Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
Anthemis nobilis L.
Photo © Steven Foster
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita L.), in the Aster family (Asteraceae) is native to southern and eastern Europe and western Asia.1 The daisy-like flower has white petals, a yellow center, and an apple-like fragrance.
History and Traditional Use
Chamomile has been used since the Roman era and its name is derived from the Greek, meaning "ground apple".2 Traditionally, chamomile has been used to prevent stomach spasms in digestive disorders. In addition, it has been used as a skin wash to cleanse wounds and topical ulcers.3 Chamomile was also used to treat diarrhea, toothache, and bleeding and swollen gums. In the form of a compress, chamomile was used to treat gout, skin problems, and inflammation.4 It has also been used as a soothing, mild sedative, and was considered a preventative for nightmares.2
Modern Medicinal Use
Currently, chamomile is used as an anti-inflammatory agent, an astringent, and as a catalyst in wound healing.5 Chamomile has also been approved by the German Commission E in the treatment of skin and mucous membrane inflammations, bacterial skin diseases (including the oral cavity and gums), inflammations of the respiratory tract, and internally to treat spasms and inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.6 Studies have shown that children treated with chamomile had significant reduction in the duration of diarrhea.3
Modern Consumer Use
Chamomile is commonly used in teas as an agent to calm the stomach and relieve symptoms of indigestion, flatulence, and bloating. It is also used to treat mild sleep disorders. As a natural soothing agent, chamomile is also used externally to treat mild skin disorders such as eczema.1 Extracts of chamomile are used in beauty products such as bath oils, shampoos, hair dyes, sunscreen, and mouthwashes. The oil is used as a fragrance component in soaps, lotions, creams, and perfumes. Chamomile extract is also used as a flavor component in many major food categories such as alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins, and puddings.4
1 Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, editors. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin (TX): American Botanical Council; Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.
2 Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Volume 1. New York: Dover Publications, Inc; 1971.
3 DerMarderosian A, Beutler JA. The Review of Natural Products: The Most Complete Source of Natural Product Information. 3rd ed. St Louis (MO): Facts and Comparisons; 2002.
4 Leung AY., Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York: Wiley-Interscience; 1996.
5 Blumenthal M, Hall T, Goldberg A, Kunz T, Dinda K, Brinckmann J, et al, editors. The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. Austin (TX): American Botanical Council; 2003.
6Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Riggins CW, Rister RS, editors. Klein S, Rister RS, translators. The Complete German Commission E Monographs&emdash;Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin (TX): American Botanical Council; Boston: Integrative Medicine Communication; 1998.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.