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Chamomile

Chamomile

Description

Chamomile is a traditional medicinal herb native to western Europe, India, and western Asia. It has become abundant in the United States, where it has escaped cultivation to grow freely in pastures, cornfields, roadsides, and other sunny, well-drained areas. The generic name, chamomile, is derived from the Greek, khamai, meaning "on the ground," and melon, meaning "apple." The official medicinal chamomile is the German chamomile Matricaria recutita. Chamomile was revered as one of nine sacred herbs by the ancient Saxons. The Egyptians valued the herb as a cure for malaria and dedicated chamommile to their sun god, Ra. Two species of this sweet-scented plant, Roman chamomile and German chamomile, have been called the true chamomile because of their similar appearance and medicinal uses.

Roman chamomile Chamaemelum nobile is a member of the Asteraceae, or daisy family. It is a hardy, lowgrowing, perennial. Because of the creeping roots and compact, mat-like growth of this species it is sometimes called lawn chamomile. Roman chamomile releases a pleasant, apple scent when walked upon. It was used as a strewing herb during the middle ages to scent the floors and passageways in the home and to deter insects. The Spanish call the herb manzanilla, or "little apple." This fragrant evergreen is a garden favorite. It is also called the physician herb because of its beneficial effect on other herbs as a companion in the garden. Blossoms grow singly on long stalks attached to the erect, branching, hairy stems. The tiny, daisy-like flowers, blooming May to September, have a small yellow solid cone surrounded by white rays. The leaves are twice divided and have a feathery appearance. They are light green, and somewhat shiny.

German chamomile Matricaria recutita, or Chamomilla recutita is a hardy, self-seeding annual herb. It has long been cultivated in Germany to maximize its medicinal properties. The hollow, bright gold cone of the blossom is ringed with numerous white rays. The herb has also been called scented mayweed, and Balder's eyelashes, after Balder, the Norse God of Light. German chamomile is also a sprawling member of the Asteraceae family, as it closely resembles the Roman chamomile.

Dyer's chamomile Anthemis tinctora, also known as yellow chamomile, or golden marquerite, is valued for its use primarily as a dye plant. This native of southern and central Europe is also found in Britain and North America, where it grows wild in many places. It closely resembles the other species, but does not have the medicinal properties of Roman and German chamomile. This species may be biennial or perennial. Both the disk and the rays of the blossom are golden yellow, yielding a distinctive dye that varies from a bright yellow to a more brownish-yellow tint. The type of mordant used influences the color produced. Dyer's chamomile is hardy and can grow to three feet, spreading out as wide as it is high. The branched stems are erect and woolly, with leaves that can grow to three inches long.

General use

The aromatic flower heads and herba (leaves) of both Roman and German chamomile are used medicinally. They are highly scented with volatile, aromatic oil, including the heat-sensitive Azulene, which is the blue chamomile essential oil. The phytochemical constituents in chamomile also include flavonoids, coumarins, plant acids, fatty acids, cyanogenic glycosides, choline, tannin, and salicylate derivatives. This bittersweet herb acts medicinally as a tonic, anodyne, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-allergenic, and sedative. Traditionally, a mild infusion of the herb has been safely used to calm restless children, and to ease colic and teething pain in babies. It is also effective in relieving acid indigestion and abdominal pain. Its carminative properties relieve intestinal gas , and it helps in cases of diarrhea, constipation , and peptic ulcers. The herbal tea can ease symptoms of colds and flu by relieving headache and reducing fever . The infusion is also helpful to treat toothache , arthritis, gout , and premenstrual tension. It may also be used in douche preparations, or sitz baths. As an external wash in strong infusion, or decoction, or as part of a hot compress, the herb can soothe burns and scalds, skin rashes , and sores. Chamomile can be used in a douche, as a gargle for mouth ulcers, as a soothing eye wash for conjunctivitis , and as a hair rinse to brighten the hair. Chamomile blossoms may also be used as an herbal aromatic treatment, providing a tonic lift with its pleasing scent. This use of chamomile is especially popular among Hispanics living in the southwestern United States, who use the herb at significantly higher levels than the rest of the population.

Preparations

Chamomile is most often prepared as an infusion of the blossoms of German chamomile, and less commonly of Roman chamomile. Traditionally the tiny blossoms are picked on midsummers' eve. The best time to harvest is on a sunny day when the mass of blossoms is at its fullness in the morning. Harvesting chamomile blossoms can be painstaking work, requiring a gardner's best patience. Pinch off the flower head, leaving the stem. Fresh or dried blossoms may be used in herbal preparations.

Blossoms to be dried for storage should be spread singly on a screen or mat and placed in a well-ventilated place, out of direct sun, with a temperature close to 95°F (35°C). The rapid drying will preserve much of the volatile oil and other medicinal properties. A few blossoms go a long way with this pleasant and safe herbal ally. Store dried blossoms in tightly sealed, glass containers, away from light. They will maintain potency for about one year. Chamomile is prolific, and the plant blossoms frequently throughout the summer. Sometimes two or three harvests can be made in one season.

Chamomile tea may be made from an infusion of blossoms prepared as a tisane, for a single, soothing cup, or in a larger quantity for use throughout the day. Chamomile combines well with mints, such as lemon balm (Melissa officinalis ) or spearmint (Mentha spica-ta ), combined in equal quantity. For a tisane, use 1 tsp of dried blossoms, or 1.5 tsp of freshly picked flowers in a warm cup. Heat water to the boiling point and pour over the blossoms in glass container. Cover, and infuse for 35 minutes. Let strain. Be careful not to oversteep chamomile, lest it lose its delicate flavor to a bitter edge. Standard dose is up to three cups per day. The prepared tea will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator.

To prepare a chamomile decoction, which is a stronger preparation, let the plant parts steep in a covered nonmetallic pot for at least ten minutes. The decoction may be used as a skin wash, hair rinse, mouth wash, or to bathe wounds .

An extract of the essential oil can be prepared by placing 2 oz (57 g) of fresh blossoms into a glass container and covering the plant with 0.51 pt (0.240.47 l) of olive oil. Place the mixture on a sunny window sill for about one week. Strain and store in a dark container with a tight-fitting lid. The oil remains potent for up to one year. It is best when applied warm.

Precautions

Chamomile has been used over the centuries and is generally considered a safe and gentle herbal rememdy that may be used daily as a calming tea. Persons who may be allergic to such pollen-bearing plants as chamomile would be wise to experiment with this herbal remedy with some caution.

Side effects

The moderate internal use of chamomile preparations has no known side effects; however, some herbalists warn that the herb, when taken internally in excessive doses, can induce vomiting and produce vertigo (dizziness ). With regard to the external use of chamomile preparations, a small number of persons experience mild skin irritation.

Interactions

There are no contraindications for using this gentle, healing herb. Chamomile does combine well with other herbs that enhance its pleasant and medicinal qualities.

Resources

BOOKS

Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Healing for Women. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.

Hoffman, David. The New Holistic Herbal. Boston, MA: Element Books, Inc., 1992.

McIntyre, Anne. The Medicinal Garden. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997.

McVicar, Jekka. Herbs for the Home. New York: Viking Penguin, 1995.

PERIODICALS

Rivera, J. O., M. Ortiz, M. E. Lawson, and K. M. Verma. "Evaluation of the Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the Largest United States-Mexico Border City." Pharmacotherapy 22 (February 2002): 256-264.

Schempp, C. M., E. Schopf, and J. C. Simon. "Plant-Induced Toxic and Allergic Dermatitis (Phytodermatitis)." [Article in German] Hautarzt 53 (February 2002): 93-97.

Clare Hanrahan

Rebecca J. Frey, PhD

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"Chamomile." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. . Encyclopedia.com. 28 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Chamomile

Chamomile

Definition

Chamomile is a plant that has been used since ancient Egypt in a variety of healing applications. Chamomile is a native of the Old World; it is related to the daisy family, having strongly scented foliage and flowers with white petals and yellow centers. The name chamomile is derived from two Greek words that mean "ground" and "apple," because chamomile leaves smell somewhat like apples, and because the plant grows close to the ground.

There are two varieties of chamomile commonly used in herbal preparations for internal use and for aromatherapy . One is called Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis ), with contemporary sources in Belgium and southern England. Roman chamomile grows to a height of 9 in (23 cm) or less, and is frequently used as a ground cover along garden paths because of its pleasant apple scent. German chamomile (Matricaria recutita ) is grown extensively in Germany, Hungary, and parts of the former Soviet Union. German chamomile grows to a height of about 3 ft (1 m) and is the variety most commonly cultivated in the United States, where it is used medicinally.

Purpose

Chamomile has been used internally for a wide variety of complaints. The traditional German description of chamomile is alles zutraut, which means that the plant "is good for everything."

Chamomile has been used internally for the following purposes:

  • Antispasmodic: A preparation given to relieve intestinal cramping and relax the smooth muscles of the internal organs. Chamomile is used as an antispasmodic to relieve digestive disorders, menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), headache, and other stress-related disorders.
  • Anthelminthic: Chamomile has been used to expel parasitic worms from the digestive tract.
  • Carminative: Chamomile is given to help expel gas from the intestines.
  • Sedative: Perhaps the most frequent internal use of chamomile is in teas prepared to relieve anxiety and insomnia.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Roman chamomile has been used to soothe the discomfort of gingivitis (inflamed gums), earache, and arthritis. German chamomile is used in Europe to treat oral mucosities in cancer patients following chemotherapy treatment.
  • Antiseptic: Chamomile has mild antibacterial properties, and is sometimes used as a mouthwash or eyewash. It can be applied to compresses to treat bruises or small cuts.
  • Other: Mexican Americans, especially the elderly, have been reported to use chamomile for the treatment of asthma and urinary incontinence. It is one of the two most popular herbs in use among this population.

The external uses of chamomile include blending its essential oil with lavender or rose for scenting perfumes, candles, creams, or other aromatherapy products intended to calm or relax the user. Chamomile is considered a middle note in perfumery, which means that its scent lasts somewhat longer than those of top notes but is less long lasting than scents extracted from resinous or gumbearing plants. Chamomile is also a popular ingredient in shampoos, rinses, and similar products to add highlights to blonde or light brown hair.

Other external uses of chamomile include topical preparations for the treatment of bruises, scrapes, skin irritations, and joint pain. The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of chamomile make it a widely used external treatment for acne, arthritis, burns, ulcerated areas of skin, and even diaper rash. The German E Commission, regarded as an authority on herbal treatments, has recommended chamomile to "combat inflammation, stimulate the regeneration of cell tissue, and promote the healing of refractory wounds and skin ulcers."

Description

The flowers are the part of the chamomile plant that are harvested for both internal and external use. Chamomile flowers can be dried and used directly for teas and homemade topical preparations, but they are also available commercially in prepackaged tea bags and in capsule form. The essential oil of chamomile is pressed from the leaves as well as the flowers of the plant; it costs about $22$35 for 5 ml. Chamomile is also available as a liquid extract.

The chemically active components of chamomile include alpha bisabobol, chamozulene, polyines, tannin, coumarin, flavonoids, and apigenin. However, no single factor has been credited with all the major healing properties of whole chamomile; it is assumed that the various components work together to produce the plant's beneficial effects.

Recommended dosage

Children may be given 12 ml of a glycerine preparation of German chamomile three times a day for colic; or 24 oz (57100 g) of tea, one to three times a day, depending on the child's weight.

Adults may take a tea made from 0.71 oz (23 g) of dried chamomile steeped in hot water, three to four times daily for relief of heartburn, gas, or stomach cramps. Alternately, adults may take 5 ml of 1:5 dilution of chamomile tincture three times daily.

For use as a mouthwash, one may prepare a tea from 0.71 oz (23 g) of dried chamomile flowers, allow the tea to cool, and then gargle as often as desired. To soothe an irritated upper respiratory tract during cold season, adults may pour a few drops of essential oil of chamomile on top of steaming water and inhale the fragrant vapors.

For relief of eczema, insect bites, and other skin irritations, adults may add 4 oz (110 g) of dried chamomile flowers to a warm bath. Topical ointments containing 310% chamomile may be used for psoriasis, eczema, or dry, irritated skin.

Precautions

Because chamomile is related botanically to the ragweed plant, persons who are highly allergic to ragweed should use chamomile with caution.

Chamomile is generally safe to drink when prepared using the recommended quantity of dried flowers. Highly concentrated tea made from Roman chamomile has been reported to cause nausea; this reaction is caused by a compound found in Roman chamomile called anthemic acid.

Women who are pregnant or lactating should not use chamomile.

Persons taking warfarin or similar blood-thinning medications should use chamomile only after consulting their physician, as it may intensify the effects of anticoagulant drugs.

Side effects

Chamomile can cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to ragweed.

Interactions

Chamomile can increase the effects of anticoagulant medications. In addition, its tannin content may interfere with iron absorption. Chamomile may also add to the effects of benzodiazepines, including Valium, Ativan, and Versed. No other noteworthy medication interactions have been reported.

Resources

BOOKS

PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company, 1998.

Pelletier, Kenneth R., MD. "Western Herbal Medicine: Nature's Green Pharmacy." Chapter 6 in The Best Alternative Medicine. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002.

Price, Shirley. Practical Aromatherapy. Second edition, revised. London, UK: Thorsons, 1994.

PERIODICALS

Bone, Kerry. "Safety Issues in Herbal Medicine: Adulteration, Adverse Reactions and Organ Toxicities." Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients (October 2001): 142.

Loera, Jose A., Sandra A. Black, Kyriakos S. Markides, and others. "The Use of Herbal Medicines by Older Mexican Americans." Journals of Gerontology, Series A (November 2001): M714-M718.

Miller, Lucinda G. "Herbal Medicinals." Archives of Internal Medicine 158 (November 1998): 2200-2211.

OTHER

American Botanical Council. PO Box 144345. Austin, TX 78714-4345. <www.herbalgram.org>.

National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA). 4509 Interlake Avenue North, #233, Seattle, WA 98103-6773. (888) ASK-NAHA or (206) 547-2164. <www.naha.org>.

Rebecca J. Frey, Ph.D.

Child abuse see Abuse

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chamomile

chamomile or camomile (both: kăm´əmīl´, –mēl´) [Gr.,=ground apple], name for various related plants of the family Asteraceae (aster family), especially the perennial Anthemis nobilis, the English, or Roman, chamomile, and the annual Matricaria chamomilla, the German, or wild, chamomile. Both are European herbs with similar uses. The former has an applelike aroma and is the chamomile most frequently grown for ornament (often as a ground cover) and for chamomile tea, made from the dried flower heads, which contain a volatile oil. The oil from the similar flowers of the wild chamomile was most often used medicinally, particularly as a tonic; today its chief use is as a hair rinse. Chamomile is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Asterales, family Asteraceae.

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chamomile

cham·o·mile / ˈkaməˌmēl; -ˌmīl/ (also camomile) • n. an aromatic European plant (Anthemis and other genera) of the daisy family, with white and yellow daisylike flowers. ORIGIN: Middle English: from Old French camomille, from late Latin chamomilla, from Greek khamaimēlon ‘earth apple.’

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chamomile

chamomile (camomile) Low-growing, yellow- or white-flowered herb. Several species are cultivated as ground cover. Flowers of the European chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) are used to make herbal tea. Family Asteraceae; genus Chamaemelum.

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chamomile

chamomileaisle, Argyle, awhile, beguile, bile, Carlisle, Carlyle, compile, De Stijl, ensile, file, guile, I'll, interfile, isle, Kabyle, kyle, lisle, Lyle, Mikhail, mile, Nile, pile, rank-and-file, resile, rile, Ryle, Sieg Heil, smile, spile, stile, style, tile, vile, Weil, while, wile, worthwhile •labile, stabile •immobile, mobile •nubile • aedile • crocodile • cinephile •profile • audiophile • bibliophile •Francophile • Anglophile •technophile • necrophile •Russophile •paedophile (US pedophile) •agile, fragile •chamomile •penile, senile •juvenile • stockpile • isopropyl •woodpile • sterile • febrile • virile •puerile • facile • decile • flexile •extensile, prehensile, tensile •fissile, missile •domicile • docile • reconcile

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