress and aids digestion (particularly for nervous tummy issues), and it can promote sleep. A strong brew has also been known to help a stress headache. It’s a common herbal remedy for children, helping them sleep and calming colic.
Externally, you can use manzanilla tea as an eyewash for conjunctivitis. It’s said that a hair wash made of a strong manzanilla tea will lighten hair or bring out natural highlights.
Sometimes, it’s used cosmetically for skin creams for eczema and psoriasis. However, an herbal infusion is the most common way of using this herb, and, the easiest!
How to make Manzanilla Tea
Before you brew up a cup of manzanilla tea, it’s important to note that some people, particularly if allergic to ragweed or other plants in the Aster family, are allergic! Common symptoms are similar to seasonal allergies- itchy eyes, runny nose, or scratchy throat.
Use 1 teaspoon dried, or 2 teaspoons fresh, manzanilla per 1 cup of water. Add the flowers or the tea bag to your cup, and pour over boiling water. This is very important and step, and one that many people miss- steep the tea, covered!
Keeping the tea covered captures any of the oils that would be escaping with the steam.
To get the most herbal benefits, step for 15 minutes.
Manzanilla does get bitter the longer it steeps, so for a less bitter and better-tasting brew, steep for a less amount of time. A dose of herbal tea is usually 1 8oz cup, three times a day for long term support.
If you’d like to blend your manzanilla with other herbs for additional herbal benefits, or to change up the taste, here are some other suggestions:
- Manzanilla, meadowsweet, and peppermint for digestion and to soothe heartburn
- Manzanilla, catnip, linden flowers, passionflower, hops, dried orange, and pinch of lavender for restorative sleep
- Manzanilla, fennel seeds, mint, nettle, rose, skullcap, raspberry, catnip, and licorice for after a stressful day to calm your nerves
If the taste of manzanilla bothers you, but you’d like to take advantage of its healing powers, try turning your bath into a giant pot of tea! The pores in your skin will open to the warm water and you will absorb the tea through your skin.
Place a large handful of dried blossoms and other herbs like lemon balm or rose, in a muslin bag, extra-large tea strainer, or even an old (but clean) stocking. Hang the bundle over the faucet while the water is running, so the water moves through the herbs, and then add the bundle to the tub while you soak!
How to grow Manzanilla
While manzanilla is easy to find in stores, growing your own manzanilla tea is easy in the home garden. It’s also a beautiful addition to flower gardens, and a companion plant to grow alongside vegetables!
For the most potent and prolific flowers, direct sow manzanilla seeds in dry, well-drained soils that are not very rich. It doesn’t fare well in the heat and is best grown in the cooler shoulder seasons. If you live in a mild climate, it easily reseeds.
To preserve the medicinal oils, it’s best to harvest flowers early in the day, when the temperatures are cool but any dew on them has dried. When the flowers are fully open, use your fingers to rake through the plant, pulling the blossoms off the stems. Dry immediately after harvesting. You can expect to harvest weekly from healthy plants during peak season.
Historically, manzanilla was planted in medieval gardens, and known as “the Plant’s Physician”, and if was thought to revive a dropping plant if planted nearby. In England, it was used as a fragrant lawn substitute around castles and estates.
In modern gardens, it is a great companion plant to pair with cabbage family. The small flowers are great at providing food to parasitic wasps, hoverflies, and other beneficial insects.