Chamomile

Matricaria recutita

Other Names: ground apples, garden chamomile, pin heads

Composition: Chamomile consists of fresh or dried flower heads. It is rich in essential oil.

Description and History: This romantic herb brings to mind the folklore of the Middle Ages. The benefits are widely known and have been used for millennia. The first use was by the Egyptians, and even today, it is the most popular flavor of herbal tea in the world. The name in Greek literally means ground apple, because of the nice apple-like scent it gives.

Cross-Reference List: Nausea & Vomiting; Teething; Hand-Foot-Mouth; Eczema); Acne; Varicella/Shingles; Insomnia

Digestive Aid: Chamomile is useful as a digestive aid and can help alleviate nausea which arises from overeating, digestive complaints, or mild forms of food poisoning. It can be ingested as an after dinner tea for prevention, but stronger herbal preparations are ideal for treatment.

Inflammation: Chamomile is a known anti-inflammatory and can either complement a clove oil treatment or act on its own for mild teething discomfort. It is not a topical anesthetic like clove, but it does help reduce inflammation. Teas and hydrosols are insufficient to produce results; a chamomile tincture or glycerite is recommended.

Chickenpox / Shingles Inflammation: Chamomile provides anti-inflammatory benefits to reduce the redness and irritation from varicella lesions. The EO also provides antiviral benefits. While there are no studies confirming its use for varicella specifically, there are studies evaluating its actions against viruses which are usually treated with acyclovir, the pharmaceutical typically used for varicella. The EO can be ingested every 4-6 hours for the duration of the infection in a suitable preparation.

Eczema: In 2000, a standardized cream (Kamillosan) of chamomile was tested against a 0.5% hydrocortisone cream and a placebo over 2 weeks for relief of eczema. The cream is a 10.5% chamomile water-based ointment with lanolin. In this study, the cream was found to be superior to both the placebo and the standard hydrocortisone ointment, without the side effects.

Insomnia: Chamomile has been used for sleep trouble for centuries. A recent study evaluated its effects on sleep quality and found that a cup of tea provided immediate improvements in sleep, but after 2 weeks the treatment group and control group had similar outcomes. This indicates that it is more useful on an as-needed basis than as a long-term treatment.

PMS: Pre-menstrual Syndrome is a recurring hormonal shift that produces symptoms ranging from uncomfortable to incapacitating. As an anti-inflammatory, sedative, and antispasmodic, chamomile was recently studied for its ability to relieve these symptoms. A daily intake of an extract of 100mg chamomile was given to volunteers for 2 months and compared to mefenamic acid in a control group. At the end of the trial period, the intensity reduction of emotional symptoms was significantly reduced with the chamomile group vs. the control, though reduction of physical symptoms was the same in both groups. (Sharifi et al, 2014)

Skin Lesions: Hydrocortisone is typically given to patients with skin lesions and irritation. In 2011, researchers compared this conventional approach to a topical application of a chamomile. Applied twice daily in a compress, chamomile relieved the itching and inflammation better than hydrocortisone as assessed every 3 days for 28 days. Chamomile use also prevents the side effects of long term corticosteroid use for topical conditions. (Charousaei, Dabirian, & Mojab, 2011)

Contraindications: Those with allergies to the ragweed family may be reactive to chamomile.

Interactions: None known.

Preparation: For topical conditions, chamomile is best administered in an oil based infusion either directly or in a balm/salve. Internally, it is used as a tea in a water based infusion, or in an extract for digestive health. 

Dose: For topical preparations, a 10-20% total chamomile component is recommended for medicinal treatment. For milder conditions or skincare, a 2-5% total component is sufficient. For internal applications, there is no standard dose consistently found in the literature but the safety range for chamomile provides flexibility. The most common range, 400-1,600mg/day, is used for most research applications, though larger amounts are tolerable. 

Dig Deeper

Charousaei, F., Dabirian, A., & Mojab, F. (2011). Using chamomile solution or a 1% topical hydrocortisone ointment in the management of peristomal skin lesions in colostomy patients: results of a controlled clinical study. Ostomy-Wound Management, 57(5), 28.

Sharifi, F., Simbar, M., Mojab, F., & Majd, H. A. (2014). Comparison of the effects of Matricaria chamomila (Chamomile) extract and mefenamic acid on the intensity of premenstrual syndrome.Complementary therapies in clinical practice,20(1), 81-88.

 

Meet Dr Hawkins

Dr. Hawkins brings 20 years of expertise in the integrative health field to her role as Executive Director of the Franklin School of Integrative Health Sciences and the leader of our clinical research team.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Health from Union Institute and University, a Master’s Degree in Health Education & Promotion from the University of Alabama, a post-graduate certificate in epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a PhD in Health Research from Middle Tennessee State University, and is completing the post-doctoral Global Scholars Research Training Program at Harvard Medical School. She also holds certifications in numerous natural health fields including aromatherapy, aromatic medicine, herbalism, childbirth education, and labor support.