Chamomile was originally discovered by an English Botanist at the Roman Coliseum during the 1600’s. In total, there are three flowers which are referred to as chamomile; Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), and Moroccan chamomile (Ormensis multicaulis).
As an aromatic perennial capable of growing to about twenty inches in height, Chamomile can produce feathery leaves and white, daisy-like flower heads, with yellow center. The flowers are commonly harvested as they open in summer. Chamomile is mostly cultivated in Europe and other temperate regions. German chamomile has been taken for digestive problems since at least the 1’st century, and is gentle and suitable enough for children. The herb was so renowned by the Egyptians that they had dedicated the herb to the sun and worshiped it above all other herbs for its healing abilities.
Hieroglyphics show that chamomile was used for cosmetic purposes for a minimum of 2,000 years. Egyptian noblewomen used preparations of crushed petals on their skin. Greek physicians prescribed it for fevers and female disorders. The botanical name of Matricaria is derived from the latin word for womb because of its affinity for women’s conditions.
It is believed that there are a number of benefits and uses of chamomile, such as being used to treat insomnia, skin problems and even providing temporary relief from asthma. Some consume the plant for the purpose of regulating the menstrual cycle, and to treat other ailments specifically related to the female reproductive organs. The most common method of consuming chamomile is in the form of tea, which can be easily made by dried or fresh leaves in hot water.
Consumption of chamomile carries with it a number of benefits. Some studies indicate that certain symptoms of diabetes (such as loss of vision, kidney and nerve damage) can be alleviated using chamomile. These studies showed reduction in the amount of blood glucose levels as well as two enzymes that cause nerve damage.
Various other studies have shown that chamomile tea can be beneficial when preventing and fighting cancer. The active component in chamomile tea is called apigenin, which researchers have found can be used to stop the spread of cancer cells. Researchers at Ohio State University showed that apigenin causes cancer cells to die at a rate equivalent to normal cells. In addition, they had also found that chamomile is effective against many other forms of cancer as well.
German chamomile is used to treat several conditions, such as irritation from chest colds, abscesses, slow-healing wounds, gum inflammation, and skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, chickenpox, diaper rash, anxiety, insomnia, ,stomach ulcers, and minor burns.When these conditions are present, you can use chamomile in a bath or infusion to treat the afflicted area.
Chamomile has been traditionally used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, stomach cramps, indigestion, diarrhea and gas. When taken, Chamomile helps relax muscle contractions, particularly in the smooth muscles which make up the intestines. One study showed that, when taken in combination with peppermint, Chamomile helped relieve symptoms of indigestion.
Studies have shown that the use of Chamomile as a mouthwash helps prevent the development of mouth sores from chemotherapy and radiation. In addition, some people have also reportedly stated that it helps prevent gingivitis. Chamomile is often used in a cream or ointment to soothe irritated skin, especially in Europe. Most evidence which supports this comes from animal studies, not studies with people. However, two studies in people had concluded that a chamomile cream had relieve symptoms of eczema.
For children, consultation with a doctor is recommended. To relieve colic in children, some doctors suggest 1 to 2 oz of tea per day. For an adult, however, there are several different methods of consumption:
The most common species are Matricaria chamomilla (also known as Matricaria recutita) German chamomile, or wild chamomile, which is the most commonly-used species. Chamaemelum nobile is the Roman and English derivative which is also frequently used. There are a number of other species’ common names which include the word ‘chamomile’, however, this does not mean they are used in the same manner as the species used in the herbal tea known as ‘chamomile’. Plants which include the common name ‘chamomile’ of the family Asteracea are:
There are several different major chemical compounds within chamomile, including apigenin and alpha-bisabolol. Bisabolol is known for having a weak, sweet floral aroma which is used in various fragrances. It has also been used for several hundred years for in cosmetics due to its skin healing properties. Bisabolol is known to have anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant and anti-microbial properties.
Other compounds in chamomile include: terpenoids, sesquiterpenes, flavonoids, coumarins, caffeic acid, flavonoids such as apigenin and luteolin, and others. Apigenin has been demonstrated to possess chemopreventive effects against cancer, while alpha-bisabolol has been shown to reduce pepsin secretion without altering secretion of stomach acids.
Chamomile contains an anticoagulant effect, acting as a blood-thinner and preventing clotting of the arteries. However, the mechanism is not fully understood. Due to chemicals such as bisabolol, chamazulene, apigenin and luteolin, they posses anti-inflammatory effects, although the exact mechanism is also not well understood.
Bisabolol and flavonoids have demonstrated antispasmodic effects in animal experiments. In human studies, chamomile tea, combined with herbs such as vervain, licorice, fennel and balm mint, was shown to be effective in treating colic in children. Flavonoids and coumarins are considered to be smooth muscle relaxants.