Chamomile: Overview

Two distinct plants are known as chamomile and are used interchangeably: German and Roman chamomile, Matricaria recutita and Chamaemelum nobile respectively.  Although distantly related botanically, they both look like miniature daisies and are traditionally thought to possess similar medicinal benefits.

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German chamomile flowers contain variable amounts of volatile oils, flavonoids, and coumarins among other components.  It is perhaps best known as an addition to herbal teas, as it these components have a soothing fragrance.

Roman chamomile has been used for similar complaints as the German variety, primarily in Britain.  The constituents also include volatile oils, flavonoids, and coumarins, among others compounds.  Even with these similarities, the Roman chamomile flowers are "Unapproved" by the German Commission E for these conditions.

History; Source

Chamomile has been used for centuries in Europe as a medicinal plant, mostly for gastrointestinal complaints.  This practice continues today.

Chamomile is a member of the daisy family, and native to Europe and western Asia.  German chamomile is the most commonly used.  The dried and fresh flowers are used medicinally.

Whole dried flowers can be purchased for teas or capsules, while the full complement of components are found in liquid or dried extracts.  The German chamomile flower is "Approved" by the German Commission E for internal use of gastrointestinal spasms and inflammations.

Function; Why it is Recommended

Active constituents. The flowers of chamomile contain 1-2% volatile oils including alpha-bisabolol, alpha-bisabolol oxides A & B, and matricin (usually converted to chamazulene).  Other active constituents include the flavonoids apigenin, luteolin, and quercetin.  These active ingredients contribute to chamomile's anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and smooth-muscle relaxing action, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract.

Roman Chamomile (also Anthemis nobilis) is less active than German Chamomile, but may be used in the same manner as German Chamomile.

Chamomile has carminative, anti-Candida, some antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory activities.  More recently, the flavonoid apigenin has been shown to have anxiolytic (anxiety relieving) activity.  This may explain its traditional use as a "relaxing" herb.  Chamomile is often included in relaxing, digestive, and anti-candida formulations.

Both species of Chamomile have been used for a variety of ailments including: colic (especially in children), bloat, mild upper respiratory infections, premenstrual pain, anxiety and insomnia.  Chamomile tea is also used to promote labor.  Externally, Chamomile is used to treat sore and chapped nipples in nursing mothers, as well as minor skin infections and abrasions.  Eye drops made from these herbs are also used for tired eyes and mild ocular infections.

According to HealthNotes, topical applications of chamomile have been shown to be moderately effective in the treatment of eczema [1,2].  One double-blind trial found it to be about 60% as effective as 0.25% hydrocortisone cream [3].  Topical use of chamomile ointment was also found to successfully treat mild stasis ulcers bed sores in elderly bedridden patients [4].

References & Further Information

[1] Nissen HP, Blitz H, Kreyel HW.  Prolifometrie, eine methode zur beurteilung der therapeutischen wirksamkeit kon Kamillosan®-Salbe.  Z Hautkr 1988;63: pp.184-90

[2] Aergeerts P, Albring M, Klaschka F, et al.  Vergleichende prüfung von Kamillosan®-crème gegenüber seroidalen (0.25% hydrocortison, 0.75% flucotinbutylester) and nichseroidaseln (5% bufexamac) externa in der erhaltungstherapie von ekzemerkrankungen.  Z Hautkr 1985;60: pp.270-7

[3] Albring M, Albrecht H, Alcorn G, Lüker PW.  The measuring of the antiinflammatory effect of a compound on the skin of volunteers.  Meth Find Exp Clin Pharmacol 1983;5: pp.75-7

[4] Glowania HJ, Raulin C, Swoboda M. The effect of chamomile on wound healing – a controlled, clinical, experimental double-blind trial.  Z Hautkr 1987;62:1262-71

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