chamomile

Scientific name: Matricaria recutita and Chamaemelum nobilus
Family: Asteraceae
Part used: flowers
Common names: German chamomile and Roman chamomile

Introduction:

We make sure we only use the best quality ingredients in our Modern Botany products. In our multi tasking oil we use the highest quality Roman Chamomile extract. 

Chamomile, a member of the daisy (Asteraceae) family, is a well-known traditional medicinal plant.  German chamomile (Matricaria recutita, synonym Chamomilla recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile, syn. Anthemis nobilus) are the two most widely used herbs in this family.

The flowers look very like daisy flowers with a yellow central disc surrounded by white petals.  German chamomile (M. recutita), is the species most used medicinally but another common chamomile species which looks very like it and has also been used medicinally for centuries, is Roman chamomile (C. nobile).  The essential oil and chemical constituents of Roman chamomile and German chamomile are quite different with Roman chamomile is more widely used in topical preparations.

The name Chamomile is derived from the Greek words “Khamai” which means on the ground and “melon” which means apple.  Its use has been recorded since ancient times, and Pliny the Elder referred to it as having an apple-like smell.  This is a reference to Roman chamomile (C. nobile) which releases an apple-like aroma when walked on.1

Carl Linneas named it Matricaria, which is thought to be a reference to its use in treating gynaecological diseases.  The German name “Mutterkraut” (“Mother’s herb”) is also thought to be a reference to this use.2  

Chamomile is indigenous to Europe and Western Asia and grows wild in central European countries1.  However, Chamomile is now found throughout the world and its main producers in Western Europe are Germany, Italy, France, Greece and Hungary.  It is also cultivated in Eastern Europe, Egypt, Australia and Argentina.

German chamomile is a hardy, self-seeding, herbaceous annual plant which grows to 10-30cm in height.  It has an erect branching stem with alternate divided leaves.  White ligulate florets surround the conical receptacle which is hollow and contains numerous yellow disk florets.  The fruit is small, smooth and yellowish in colour.3 It flowers in June and July and the seeds ripen from July to August.  The flowers are heterogamus and are bee pollinated.  The leaves are ferny and fragrant.  It grows in light, medium and heavy soils but prefers well-drained soil and will not grow in the shade.

Roman chamomile is similar in appearance to German chamomile, but it is a low-growing perennial plant.  It is sometimes called lawn chamomile due to its creeping roots and low growth habit.  

Traditional Medicinal Uses:

Chamomile has been in use since ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman times.  The Egyptians believed it was a gift from the god of the sun and dedicated it to the sun god Ra.  The Saxons also considered it sacred and the Slovakians even bowed to it when they came across it.4  Hippocrates, Pliny, Dioscorides, Galena and Asclepiades, the founders of modern medicine, studied and wrote about it.  Hippocrates described its medicinal properties and Galen used to recommend a chamomile tea.4The Germans also call it “alles zutraut – capable of anything”.5

Chamomile use was widespread in the middle ages and was extensively used to treat fevers.1

Chamomile was brought to the United States by German settlers and was considered an important medicine by the American Eclectic Physicians in the 19th Century, who used it to treat pregnant women and children for restlessness and anxiety.    

Biological Properties:

Chamomile has been found to have anti-inflammatory,7 anti-cancer, anti-anxiety8  and wound-healing9 properties.  It is also effective for the common cold, cardiovascular issues, colic and diarrhoea conditions, eczema,10 haemorrhoids, osteoporosis, as a sleep-aid,11 for diabetes and for sore throat relief.

  • Anti-inflammatory -  Chamomile flavonoids and essential oils penetrate to the deeper layers of the skin.7
  • Anti-anxiety – A clinically significant reduction in mild to moderate Generalized Anxiety Disorder was demonstrated.8
  • Wound Healing/Antiseptic – Traditionally used in Turkey to promote wound healing in relation to MRSA.9
  • Eczema and Skin complaints – Chamomile cream was shown to be as effective as 0.25% hydrocortisone cream and superior to non-steroidal products in treating eczema.10
  • Anti-insomnia - Apignenin, a component of M. chamomilla, shortens sleep latency.11

Constituents:

Chamomile has over 120 constituents.12The flowers contain the flavonoids quercetin, apigenin, patuletin and the main constituents in the essential oil are chamazulene and a-bisabolol.   The oil has an intense blue colour owing to its chamazulene content.  Chamazulene (C14H16), is an azulene which has anti-inflammatory properties.  The oil also contains a a-Bisabolol (C15H260), and related sesquiterpenes, which can make up 50% of the oil.   These have anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory properties.  Flavanoid glycosides, including Apigenin (C5H10), which is an anti-cancer agent, can make up to 8% of the dry weight.3

                                              

Commercial uses:

Medical use - Herbal medicine:

Pharmacopoeias of various European countries (European, France, Germany, UK), ESCOP and WHO govern the traditional use.  It is used to stimulate appetite and to treat asthma, bronchitis, colds, bleeding and menstrual problems, bladder and kidney problems, colic, colitis, gas and other digestive complaints, inflammation, insomnia, nervous disorders, migraine, pain, parasites, eye problems, toothache, headache.4

Cosmetic:

Roman chamomile is naturally antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant which makes it an ideal cosmetic ingredient.13The oil extract is used in many skin and hair products.  It is used in oils, creams, soaps, shampoos, detergents and perfumes. Its soothing smells instantly relaxes and calms any inflamed areas.

Food:

Tea, Tissane and Herb beer are all made using Chamomile. It is one of the most popular herbal teas in the world and approximately 1 million cups are consumed worldwide every day.1

Dried flowers can be added to soups and salads and used to make lemonade.  It is used as a flavouring in tobacco and a colouring in food.

It has been used as a food-coating to prevent microbial contamination.1

Contaminants and adulterants:

Most common adulterants found in chamomile are generally similar looking species for example Feverfew.  A sample of M. recutita should not contain any flowering heads of Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium). Stinking dogweed (Anthemis cotula) may be the source of most contact dermatitis.14

Modern Research:

Chamomile cream can be used to reduce episiotomy (during birth) pain in first time mothers.15

A long-term study also showed that chamomile extract significantly reduced moderate to severe anxiety disorders.16

Contraindications:

Patch testing is advised due to sensitivity or allergy to members of the Asteraceae family.3

German chamomile contains a-Bisabolol which is not recommended for topical application.   The use in pregnancy and lactation of Matricaria (German chamomile) tea is sufficiently documented to recommend a traditional use, since it is widely used as an herbal tea.  However, any products containing Matricaria should be cleaned from nipples prior to breastfeeding to prevent sensitization of the baby.12
We do not use German chamomile in our Modern Botany products. We use the much safer Roman chamomile which is perfect for topical application.

Summary / Conclusion

Chamomile has been used in teas for centuries as a relaxing sleep aid and as a treatment for stomach problems, fevers and colds.  Scientific research over the past few decades has confirmed its traditional use for a variety of ailments and skin conditions and consequently, there is a great worldwide demand for it.  Demand is also fuelled by increasing consumer requirements for natural, fair-trade and organic products and particularly chamomile, which has been seeing triple digit growth rates.18Organic chamomile is wild-collected in Eastern Europe and organic and fair-trade chamomile is available from Egypt, however supply does not meet demand.   Chamomile is indigenous to Ireland and it grows wild here which makes Ireland ideally placed to benefit from its potential as a cash crop.

References:

 (1) Das, Moumita. (2015) Chamomile Medicinal, Biochemical, And Agricultural Aspects. 1st ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press. Print.

(2) Franke, Rolf, and Heinz Schilcher (2005). Chamomile. 1st ed. Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis, Web.

 (3) World Health Organisation (WHO) (1999). WHO monographs on selected Medicinal Plants. Vol. 1. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organisation;86-94.

(4) Šalamon I. (2004): The Slovak gene pool of German chamomile (Matricaria recutita L.) and comparison in its parameters. Hort. Sci. (Prague), 31: 70-75. Web.

 (5) Carr, Anna, William H Hylton, and Claire Kowalchik. (1998). Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Herbs. 1st ed. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale Press. Print.

 (6) Gupta, Sanjay, Eswar Shankar, and Janmejai K Srivastava.(2010).  "Chamomile: A Herbal Medicine Of The Past With A Bright Future (Review)". Molecular Medicine Reports 3.6: n. pag. Web.

 (7) Heilmann, J. et al. (1993). "In Vivo Skin Penetration Studies Of Chamomile Flavonoids". Planta Medica 59.S: A638-A638. Web.

(8) Amsterdam JD, Yimei Li, Söller I, Rockwell K, Mao JJ, Shults J. (2009). A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo- controlled Trial of Oral Matricaria recutita (Chamomile) Extract Therapy for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. J Clin Psychopharmacol, 29:378-382

(9) Arı, S., Temel, M. and Konuk, M., 2017. An ethnobotanical approach to MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in Western Anatolia: A case of Afyonkarahisar. Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge. Vol. 16 (1), Jan 2017 pp35-43

 (10) Aertgeerts P, Albring M, Klaschka F, Nasemann T, Patzelt-Wenczler R, Rauhut K, et al. (1985). Comparative testing of Kamillosan cream and steroidal (0.25% hydrocortisone, 0.75% fluocortin butyl ester) and non-steroidal (5% bufexamac) dermatologic agents in maintenance therapy of eczematous diseases. Z Hautkr. Feb 01 Vol. 60 pp. 270–7.

 (11) Shinomiya, Kazuaki et al. (2005):  "Hypnotic Activities Of Chamomile And Passiflora Extracts In Sleep-Disturbed Rats". Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin 28.5: 808-810.

 (12) European Medicines Agency (EMA) (2015). Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC). Assessment report on Matricaria recutita L., flos and Matricaria recutita L., aetheroleum London, UK: EMA.

 (13) Singh, Ompal et al. (2011). "Chamomile (Matricaria Chamomilla L.): An Overview". Pharmacognosy Reviews 5.9: 82.

 (14) Bone, K. and Mills, S. (2013). Principles and practice of phytotherapy. 1st ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

(15) Aradmehr, Maryam et al. (2017) "The Effect of Chamomile Cream on Episiotomy Pain in Primiparous Women: A Randomized Clinical Trial". J Caring Sci 6.: 19-28. Web. 5 Apr. 2017.

 (16) Mao, Jun J. et al. (2016). "Long-Term Chamomile (Matricaria Chamomilla L.) Treatment For Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial". Phytomedicine 23.14 1735-1742.

 (17) European Medicines Agency (EMA). (2011).  Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC). Community herbal monograph on Chamaemelum nobile (L.) All., flos. London, UK: EMA.

 (18) Engels G, Brinckman J. (2015). Chamomile Matricaria chamomilla (syn. M. recutita, Chamomilla recutita). HerbalGram.  American Botanical Council. Issue: 108 Page: 8-17