You might know chrysanthemums, or mums, as a many-petalled flower found all over the world in garden beds and flower pots. Chrysanthemum blooms range from palest yellow to bright red, with a few varieties in green and purple. Depicted for centuries in art, they’re not just pretty to look at. Chrysanthemums are also edible and have been used for medicinal purposes for many years.
The tea brewed from the dried flowers has a golden hue and a mild, flowery flavor similar to chamomile. Scroll down for instructions on how to make it. You might enjoy it with a little honey. The flower’s petals, leaves, and stalks can be blanched (briefly plunged into boiling water) and eaten in salads or on their own.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Chrysanthemum has been used for hundreds of years in Chinese medicine. People use it to treat respiratory problems, high blood pressure, and hyperthyroidism. Fans of the flower also say it can reduce inflammation and calm your nerves.
Dr. J. D. Yang is an expert in Chinese and integrative medicine and founder of Tao Integrative. “Chinese medicine categorizes herbs based on energetic properties rather than the chemical ingredients,” he says. “Chrysanthemum provides mildly cold energy. It has special affinity to the energy channels that lead to the lungs, liver, spleen, and kidneys.”
These uses aren’t supported by contemporary scientific research, but have a lengthy history. Chrysanthemum, or “ju hua,” as it’s known in Chinese, is also recommended for reducing fever and cold symptoms in the early stages.
What the Research Says
Scientists have started to research the medicinal benefits of chrysanthemums because of their popularity in alternative practices. One study found that some chemicals extracted from chrysanthemum flowers can reduce inflammation. Another found that chrysanthemum extract could help treat bone disorders like osteoporosis.
Nutritionist Renee Rosen, trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, has researched chrysanthemum extensively. “One cannot expect to take chrysanthemum and have a miraculous recovery from osteoporosis or to calm nerves overnight,” she says. Rosen advises ensuring the purity and concentration of the preparation. She also recommends taking chrysanthemum for a long period of time to reap the benefits.
Having studied the purported cooling and anti-inflammatory effects of chrysanthemum, Rosen says, “What seems realistic is that over very long periods of time, some people with the right body constitution can use chrysanthemum to reduce heat and inflammation.”
How to Make Chrysanthemum Tea
Chrysanthemum tea is easy to make. If you use chrysanthemum you’ve grown yourself, pluck the flowers and leave them to dry for several days in a sunny spot, or use a food dehydrator. You can also buy dried chrysanthemum blooms in health food and Asian groceries.
Boil the water and allow it to cool for about a minute to around 100°F. Then use between 3-6 dried flowers to an 8 oz. cup of water. Let it steep for a few minutes, and voila!
If you make chrysanthemum tea, make sure you use only plants that have not been sprayed with pesticides or other garden chemicals. If you’re pregnant or nursing, ask your doctor before drinking chrysanthemum tea.
Allergies and Side Effects
If you’re allergic to daisies or ragweed, you might also be allergic to chrysanthemum. Definitely stop consuming it if you have a reaction like a skin rash or respiratory irritation. Chrysanthemum products interact with many prescription medicines, though none very seriously. If you are taking prescription medicines, ask your doctor before you start using any chrysanthemum goods.
Chrysanthemum oil is very strong and should be used carefully. Its main chemical, pyrethrum, is used in many pesticides. Direct contact or long-term exposure to pyrethrum can irritate your skin, eyes, nose, and mouth.