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Chamomile

Common name: German Chamomile

Botanical name: Matricaria recutita

Photo

© Steven Foster

Parts used and where grown

Chamomile, a member of the daisy family, is native to Europe and western Asia. German chamomile is the most commonly used. The dried and fresh flowers are used medicinally.

Chamomile has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):

Science Ratings Health Concerns
2Stars

Colic

Eczema

Gingivitis (periodontal disease) (as mouthwash, in combination with sage, peppermint oil, menthol, expressed juice from echinacea, myrrh tincture, and caraway oil)

Wound healing

1Star

Anxiety

Canker sores

Conjunctivitis/blepharitis

Crohn’s disease

Diarrhea

Gastritis

Gingivitis (periodontal disease)

Indigestion and heartburn

Insomnia

Irritable bowel syndrome

Peptic ulcer

Ulcerative colitis

3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)

Chamomile has been used for centuries in Europe as a medicinal plant, mostly for gastrointestinal complaints. This practice continues today.

Active constituents

The flowers of chamomile contain 1–2% volatile oils including alpha-bisabolol, alpha-bisabolol oxides A & B, and matricin (usually converted to chamazulene).1 Other active constituents include the flavonoids apigenin, luteolin, and quercetin. These active ingredients contribute to chamomile’s anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and smooth-muscle relaxing action, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract.2 3 4 5

Topical applications of chamomile have been shown to be moderately effective in the treatment of eczema.6 7 One double-blind trial found it to be about 60% as effective as 0.25% hydrocortisone cream.8 Topical use of chamomile ointment was also found to successfully treat mild stasis ulcers bed sores in elderly bedridden patients.9

How much is usually taken?

Chamomile is often taken three to four times daily between meals10 as a tea. Common alternatives are to use 2–3 grams of the herb in tablet or capsule form or 4–6 ml of tincture three times per day between meals. Standardized extracts containing 1% apigenin and 0.5% volatile oils may also be used. One to two capsules containing 300–400 mg of extract may be taken three times daily. Topical creams or ointments can be applied to the affected area three to four times daily.

Are there any side effects or interactions?

Though rare, allergic reactions to chamomile have been reported.11 These reactions have included bronchial constriction with internal use and allergic skin reactions with topical use.12 While reports of such side effects are uncommon, people with allergies to plants of the Asteraceae family (ragweed, aster, and chrysanthemums), as well as mugwort pollen should avoid using chamomile.13 Chamomile is usually considered to be safe during pregnancy or breast-feeding. However, there is one case report in which a pregnant woman who took chamomile as an enema had an allergic reaction that led to the death of her newborn.14

Are there any drug interactions?
Certain medicines may interact with chamomile. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.

References:

1. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994, 322–5.

2. Jakolev V, Isaac O, Thiemer K, Kunde R. Pharmacological investigations with compounds of chamomile. II. New investigations on the antiphlogistic effects of (-)-alpha-bisabolol and bisabolol oxides. Planta Med 1979;35:125–40.

3. Jakolev V, Isaac O, Flaskamp E. Pharmacological investigations with compounds of chamomile. VI. Investigations on the antiphlogistic effects of chamazulene and matricine. Planta Med 1983;49:67–73.

4. Della Loggia R, Tubaro A, Dri P, et al. The role of flavonoids in the antiinflammatory activity of Chamomilla recutita. In Plant Flavonoids in Biology and Medicine: Biochemical, Pharmacological, and Structure-Activity Relationships. Cody V, Middleton E, Harbone JB (eds). New York: Alan R. Liss, 1986, 481–4.

5. Achterrath-Tuckermann U, Kunde R, Flaskamp E, et al. Pharmacological investigations with compounds of chamomile. V. Investigations on the spasmolytic effect of compounds of chamomile and Kamillosan on the isolated guinea pig ileum. Planta Med 1980;39:38–50.

6. Nissen HP, Blitz H, Kreyel HW. Prolifometrie, eine methode zur beurteilung der therapeutischen wirsamkeit kon Kamillosan®-Salbe. Z Hautkr 1988;63:184–90.

7. Aergeerts P, Albring M, Klaschka F, et al. Vergleichende prüfung von Kamillosan®-creme gegenüber seroidalen (0.25% hydrocortison, 0.75% flucotinbutylester) and nichseroidaseln (5% bufexamac) externa in der erhaltungsterpaie von ekzemerkrankungen. Z Hautkr 1985;60:270–7.

8. Albring M, Albrecht H, Alcorn G, Lüker PW. The measuring of the antiinflammatory effect of a compound on the skin of volunteers. Meth Find Exp Clin Pharmacol 1983;5:75–7.

9. Glowania HJ, Raulin C, Swoboda M. The effect of chamomile on wound healing - a controlled, clinical, experimental double-blind trial. Z Hautkr 1987;62:1262–71.

10. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 107.

11. Brown DJ. Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1996, 49–56.

12. Foti C, Nettis E, Panebianco R, et al. Contact urticaria from Matricaria chemomilla. Contact Derm 2000;42:360–1.

13. Reider N, Sepp N, Fritsch P, et al. Anaphylaxis to chamomile: clinical features and allergen cross-reactivity. Clin Experiment Allergy 2000;30:1436–43.

14. Jensen-Jarolim E, Reider N, Fritsch R, Brieteneder H. Fatal outcome of anaphylaxis to chamomile-containing enema during labor: A case study. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1998;102:1041–2.

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