Chamomile

chamomile in bloom Botanical: Matricaria recutita
Family: Asteraceae

Parts Used:  flowers and herb

Energetics:  bitter

Actions: antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, digestive, nervine

The term Chamomile actually refers to a range of different daisy-like plants, which are a member of the Asteraceae family. There are many different species of chamomile, the two most commonly being German (Marticaria recutita) and Roman (Chamaemelum nobile). They have been used since Ancient times for their calming and anti-inflammatory properties, and each offer their own additional health benefits.

Uses of Chamomile

This herb is an age-old medicinal herb known in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. The plant’s popularity grew throughout the Middle Ages when people turned to it as a remedy for numerous medical complaints including asthma, colic, fevers, inflammations, nausea, nervous complaints, children’s ailments, skin diseases and cancer. As a popular remedy, it may be thought of as the European counterpart of the Chinese tonic Ginseng.

Culinary

Food Republic notes that…

It may surprise you just how many things you can do with chamomile. For example, at Juni in Manhattan, pastry chef Mina Pizzaro infuses the flower into ice cream, highlighted with yuzu and ginger. To get the flavor of the chamomile out of the plant and into the dessert, Pizzaro steeps it in cream for hours prior to churning. “The flavor lends a natural gentle sweetness and pleasant floral notes to the dessert,” she says, adding that the spiciness of ginger and acidity of yuzu help to strike a perfect balance.

Chamomile works in non-dessert applications as well, as chef Craig Richards has done in Atlanta at St. Cecilia. His pièce de résistance: scallop crudo with chamomile-celery oil. “We decided to use chamomile because it’s a unique ingredient you don’t see very often in savory cooking,” he says. “It brings another element of acidity and herbal flavor that plays very well with raw fish, especially the natural sweetness of the raw scallop.” Richards has developed a technique for extracting the plant’s flavor as well. “We blend it for an extended period of time so that it heats up in the blender and releases its essential oil.” He also suggests making a dried chamomile and salt rub for fish and throwing some fresh blossoms in a spring salad. [1]

Both German and Roman chamomile are used commercially to flavor alcoholic beverages, such as Benedictine and vermouth, and confectionery, candy, ice cream, baked goods, desserts, and chewing gum.

Cosmetic Uses

Chamomile, closely related to the daisy, has become one of the most popular herbal remedies in the world, with an extremely broad range of applications and uses, both internally and externally.

For example, it is used in a great many cosmetic creams and lotions, and combined with other herbs to create aromatic bathing experiences. When used in such external manners, it is prized for its volatile oils. A great and powerful herb that tones, has a calming quality, improves tissue regeneration and soothes the skin

Chamomile yea is an excellent rinse for fine hair, especially during hot weather – just be sure to strain it well before using! It is also famed for lightening hair, which is why it is frequently used in shampoos for blonde hair.

Using Chamomile for Wellness

Properties of Chamomile

Chamomile has been used for centuries in teas as a mild, relaxing sleep aid, treatment for fevers, colds, stomach ailments, and as an anti-inflammatory, to name only a few therapeutic uses. Chamomile may be used internally or externally. Extensive scientific research over the past 20 years has confirmed many of the traditional uses for the plant and established pharmacological mechanisms for the plant’s therapeutic activity, including antipeptic, antispasmodic, antipyretic, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-allergenic activity.

Recent and on-going research has identified chamomile’s specific anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, muscle relaxant, antispasmodic, anti-allergenic and sedative properties, validating its long-held reputation. This attention appears to have increased the popularity of the herb and nowadays Chamomile is included as a drug in the pharmacopoeia of 26 countries.

Paul Bergner founder of North American Institute of Herbalism, says that chamomile is… “rare in its qualities of being both a bitter digestive tonic and a relaxant/sedative, meaning that it has both the ability to tone the digestive organs and at the same time relax the nervous system.”

Chamomile is a great plant for pollinators!

Using Chamomile

  • As a tea, be used for lumbago, rheumatic problems and rashes.
  • As a salve, be used for hemorrhoids and wounds.
  • As a vapor, be used to alleviate cold symptoms or asthma.
  • Relieve restlessness, teething problems, and colic in children.
  • Relieve allergies, much as an antihistamine would.
  • Aid in digestion when taken as a tea after meals.
  • Relieve morning sickness during pregnancy.
  • Speed healing of skin ulcers, wounds, or burns.
  • Treat gastritis and ulcerative colitis.
  • Reduce inflammation and facilitate bowel movement without acting directly as a purgative.
  • Be used as a wash or compress for skin problems and inflammations, including inflammations of mucous tissue.
  • Promote general relaxation and relieve stress. Animal studies show that it contains substances that act on the same parts of the brain and nervous system as anti-anxiety drugs. Never stop taking prescription medications, however, without consulting your doctor.
  • Control insomnia. Its mildly sedating and muscle-relaxing effects may help those who suffer from insomnia to fall asleep more easily.
  • Treat diverticular disease, irritable bowel problems and various gastrointestinal complaints. Its reported anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic actions relax the smooth muscles lining the stomach and intestine. The herb may therefore help to relieve nausea, heartburn, and stress-related flatulence. It may also be useful in the treatment of diverticular disorders and inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease.
  • Soothe skin rashes (including eczema), minor burns and sunburn. Used as a lotion or added in oil form to a cool bath, it may ease the itching of eczema and other rashes and reduces skin inflammation. It may also speed healing and prevent bacterial infection.
  • Treat eye inflammation and infection. Cooled chamomile tea can be used in a compress to help soothe tired, irritated eyes and it may even help treat conjunctivitis.
  • Heal mouth sores and prevent gum disease. A mouthwash may help soothe mouth inflammations and keep gums healthy.
  • Reduce menstrual cramps. Its believed ability to relax the smooth muscles of the uterus helps ease the discomfort of menstrual cramping.

Dose: steep 1-2 tablespoons dried flowers in a cup of hot water for 5-10 minutes, drink 3-4 cups/day; 3-6 mL 3x/day of a 1:5 tincture

*All doses come from the book Herbal Therapy and Supplements by David Winston and Merrily A. Kuhn.

Safety:

  • If you suffer from allergies to plants of the Asteraceae family (a large group including such flowers as daisies, ragweed, asters and chrysanthemums), you may wish to be cautious about using chamomile at first. While there have been isolated reports of allergic reactions, causing skin rashes and bronchial constriction, most people can use this herb with no problem.

Resources:

  • Covington, Linnea Get Cooking With Chamomile. http://www.foodrepublic.com/2015/10/22/get-cooking-with-chamomile/”>http://www.foodrepublic.com/2015/10/22/get-cooking-with-chamomile/
  • Srivastava J, Shankar E, Gupta S (2011) Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Mol Med 3: 895-901.
  • http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-chamomile.html
  • Bergner P, Becker M. Materia Medica Intensive Seminar. Boulder, CO: North American Institute of Medical Herbalism, Inc; 2005.
  • The Book of Herbal Wisdom by M. Wood (201-202)
  • Medical Herbalism by D. Hoffmann (565)

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