How does it feel?
First take some chamomile flowers, or a chamomile teabag and press under your nose. There is a first hit like new-mown hay, due to its coumarins, then the characteristic scented aroma of the volatile oils, unlike any kitchen herbs or spices, sometimes described as like apples, including also other coumarin contributions, a sweet, creamy vanilla bean odour with slightly heavy nut-like tones.
Then make a strong chamomile tea (maybe two teabags per cup). Again, the familiar aroma hits you first, slightly altered by the chamazulene (a constituent formed in the steam), and comes through quickly as the familiar taste. The coumarins account for the sweet herbaceous impression and then (with the flavonoids) the significant dry astringent feeling and bitter finish.
All around the world the actions of traditional medicines were understood by their immediate sensory impacts. Click on each of German chamomile’s key qualities below to learn more:
What can I use it for?
Chamomile tea is a very accessible first choice to try for indigestion, colic, flatulence and other digestive upsets, especially when these are linked to stress and nervous tension. It is also an excellent and safe tea for use with children, to relieve insomnia, colic and general anxiety.
There is a long tradition of chamomile as a women’s remedy, and women have often found chamomile helpful with painful periods or when these are absent (and other reasons for this are excluded).
Inhaling steam containing chamomile soothes the discomfort caused by colds, sinusitis and earache. Use 4 teaspoons of loose chamomile (or 3-4 chamomile teabags) with boiling water in a bowl. Once the tea has steeped for a few minutes put a towel over your head and place over the bowl. Breathe deeply through your nose and mouth for 5-10 minutes.
An oil can be used externally to reduce inflammation and irritation caused by wounds or injury.
Into the heart of German chamomile
The essential oil that gives chamomile flowers their characteristic aroma and flavour contains sesquiterpenes and other constituents with a range of anti-inflammatory properties. On contact with hot water, one of these, matricin, further generates a distinctive, blue volatile oil (chamazulene) that also has these properties. Chamomile also contains flavonoids including apigenin which is a particularly strong anti-inflammatory. These constituents have a particular effect on mucosal surfaces of the digestive system when swallowed, and on the airways when inhaled with steam. Chamomile has also demonstrated wound healing properties.
Constituents of German chamomile also have antispasmodic action. These ease visceral tension, particularly where there may be bloating, cramping and other digestive symptoms.
Chamomile also has confirmed activity in relieving anxiety. The ability of this plant to relieve psychological tension as well as underlying physiological symptoms of stress has made it one of the most effective remedies for the treatment of nervous upsets.
Widely used for nervous indigestion and diarrhoea, as well as for restlessness and anxiety, especially in children. Also used in steaming applications for nasal congestion and associated upper respiratory problems, and as a mouthwash for dental problems. Chamomile was a popular women’s remedy for painful and absent periods.
What practitioners say
Nervous system: The anti-spasmodic portions of this herb work on the peripheral nervous system and muscles, which indirectly helps to relax the whole body, creating an overall sense of calm and relaxation. It also is likely to help with sleep. It is effective for anxiety, especially when this contributes to indigestion. It may also help with pains associated with the menstrual cycle.
Digestive: Chamomile is indicated in digestive spasms, bloating, cramping, indigestion and colic. There is evidence that chamomile tea is helpful in blood sugar control, for example in prediabetic and diabetic conditions.
Respiratory: As an inhalation (in steaming hot water) it is indicated in sinusitis, chronic asthma, bronchitis, hay fever and influenza. It will clear excess mucus and phlegm from the lungs in addition to bringing down inflammation and reducing muscular tension, particularly where this may be a result of infection.
Skin: Chamomile’s anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties are useful in a range of inflammatory skin conditions. Also useful for wounds, burns, nappy rash, bites and stings. Chamomile flowers were traditionally added to children’s baths to help relax them before bed but also for soothing childhood eczema.
Other external uses: Mouthwash for ulcers and gingivitis; gargle for sore throats; antiseptic wash for sore inflamed eyes, conjunctivitis; douche for vaginal infections including thrush, or sit in chamomile tea for cystitis, varicose ulcers and haemorrhoids. Dilute oil can also be massaged into painful, arthritic joints, migraine, trigeminal neuralgia or sciatica and used as insect repellent.
Did you know?
Matricaria comes from the Latin name for womb or mother and was often seen particularly to meet the needs of both women and children.
A ‘cup of love’ tea
A blend of flowers bringing you some of nature’s finest love. Drink to soothe a broken heart or feed you when you just want a sip of love.
- Chamomile flower 3g
- Limeflower 2g
- Marigold (calendula) petal 2g
- Rose flower 1g
- Lavender flower 1g
- Licorice root 1g
This will serve 3 cups of love.
- Put all of the ingredients in a pot.
- Add 500ml/18fl oz freshly boiled filtered water.
- Leave to steep for 10–15 minutes, then strain and let the love flow.
Recipe from Cleanse, Nurture, Restore by Sebastian Pole
Rare allergic reactions are reported to chamomile, these are mostly when the chamomile is adulterated with related flowers.
In Ayurvedic medicine chamomile has the following characteristics
- Rasa (taste): Bitter, pungent, astringent.
- Virya (action): Cooling.
- Vipaka (post-digestive effect): Pungent.
- Guna (quality): Light, dry.
- Dosha effect: reduces pitta and kapha in excess can aggravate vata
- Dhatu (tissue): Rasa/plasma, rakta/blood, mamsa/muscles, majja/nerve, asthi/bone.
- Srotas (channels): Prana/respiratory, anna/digestive, majja/nervous, shukra/ reproductive.
In a two-stage clinical trial involving outpatients with moderate-to-severe generalised anxiety disorder, over 50% who initially responded well to chamomile extract 1500mg (500mg capsule 3 times daily) were then divided into continuation therapy or placebo. Over the following 26 weeks those who switched to placebo relapsed more, and their anxiety scores increased.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 30 subjects with orthodontic appliances were divided to take a mouthwash containing 1% chamomile extract (comparable to levels achieved in chamomile tea), a placebo, or a standard 0.12% chlorhexidine mouthwash immediately after brushing for 1 minute, in the morning and evening, for 15 days. The placebo group exhibited increases in plaque and gum bleeding. By comparison these significantly decreased in both the chamomile and the chlorhexidine group. Chamomile also reduced biofilm accumulation and bleeding in patients with gingivitis.
In a single-blind, randomized, controlled clinical trial, 64 male and female subjects with type II diabetes were provided with either chamomile tea (3 g/150 mL hot water) 3 times per day immediately after meals for 8 weeks or water (32 subjects in each group). Chamomile tea significantly decreased measures of blood sugar and insulin resistance, insulin levels, and increased measures of antioxidant capacity compared with the control group.
To see the references used in this summary check our downloadable Expert Herbal Reality Resource pdf
3 g of the flowers as a tea, three to four times daily
- Essential oil (0.3 – 1.5%) up to 50% of sesquiterpenes (-)-a-bisabolol and its oxides A, B and C
- bisabolonoxide A up to 25% of cis– and trans-en-yne-dicycloethers (or spiroethers)
- matricin (up to 15%)
- flavonoids (up to 6%) notably apigenin-7-glucoside
- coumarins (herniarin and umbelliferone)
- phenolic acids
- polysaccharides (up to 10%)
Another active constituent, the blue volatile oil chamazulene, is only generated by steam distillation of matricin. In other words, it will only appear when hot water is added to the flowers; it reaches highest levels when the tea is covered with a saucer or lid so that steam can condense and drop back into the tea.