Common name: German chamomile, Roman chamomile
Other names: Chamomile, camomile, matricaria, anthemis, ground apple
Latin name: Matricaria chamomilla, Anthemis nobilis
Affinity: Digestive system, nervous system
Actions: Anti-spasmodic, carminative, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antiseptic, vulnerary
Diseases: (Internal, German chamomile) IBS(3), IBD(3), diarrhoea with spasms(3), flatulence(3), anxiety(1), insomnia(2), indigestion(3), gastritis(3), gingivitis(3), menstrual cramps(3)/ (Topical, German chamomile) Carpal tunnel syndrome (1)
Parts used: Flowers
Characteristics: Chamomile refers to one of two plants (Castleman, 2001). The German chamomile, Matricaria chamomile, is an erect annual growing plant with small daisy like flowers in clusters (Kuhn and Winston, 2000). The Roman chamomile, Anthemis nobilis, is a hardy, low growing perennial with daisy style flowers.
History: The ancient Egyptians associated chamomiles flowers with the sun (Castleman, 2001). They used the herb to treat fever, particularly the reoccurring fevers of malaria. The Greek physician Discorides and the Roman physician Pliny, recommended chamomile to treat headaches, kidney, liver, and bladder problems. Ayurvedic physicians in India used the herb in similar ways. The Germans have been using chamomile since very early in history to treat digestive upsets, promote menstruation, and relive menstrual cramps. Nicholas Culpepper in the 17th century recommended chamomile for fevers, digestive problems, aches, pains, jaundice, kidney stones, congestive heart failure, and for promoting menstruation. Later in history, the Eclectic physicians, recommended chamomile poultices to speed wound healing and prevent gangrene. The recommended infusions for digestive problems, malaria, typhus, menstrual cramps, and menstruation promotion.
Current applications: David Hoffman, in his text, ‘Holistic Herbal’, states, ‘The apparently endless list of conditions it can help all fall into areas that the relaxing, carminative, and anti-inflammatory actions can aid’ (Hoffman, 1988). It is a very good relaxing, gentle, sedative suitable for use in children. He says it may help relive anxiety and insomnia. He also mentions that inflammation of the digestive system and indigestion can be helped by chamomile. Kuhn and Winston mention that chamomile may be combined with lemon balm and passion flower to help sleep and anxiety (Kuhn and Winston, 2000).
Science: Chamomile has been found to exhibit anti-inflammatory activity in vitro and inhibit the COX-2 pathway (Srivastava et al., 2009). Another study found a methanol extract of German chamomile had anti-oxidant properties, while they also showed the essential oil displayed anti-microbial properties (Roby et al., 2013).
One double blind placebo controlled clinical trial of a German chamomile extract in capsules found a significant reduction in anxiety in comparison with a placebo over 8 weeks (Amsterdam et al., 2009). Another study examining German chamomile essential oil found it relived the symptoms of Carpal tunnel syndrome when applied over 4 weeks (Hashempur et al., 2015).
Safety: Chamomile is very safe for the great majority of people. However, a minority of people may have an allergy to chamomile and that getting their skin in contact with the herb will cause itching or perhaps a rash. In these cases, drinking the tea will also cause some swelling or discomfort. On the other hand, chamomile tincture will almost certainly not cause an allergic reaction, as it appears to be the pollen in the plant that causes this reaction, the pollen does not remain present in the tincture.
Dosage: 2-5ml of the tincture can be taken two or three time daily. Capsules may also be taken, follow dosage on the packaging, in the anxiety trial (Amsterdam et al., 2009) up to five 330mg capsules were taken per day.
To make an infusion, pour a cup of boiling water onto two teaspoons of the dried leaves and let infuse for 5-10 minutes. For digestive trouble, this tea can be drunk after meals. A stronger infusion may be used as a mouthwash for gingivitis.
Brands: I recommend Herb Pharm in the U.S.A., who sell a fresh tincture. In the U.K. I recommend The Wild Pharma or Neil’s Yard.
Research on models
Anti-inflammatory activity: One study found an aqueous extract of chamomile flower of Eygptian origin inhibited the COX-2 pathway ex vivo (Srivastava et al., 2009).
Anti-oxidant activity: A study found that a methanol extract of German chamomile had anti-oxidant properties ex vivo (Roby et al., 2013).
Anti-microbial properties: The same study as above found that essential oil of German chamomile ha anti-microbial properties ex vivo (Roby et al., 2013).
Research on humans
Anxiety: One study (n = 61, double blind placebo controlled) found a significant reduction in anxiety after 8 weeks of treatment with a standardised extract of German chamomile (Amsterdam et al., 2009). Dosage was four 220mg capsules per day.
Carpal tunnel syndrome: A study (n = 26, double blind placebo controlled) found significant reductions in symptoms associated with Carpal’s tunnel after topical essential oil application over 4 weeks (Hashempur et al., 2015). 5 drops were applied morning and evening to the wrist region.
Amsterdam, Jay D., et al. “A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy of generalized anxiety disorder.” Journal of clinical psychopharmacology 29.4 (2009): 378.
Castleman, Michael. “The new healing herbs.” Bantam Book, New York (2001): 465-471.
Hashempur, Mohammad Hashem, et al. “A pilot randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial on topical chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) oil for severe carpal tunnel syndrome.” Complementary therapies in clinical practice 21.4 (2015): 223-228.
Hoffman, David. Holistic herbal. Element Books, 1988.
Kuhn, Merrily A., and David Winston. Herbal therapy and supplements: a scientific and traditional approach. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2000.
Roby, Mohamed Hussein Hamdy, et al. “Antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of essential oil and extracts of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare L.) and chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.).” Industrial crops and products 44 (2013): 437-445.
Srivastava, Janmejai K., Mitali Pandey, and Sanjay Gupta. “Chamomile, a novel and selective COX-2 inhibitor with anti-inflammatory activity.” Life sciences 85.19 (2009): 663-669.