Simples is a word in the field of herbalism that refers to a single plant being used in a medicinal way. Simples can be any single herb, although when I think of Simples, I am often referring to, what I call "Common Simples". These are those herbs that most people are quite familiar with and sometimes because they are so common, they are thought of as being TOO SIMPLE, TOO MILD, or even ineffective. These thoughts would be untrue. In fact, some of my favorite plants to work with are these common and frequently used plants - chamomile, calendula, thyme, lemon balm, nettles, and so on.
There is a special relationship that develops when we work with one herb at a time. We get to know that herb in an intimate way. When we drink a cup of chamomile tea to help soothe tension that we might be feeling, as opposed to a blend of 5 different herbs, a different experience takes place. We tune in a little bit more to the herb, its actions, and the gentle shifts and changes it brings in our bodies. This is not to suggest that a blend of tea that contained 5 different herbs wouldn't be effective. It certainly would. It's just different.
If you are sitting in a room with five people all in conversation together, you might take in a little bit of what each of the people is saying. When you recall it later, it might be hard to distinguish who said what. When you sit in a room with one person in conversation, there is a more focused experience. You can take in what one person is saying more fully in a more attentive manner.
Plants work the same way.
The Simple that I would like to talk about to day is the quiet, gentle chamomile. Chamomile is a member of the Asteraceae family. This is the same family that daisies are a part of. If you have ever seen chamomile growing, it resembles a very tiny dainty daisy. Chamomile is a wonderful plant to grow. It grows best in partial shade, but also enjoys full sun. It requires very little care and seems to be happiest when it is left alone and not fussed over too much.
Chamomile is often turned to for it's relaxing qualities on the nervous system. It has the ability to soothe, calm, and relax. It is also often used for issues relating to digestion. It is wonderfully soothing to upset tummies. While it is not something that I think of as a tonic herb, it's reach extends far, supporting the cardiovascular system, the immune system, and as mentioned, digestive and nervous systems.
There are different types of chamomile, with the two most common being German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). German Chamomile tends to be less expensive, therefore is often more common. In my area of the world, a small island in Maine, another variety of chamomile, Pineapple Weed (Matricaria discoidea) grows abundantly. This is often found in fields and roadsides. It grows low to the round and smells just like pineapple. It possesses very similar properties to German and Roman varieties, although I tend to think of it as a bit milder in it's actions.
My absolute favorite way to enjoy Simples, such as chamomile, is in the form of tea done by infusion. I find that I can fully immerse myself in the experience of it beginning with the process of making the tea, which involves a bit of ritual. Even if we choose to use a packaged tea bag, there is still the process of boiling the water, opening the tea bag, pouring the tea over the tea bag, perhaps dunking it up and down a few times while it steeps, then maybe we sweeten it a bit and add a touch of cream. It's actually a very involved process, albeit a simple one, that can bring us just a little bit closer in connection with the plants we are working with, and in that, closer to ourselves.
To make a simple chamomile tea:
Select a favorite drinking vessel.(I like to use one vessel to brew in if using loose flowers and my favorite one to drink from after straining)
Place approximately 1-2 teaspoons of dried chamomile flowers (or 1 Tablespoon of Fresh flowers, or 1 chamomile tea bag) into a vessel.
Pour water that has just reached it's boiling point over the flowers.
Let steep for 10 to 20 minutes.
Strain flower from chamomile (or remove your tea bag) and place strained tea into your drinking vessel.
Sweeten and add a touch of cream of choice, if you desire. I always like my tea without sweetener or cream, so I can fully taste the herbs.
Sip and enjoy.