Last month we shone the herbal spotlight on ginger. For March, in keeping with the theme of Spring, we’re shining the spotlight on a beautiful herb called chrysanthemum.

In the modern Chinese Medicinal guides, the chrysanthemum is listed among the cooling herbs for “relieving the surface” (or “releasing the exterior”). The flowers are also often utilized to promote circulation, cool the body, preserve vitality, and provide some properties akin to those of the tonic herbs.

The chrysanthemum is sweet, bitter, and cool-natured, and according to Traditional Chinese Medicine has the potency to expel wind, clear away heat, calm the liver, improve acuity of sight, subdue inflammation, and expel toxic substances. It is used as an exterior syndrome relieving herb, pungent in flavor and cool in property, to treat wind-heat syndrome and swelling and it can even be used to treat cardiovascular diseases and hypertension due to it’s cooling and pressure/swelling relieving functions. High blood pressure is also a kind of “wind rising upward”, which can cause headaches, dizziness and light-headedness. Combined with honeysuckle flowers, chrysanthemums have been known to effectively reduce blood pressure.

When incorporated into a treatment, chrysanthemum tends to clear heat in the upper body. For conditions like the common cold, upper respiratory infection, and tonsillitis that are categorized as an external invasion of wind and heat in Traditional Chinese Medicine, chrysanthemum is usually combined with mulberry leaf, peppermint and platycodon root for relieving fever, headache and coughing. For red and itchy eyes, adding the flower to your diet can help nourish your Liver and benefit your vision, thus clearing visual discomfort.

One of the (many) benefits of the chrysanthemum as a herb, is that it is easy to make into a remedy without having to visit the clinic to have your formula prepared. “But how?” (I hear you asking excitedly!). Quite simply, one of the most effective ways to introduce chrysanthemum into your system is by drinking it as a tea! There is absolutely no complicated preparation needed to use this herb. Simply pick the best looking flowers and put them in a warm oven for an hour or so to dry the flowers out. Then, just drop them in hot water to make tea. To prepare the tea, dried chrysanthemum flowers are steeped in hot water (usually cooled slightly after boiling) in either a teapot, cup or, or glass. Often cane sugar is also added. The resulting drink is transparent and ranges from pale to bright yellow in color, with a floral aroma. In Chinese tradition, once a pot of chrysanthemum tea has been drunk, hot water is typically added again to the flowers in the pot (producing a tea that is slightly less strong) and this process is often repeated several times.

So if you’re feeling ‘herbally inspired’, go out and pick up a handful of chrysanthemum flowers, dry them out, and make tea (you can always add honey, licorice, or add the flowers to green tea). It will soothe your Liver, help your eyes, lower your blood pressure, and help your headache. Some practitioners say that it can even anti-oxidize and slow down the aging process.
Talk about a “flower power”!