encyclopedia

Chamomile

Scientific Names:    

Matricaria recutita L. [Fam. Asteraceae]    
     

Forms:    

Aqueous extract of fresh or dried flowers.    
     

Traditional Usage:    

– Acne (externally)
– Anti-inflammatory
– Antimicrobial
– Athlete's Foot
– Bone and Joint Problems (externally)
– Breathing Disorders
– Bunions
– Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
– Catarrh (nose, throat and bronchi)
– Colic
– Colitis
– Cramps
– Deodorant
– Digestive Disorders
– Enteritis
– Fever
– Flatulence
– Gastrointestinal Disorders
– Gastritis
– Headaches
– Heartburn
– Infections (externally)
– Insomnia
– Menstrual Difficulties
– Mucous (respiratory)
– Nervous Disorders
– Poultice
– Sciatica
– Skin Disorders
– Ulcers
– Wounds     
     
    
Overview:    

Chamomile, Matricaria recutita L. [Fam. Asteraceae], is a common plant in disturbed areas that grows up to 50cm and has numerous small golden flower-heads with a pleasant characteristic aroma. Chamomile is most well known as a calming and relaxing bedtime tea and research has shown that the apigenin it contains is an effective sedative. Through its bitter properties and essential oil, chamomile also increases the flow of gastric juices relieving dyspepsia, indigestion, heartburn and other gastrointestinal complaints including: gastritis, enteritis, colitis and flatulence. Chamomile tea is also recommended to alleviate digestive and menstrual cramps and to treat headaches associated with liver congestion. Research on chamomile has demonstrated antibacterial and antifungal properties for bisabolol, the spiro-ethers and other polyacetylenes contained in the herb and the tea was traditionally used externally to stimulate wound healing and prevent infections. Chamomile tea can also be used externally as an antinflammatory wash for treating skin and respiratory irritations and is used as an inhalation for treating catarrh (mucous) of the nose, throat and bronchi. Essential oil of chamomile can be used to help keep bunions under control and to treat Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, sciatica and bone and joint problems through its antinflammatory properties. The German Commission E monograph notes that the oil extract of Chamomile is antiphlogistic (anti-inflammatory and anti-fever) and studies have verified that several compounds contribute to this activity including: bisabolol, chamazulene, matricin and the spiro-ethers. Chamomile tea is also used to prevent and soothe gastrointestinal ulcers. One German synonym for chamomile, translated as 'roll-boil', reflects this traditional usage. To soothe ulcers, a concentrated warm tea of chamomile was drunk while lying down and slowly rolling onto all sides of the body in order to effectively coat all of the inner membranes with the tea.    
     
    
Active Ingredients:    

Chamomile flowers contain: From 0.3-1.5% essential oil containing (-)-alpha bisabolol, bisabolol oxides A, B, and C, bisabolone oxide, chamazulene, chamamviolin, spathulenol, cis- and trans-enyne dicyclo ethers (spiro-ether, polyacetylenes) as the principal components. The flowers also contain: Bitter substances of the sesquiterpene lactone type, including: matricin, matricarin, desacetylmatricarin; Coumarins: umbelliferone and herniarin; Mucilage; and Flavonoids including: many identified methoxylated flavones and flavonols, apigenin (arising by hydrolysis of the 7-O-glucoside during drying), luteolin, quercitrin, 7-mono- and 7-diglycosides and 7-mono-glycosides acetylated in the sugar moiety.    
     
    
Suggested Amount:    

Chamomile is generally taken as an herbal tea three to four times per day between meals. German authorities recommend using a heaped tablespoon (ca. 3g) of the flowers for every 150ml of water. It is recommended that boiling water be poured over the flowers and after 5-10 minutes strained. For inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat, a freshly prepared cup of tea is used as a gargle or wash. Externally: a 3-10% infusion is used for poultices and rinses; as a bath additive, 50 grams of flowers are used per 10 liters of water.    
     
    
Drug Interactions:    

None known.    
     
    
Contraindications:    

Persons who are allergic to daisy family plants [Fam. Asteraceae] may experience allergy symptoms to chamomile.    
     
    
Side Effects:    

Allergic reactions are possible in susceptible persons. Infusions should not be used near the eyes.    
     
    
References:    

Duke, J. 1997: The Green Pharmacy, The Ultimate Compendium of Natural Remedies from the World's Foremost Authority on Healing and Herbs. pp. 85-86; 126-127; 291; 362; 531-533. Rodale Press.
 
Flynn, R. and Roest, M. 1995. Your Guide to Standardized Herbal Products. One World Press, 601 Granada Drive, Prescott, AZ, 86301; Library of Congress: 94-80040;  pp. 14-15.
 
Foster S, and Duke JA. 1990. Chamomile in Medicinal Plants. Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, NY, p. 84.
 
Wichtl M (ed). 1994. Matricariae flos – Matricaria flowers (English translation by Norman Grainger Bisset). In Herbal Drugs and Phyto-pharmaceuticals. CRC Press, Stuttgart, pp. 322-325.