Chamomile is one of the safest medicinal herbs, a soothing, gentle relaxant that has been shown to work for a variety of complaints from stress to menstrual cramps.
This herb has a satisfying, applelike aroma and flavor), and it's most often taken as a delicious, mild therapeutic tea.
Concentrated extracts of chamomile are also added to healing creams and lotions or packaged as pills and tinctures.
Two species of chamomile--German chamomile and Roman chamomile--are used in healing and both work equally well.
In North America and central Europe, products made from the German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) are the most widely available. In Great Britain, Roman (or English) chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile or Anthemis nobilis) is more commonly sold.
Although best known as a muscle relaxant and antispasmodic, chamomile also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory capabilities. The plant's healing properties come from its daisylike flowers, which contain volatile oils (including bisabolol, bisabolol oxides A and B, and matricin) as well as flavonoids particularly a compound called apinegin and other therapeutic substances. Chamomile may be used internally or externally.
Specifically, chamomile may help to:
Promote general relaxation and relieve stress. Animal studies show that chamomile contains substances that act on the same parts of the brain and nervous system as antianxiety drugs. Never stop taking prescription medications, however, without consulting your doctor. It is a good idea to use any herbs @ two hours after taking perscription medication.
Control insomnia. Chamomile's mildly sedating and muscle-relaxing effects can help those who suffer from insomnia to fall asleep more easily.
Treats diverticular disease, irritable bowel problems and various gastrointestinal complaints. Chamomile's anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic actions relax the smooth muscles lining the stomach and intestine. The herb can 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.
--Because chamomile is available in so many forms, it's important to read the labels for exact dosage. Look for pills and tinctures formulated with concentrated extracts of chamomile that contain at least 1% apigenin, one of the herb's key healing ingredients.
--Many people use chamomile tea for healing. It's important to know the proper brewing method: Use 2 teaspoons of dried flowers for each 8 ounces of water. Pour very hot (not boiling) water over the flowers, steep for 5 minutes, and then strain.
For muscle relaxation and antispasmodic effects: Drink two or three cups of chamomile tea a day (many people find that the process of simply brewing and drinking the pleasantly fragrant tea can have a relaxing effect). Or take 2 or 3 capsules or 20 or 30 drops of tincture.
For insomnia: Drink a cup of double-strength chamomile tea at bedtime or take 1 capsule or 30 drops of tincture. Alternatively, put half a cup of dried chamomile flowers in some cheesecloth, tie it up, and place it under the running water as you fill a tub; the resulting fragrant bath will produce a relaxing effect.
To soothe rashes, mild burns or sunburn: For quick relief of mild burns or sunburn, apply a dressing soaked in freshly made chamomile tea; cool the tea quickly in the freezer or with ice cubes first. Alternatively, add 10 drops of chamomile oil, or several cups of chamomile tea, to a cool bath (this also helps dry skin). Another option is to mix a few drops of chamomile oil into 1/2 ounce of almond oil (or another neutral oil) and apply it directly to the skin. Finally, you can apply a ready-made chamomile cream or lotion to the affected area three or four times a day.
For eye problems: Prepare a strong cup of chamomile tea, cool it, soak a washcloth in it and place it over the closed eye three times daily. Make fresh tea daily and store it in a sterile container.
Be sure to check out our Dosage Recommendations Chart for Chamomile, which lists therapeutic dosages for specific ailments at a glance.
Soothe skin rashes (including eczema), minor burns and sunburn. Used as a lotion or added in oil form to a cool bath, chamomile eases the itching of eczema and other rashes and reduces skin inflammation. It can 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 chamomile mouthwash can help soothe mouth inflammations and keep gums healthy.
Reduce menstrual cramps. Chamomile's ability to relax the smooth muscles of the uterus helps ease the discomfort of menstrual cramping.
Chamomile is so gentle and safe at recommended dosages that you can use it long-term without risk.
The effects of chamomile tea are cumulative. To get the maximum benefit, it should be drunk regularly, even if you're not suffering from a specific ailment; this is because each cup of tea prepared from chamomile flowers contains only a small percentage of the plant's therapeutic volatile oils.
Do not combine with blood thinner drugs such as Comadin.
Do not take if you are pregnant or breast feeding. Chamomile is a uterine stimulant.
Do not take chamomile if you have a history of asthma
Chamomile is generally considered safe and nontoxic.
Side effects are extremely rare.
If you suffer from allergies to plants of the Compositae 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.
When using chamomile to treat burns, choose creams or tea-soaked dressings instead of greasy ointments. Ointments contain oils that can hold in heat and prevent air from getting at the wound. This can slow healing and actually increase the risk of infection.
Call your health care practitioner if you experience any of the following.
1 allergic conjunctivitis (eye inflammation)
2 skin irritation
3 severe allergic reaction (chest tightness, wheezing, hives, itching, and rash)