Chamomile - "The Panacea For All Diseases"
Chamomile is an herb known and used since ancient times. It has a variety of healing properties and its presence in the home first aid kit is mandatory. Find out why!
Author: Elena Marinova, Master of Pharmacy
We all know that a panacea, unfortunately, does not exist, but chamomile has been considered as such for many years. Known since ancient times, this herb deservedly received the nickname "the star among the medicinal species", which is still relevant today. Chamomile is used for both internal and external use, and the rich set of biologically active substances determines its various healing properties.
Near or in populated areas, by roads or on meadows, in turbulent and abandoned places, between May and July, you will surely find the small yellow-and-white flowers of chamomile. You will recognize it even blindfolded only by the aroma, which is so specific, so pleasant and soothing, so familiar... This aroma is due to the high content of essential oils and is one of the main criteria that distinguish chamomile from its doppelgangers.
What Is Chamomile And How To Recognize It
Chamomile is a herbaceous plant that belongs to the family Compositae. It is distributed in Europe, Asia and North America. Two close varieties of the plant Chamomilla recutita are used as an herb - German chamomile and Chamaemelum nobile - Roman chamomile.
From the Greek its name means "earth apple". The leaves of chamomile are filamentous, and the flowers are collected in a basket inflorescence. Besides the aroma, the other important distinguishing feature of the herb is the flower bed, which is conical and hollow.
A Look At Antiquity
Chamomile was used thousands of years ago by the ancient Romans, Egyptians and Greeks to treat various diseases and conditions - inflammation of the gums, sore throat, lung diseases, insomnia and others.
In the Tibetan mountains lived monks who had a lot of knowledge about herbs. They invented a special recipe for rejuvenation, the main component being chamomile. Unfortunately, the herb cannot rejuvenate us, but it contributes to our skin being smooth, tender, beautiful and it is no coincidence that it is part of many herbal creams and lotions.
Ancient Egyptian doctors emphasized the internal application of chamomile and the benefits it brings - every third day of the month, chamomile tea was drunk to detoxify the body.
Chamomile - A Herb With Many Names And Useful Properties
Its other Latin name Matricaria recutita is related to the application of chamomile in case of problems with the female reproductive system. The herb is used in:
- muscle spasms
- menstrual disorders
- skin irritations and wounds
- gastro-intestinal disorders
- hay fever [ref.1]
- cosmetics and aromatherapy
The Rich Chemical Composition Of The Herb
Chamomile contains many diverse biologically active substances. The greatest is their quantity in the flowers, therefore for healing purposes the "basket" of the plant is used, which are collected during flowering (May-July), and then dried.
Of the active substances the highest is the content of essential oils. They are extracted from the flowers by distillation with water vapour, and the resulting oil Chamomillae oleum has a blue color.
Chamomile oil contains essential oils of the group of sesquiterpenes (farnesen, alpha-bisabolol) and polyins. They are due to antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and sedative effects. Essential oils mainly determine the use of chamomile for internal use.
It is applied alone or in combination with other herbs in the form of tea, using dried flowers. Both tea and chamomile oil help with gastrointestinal discomfort (swelling, pain), inflammation in the oral cavity (in the form of mouthwash), nervousness, inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, menstrual pain.
In the flowers of chamomile there are also flavonoids mainly apigenin, quercetin, luteolin. These are biologically active substances with various important effects for the body - antioxidant (defuse harmful free radicals), diuretic (increases the amount of urine released in 24 hours), anti-inflammatory action.
Chamomile has been shown to have an antiaggregant effect (prevents the adhesion of platelets), which is due to another type of biologically active substances - coumarins. [ref.2]
Read more in the article Which herbs to avoid when taking aspirin, nurofen and paracetamol.
Studies have been carried out that chamomile has antimicrobial, antifungal and antitumor action. [ref.3]
Chamomile For External Use
Externally, chamomile is applied in the form of lotions, compresses, infusions, enters the composition of face and body creams. It has an anti-inflammatory and soothing effect on the skin and mucous membranes, which is again due to the essential oils. In addition, chamomile helps to heal wounds faster.
An animal study has been done that proves that chamomile has a faster effect on wound healing than corticosteroids (drugs that have a strong anti-inflammatory effect, but their excessive use can harm the body). [ref.4]
How To Use Chamomile At Home
Here's how to use chamomile:
- tea - 1 tsp dried chamomile flowers is poured with 250 ml of boiling water;
- extract - 10 tbsp of dried herb are poured with 2 cups of cold water and allowed to sit for 8 hours;
- compresses - 1 tbsp of dried chamomile is poured with 250 ml of boiling milk;
- for mucous membrane washes - 1 tsp of the herb is poured with 1 liter of boiling water. After the extract cools down (but is still warm), rinse.
Adding Chamomile To Drinks And Dishes
An interesting fact is that chamomile was added to the beer to give a bittertaste. The whole plant was used and not just the flowers.
Chamomile is not known as a spice, but in recent years petals from the plant have been added to some dishes for exactly the same purpose. Flowers can also be used as decoration in pastries.
Safety And Adverse Effects Of Chamomile Use
The use of this herb is well tolerable by the body, but we should still use it with caution. As a side effect, an allergic reaction is most common, so people who are allergic to plants in this family should not use chamomile.
Chamomile should not be used with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and with anticoagulants, because of apigenin contained in the plant (hemorrhage may occur).
The herb should not be used in women with endometriosis and hormone-dependent cancer (contains substances with estrogen-like effect). [ref.5]
Chamomile In Pregnancy And Lactation
The use of chamomile during pregnancy can lead to contractions and miscarriage. Therefore, its use during this period is not desirable. There are not enough studies on the intake of the herb during lactation, therefore it is not recommended.
If you see this tiny plant on the road, do not pass it. Pick up a few flowers, dry them and make a nice tea. You already know how useful the properties of this herb are. If you do not want to tear it off, rub your finger on one of the flower baskets and inhale the aroma - you will certainly feel better.
- Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with a bright future, 2010, Molecular Medicine Reports
- A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of chamomile tea (Matricaria recutita L.) , 2006, Phytotherapy Research
- Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.): An overview, 2011, Pharmacognosy Reviews
- Comparative analysis between Chamomilla recutita and corticosteroids on wound healing. An in vitro and in vivo study, 2008, Phytotherapy Research
👩 🔬 Elena Marinova graduated from the Medical University of Sofia. She has been a pharmacist for more than 2 years. During her practical experience she mastered the preparation of extemporaneous dosage forms and got acquainted with the work in a hospital pharmacy. In her free time she likes to dance, listen to music, and exercise.