||German Chamomile (English)|
Matricariae flos (Pharmacopeial)
German chamomile is used to relieve both external and internal inflammation.
Externally, it reduces swelling caused by abrasions, exposure to chemicals or
radiation, fungal invasion, or subdermal spasm or infection, and targets skin,
mucous membranes, gums, and ano-genital areas. Inhaled, chamomile reduces spasm
and inflammation of the respiratory tract. Used internally, it relieves colic
and ulcers. It has been recommended for carpal tunnel syndrome, insect bites,
insomnia, gingivitis, and heartburn.
Beginning with the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks, who used chamomile
flowers to relieve sunstroke, fevers, and colic, chamomile has held a prominent
place in history. It is regarded by modern Europeans with a reverence similar to
that given to ginseng by Asians. Germans describe chamomile as "alles zutraut,"
meaning that it is capable of anything. Most important, however, is that
clinical studies support chamomile's broad range of use.
German chamomile is one of two chamomile species used medicinally. The hollow
receptacle that lies beneath the flowers of M. recutita differentiates
this species from Roman, or English, chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile),
which has a solid receptacle. Both chamomiles produce similar bioactive
constituents and are used for similar ailments. They also share nonmedicinal
uses: chamomile extracts are added to hair dyes and shampoos to highlight hair
or improve blonde tones, and chamomile oils add apple scents to soaps and
Leaves, alternate, with thread-like divisions, grow from a light green,
smooth, striated stem. From spring through summer, 10 to 20 cream-colored or
silver-white petals bloom around a swollen, yellow central disk, or receptacle.
Diameter of flower heads is ½ to 1/8 of an inch. The plant can grow
to 2 or 3 feet but is often found low to the ground in native Europe, Africa,
and Asia, and in North and South America where it has been naturalized.
0.25% to 1% volatile oils including alpha-bisabolol, chamazulene; 2.4%
flavonoids including apigenin; 5% to 10% pectin-like mucilage; also contains
coumarins (umbelliferone, methyl ether heniarin), polysaccharide, anthemic acid,
tricontane. Chamazulene, present in chamomile volatile oil, is blue, and is
formed from its precursor, matricin, upon steam distillation of the oil.
Crude dried flowers are available to buy in bulk. Chamomile tea is readily
available, also aqueous or alcohol extracts and topical ointments. Because of
its popular use with children, chamomile is also one of the most available herbs
in glycerite form.
- Traditional: anti-inflammatory, diuretic, vulnerary, antimicrobial,
mildly sedative, carminative, aromatic, diaphoretic, and digestive tonic;
actions, according to the German Commission E monograph, include
antipholigistic, musculotropic, antispasmodic, deodorant, antibacterial,
- Conditions: peptic ulcers, colic, childhood sleeplessness,
hemorrhoids, spasmodic cough, excess gas, abrasions of the skin; skin irritation
due to chemicals, radiation, fungi, subdermal spasm, infection; for respiratory
tract irritation, insomnia, gingivitis or other oral cavity inflammation and
- Clinical applications: inflammatory conditions of the skin,
gastrointestinal, ano-genital, and respiratory tracts, including colic, ulcers,
excess gas, heartburn, irritation from chest colds, slow-healing wounds,
abscesses, fistulae, oral cavity/gum inflammation, skin inflammation due to X
ray or other radiation (as for cancer patients), psoriasis, eczema, vaginal
inflammations, and children's skin conditions such as impetigo, hives, chicken
pox, infant acne, heat rash, diaper
Whole extract and individual constituents have been studied for topical and
internal antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and carminative effects. Chamazulene,
alpha-bisabolol, and apigenin have the highest anti-inflammatory actions against
pro-inflammatory agents used on laboratory rats. Matricin, the precursor of
chamazulene, demonstrates anti-inflammatory activity superior to chamazulene.
Chamazulene (azulene) has been reported to inhibit histamine release,
alpha-bisabolol and cis-spiroether, another component of the volatile oil,
blocked carrageenan-induced rat paw edema and demonstrated muscle relaxant
Alpha-bisabolol prevented the formation of indomethacin-, stress-, or
alcohol-induced ulcers in laboratory animals.
In vitro tests show that chamomile oil is actively antibacterial and
fungicidal at concentrations of at least 25 mg/ml, as is bisabolol at
concentrations of at least 1 mg/ml. Whole extracts and isolated flavonoid and
bisabolol constituents also inhibit spasm in guinea pig intestine: 10 mg
apigenin reduced spasm comparably to 1 mg papaverine. Volatile oil increases
bile secretion in cats and dogs.
Human studies demonstrate therapeutic efficiency for European propriety
chamomile formulas used in weeping skin disorders, bedsores, contact dermatitis,
eczema, and postirradiation dermatitis. Chamomile was also antispasmodic and
anti-inflammatory in both human duodenum and stomach; oral extracts promoted
deep sleep in 10 out of 12 patients having cardiac catheterization; and topical
ointments soothed and enhanced healing in patients using chamomile as adjunctive
therapy for skin infections of the leg.
|Dosage Ranges and Duration of
- To relieve spasms or inflammations of the gastrointestinal tract:
tea, 2 to 3 g herb steeped in hot water, tid or qid between meals; 1:5 tincture
(5 ml tid), glycerite 1 to 2 ml tid for children
- To use as a gargle, prepare tea as above, cool, and gargle
- To use for respiratory tract inflammation, pour a few drops of
essential oil into steaming water and inhale; or prepare tea and inhale
- For bath, to sooth inflammations of the skin, use 1/4 lb. dried
flowers per bath made into a tea by slow cooking; or use essential oils in tub,
instructing patient to enter tub only after sufficient water is mixed with
- Douches, for vaginal inflammation, use 3% to 10% infusion
- Poultices for external application to skin inflammation, use 3% to
- For psoriasis, eczema, or dry, flaky skin, use creams with 3% to 10%
crude drug content
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) gives chamomile a class 1
safety rating: safe with appropriate use. The AHPA also notes that highly
concentrated tea is reportedly emetic (flower heads contain anthemic
Persons allergic to members of the aster family (ragweed) may have an
allergic reaction to chamomile; two cases of anaphylactic reactions have been
reported, and in both cases there was a predetermined allergy to ragweed.
According to the AHPA, in Germany chamomile labels are required to warn
against using infusions near the eyes.
Avoid excessive use during pregnancy and lactation.
No clinically significant interactions between German chamomile and
conventional medications have been reported in the literature to date, including
the German Commission E monograph (Blumenthal 1998). Although apigenin, a
component of chamomile, demonstrated anxiolytic effects in mice (Viola et al.
1995), no interactions with benzodiazepines or other anxiolytic medications have
been reported. Chamomile also contains coumarins; again, though, interactions
with anticoagulants have not been documented (Miller 1998). Patients taking
chamomile while on anticoagulant therapy should be monitored closely.
|Regulatory and Compendial
In the United States, German chamomile is a dietary supplement and generally
recognized as safe in the food industry; in England, German chamomile is a
licensed product; and the Commission E approves of topical and internal use for
inflammatory conditions in Germany.
Achterrath-Tuckermann U, et al. Pharmacological investigations with compounds
of chamomile. Investigations on the spasmolytic effect of compounds of chamomile
and Kamillosan on the isolated guinea pig ileum. Planta Med.
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Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications;
de la Motte S, Bose-O'Reilly S, Heinisch M, Harrison F. Doppelblind-vergleich
zwischen einem apfelpektin/kamillenextrakt-präparat und plazebo bei kindern mit
diarrhoe. Arzneimittelforschung. 1997;47:1247-1249.
Duke JA. The Green Pharmacy. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale Press; 1997.
Foster S. Herbal Renaissance: Growing, Using and Understanding Herbs in
the Modern World. Salt Lake City, Utah: Gibbs-Smith; 1993.
Glowania HJ, Raulin C, Swoboda M. Effect of chamomile on wound
healing—a clinical double-blind study. Z Hautkr.
1987; 62:1262, 1267-1271.
Kowalchik C, Hylton W, eds. Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of
Herbs. Emmaus, Pa: Rodale Press; 1998.
McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Products
Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, Fla: CRC Press;
Miller L. Herbal medicinals: selected clinical considerations focusing on
known or potential drug-herb interactions. Arch Intern Med.
Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for
Health-care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press; 1996.
Salamon I. Chamomile: A medicinal plant. Herb, Spice, and Medicinal Plant
Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler V. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physicians' Guide to
Herbal Medicine. 3rd ed. Berlin: Springer; 1998.
Viola H, Wasowski C, Levi de Stein M, et al. Apigenin, a component of
Matricaria recutita flowers, is a central benzodiazepine receptors-ligand
with anxiolytic effects. Planta Med.
Copyright © 2000 Integrative Medicine
CommunicationsThis publication contains
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