Chamomile Benefits

Chamomile
Latin Name

Matricaria Chamomilla

Also Known As

Water of Youth, Mother of the Gut, Ground Apple

Origin

England, Europe, Russia and Asia, and is naturalised in Australia

Parts Used

The flowers, the essential oils

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

One of the most ancient plants in modern use, chamomile has a history stretching back at least 3,000 years as a medicinal plant. From the Greek word for ground apple, chamomile has been used as an age old remedy by many ancient civilisations. The Romans were prescribed this herb by the noted physician Pliny, to ward off headaches, ease liver and kidney inflammation and facilitate digestion. The Greek physician and botanist Dioscorides used chamomile to heal intestinal, nervous and liver disorders and prescribed it for women’s ailments. Chamomile was considered one of the nine sacred herbs of the Anglo-Saxons and was used ritually to ward off diseases and to promote health.

Medicinal plants such as this one contain a complex series of phytonutrients that work individually and collectively to ease a wide range of complaints. Whilst science tries to find “the chemical” that makes a plant effective, in reality it is the combined workings of these compounds which ultimately provide relief.  

Chamomile Benefits

Digestive System

As its many names allude to, chamomile is the King of the Herbs when it comes to any kind of digestive complaint. Known as “Our Lady of the Guts” or “Mother of the Gut”, this versatile herb contains a complex collage of phytochemicals that work individually and collectively on all aspects of the digestive system. A-bisabolol speeds the mending of torn tissue which assists the healing of ulcerations. Chamazulene shrinks swollen stomach tissue that presses on nerve endings causing pain. Azulene kills staphylococcus and streptococcus infections, which in turn can alleviate the symptoms of food poisoning.

Often the root of digestive upset, nervousness can be calmed by this mildly sedative herb. Chamomile contains one flavonoid in particular, apigenin, which binds to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain, promoting relaxation. Stress is a well-known factor in IBS flare ups. Because the brain and the gut communicate directly back and forth via the vagus nerve, a more relaxed mind can also help heal gut issues, which can mean reduced symptoms of chronic conditions like leaky gut, IBS and other gut-related issues.

Stomach upsets and bugs can also be relieved by chamomile – its delicate balance of active plant compounds will help to neutralise the cause and heal any damage induced by the bug.

Anti-Anxiety/Sedative

As a relaxant, chamomile depresses the central nervous system, reducing anxiety while not disrupting normal performance or function. This is due to the active principles of chamomile including flavonoids, glycosides, and essential oils.

In a 2011 study published in the journal, “European Neuropsychopharmacology”, showed that the phytochemicals in chamomile have 3 effects on the central nervous system that contribute to the herb’s anxiolytic and sedative properties. It binds to the GABA receptors which in turn reduces the activity of the cells in the sleep centre of the brain.

Anti-Inflammatory/Pain Relief

Sometimes called “herbal aspirin”, chamomile has been used for centuries to lower pain and reduce inflammation. This seems to be backed up by science, with a 2009 study by Srivastava et al published in "Life Sciences," finding that chamomile caused cell reactions similar to that of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

It is a popular remedy for inflammation on the outside of the body too, with it being commonly used to treat sunburn, mild burns, rashes, sores and eye inflammation.

Lowers Blood Sugar

A promising Iranian study from 2015 found that drinking 3 cups of chamomile tea daily could improve the control of blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes. 64 participants with type 2 diabetes were recruited, all of whom were aged between 30 and 60. They consumed camomile tea three times per day immediately after meals for eight weeks. A control group also followed this routine, but they drank water instead.

The camomile tea group had significantly reduced HbA1c and serum insulin levels, as well as significantly increased total antioxidant capacity compared to those in the control group.

The researchers concluded that camomile tea could be useful in reducing diabetes risk factors. They added: "Short-term intake of chamomile tea has beneficial effects on glycaemic control and antioxidant status in patients with type 2 diabetes".

Typical Use

Herbal Tea: 1-2 tsp flowers per 1 cup of boiling water up to 3 times a day

Herbal Tincture: 2 - 4ml tincture up to 3 times a day

Relaxing Bath: 1/2 cup of flowers to 2 litres of hot water to add to the bath tub.

 

Folklore and History

Chamomile has enjoyed a rich history as a spiritual and medicinal herb. Records of its use date back to the ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians who believed the flowers contained both magical and healing properties.

Considered the herb of the sun, drinking chamomile tea was thought to restore vital energy sources, instil positive energy and bring prophetic dreams. It was dedicated to the sun god RA by the Ancient Egyptians whilst some Germanic tribes dedicated it to their sun god Baldur.

Hippocrates, Pliny, Dioscorides, Galen and Asclepiades, the founders of modern medicine, studied and wrote about chamomile. Hippocrates described its medicinal properties and Galen used to recommend a chamomile tea. The Germans also call it “alles zutraut – capable of anything”.

Chamomile
Constituents

0.3-2% volatile oil (including bisabolol); bitter glycosides (anthemic acid); flavone glycosides (anthemidin), coumarins (including umbelliferon and herniarin), phenolic carboxylic acids, polysaccharides, mucilage, choline, amino acids, tannins, malic acid. Blue chamazulene is formed from the sesquiterpene lactone matricin during steam distillation.

Precautions

Chamomile is part of the Asteraceae plant family, which includes ragweed and chrysanthemum, people with allergies may react when they use chamomile either internally or topically. Call your doctor if you experience vomiting, skin irritation, allergic reactions (chest tightness, wheezing, hives, rash, itching) after chamomile use.

Chamomile should not be taken during pregnancy or breast-feeding.

Chamomile contains coumarin, a naturally-occurring compound with anticoagulant or blood-thinning effects. It should not be combined with warfarin or other medications or supplements that have the same effect or be used by people with bleeding disorders.

Do not use two weeks before or after surgery.