Reprinted with the kind permission of Dr. Mercola.
People are familiar with chamomile as a flower with a daisy-like appearance.1 However, this member of the Asteraceae or Compositae family is actually a potent herb. There are two known chamomile plants today: German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile).2,3
Some German chamomile plants grow in the wild and close to the ground, but they also can be found in herb gardens, where they may sometimes reach 3 feet tall. Typically, German chamomile plants grow in North America,4 Europe, North Africa and some parts of Asia.5
German chamomile flowers are tiny and have white collars6 and hollow receptacles, surrounding a raised and cone-shaped center. They grow on long, thin and light green stems, are distributed in a comb-like arrangement and have tiny leaves that are twice-divided into linear portions.7
Roman chamomile has inch-wide white flowers, a broader conical disk and a solid receptacle. Its leaves are flatter and thicker, are twice or thrice divided into linear segments, and its flowers sit atop slightly hairy stems.8 Roman chamomile is usually found in Western Europe, northward to Northern Ireland.9
5 Notable Chamomile Health Benefits
I use chamomile every night and from my perspective the most helpful benefit is that it is one of the highest sources of the polyphenol apigenin. Apigenin is a very powerful inhibitor of an enzyme on the surface of your cells called CD38. While CD38 is useful for your immune function it also is a major consumer of NAD+ which is the most important coenzyme in your body.
You need NAD+ to fuel another enzyme called PARP which is your major enzyme to help your damaged DNA become repaired. When you are regularly exposed to EMFs, PARP is regularly activated and consumes NAD+ which is one of the reasons it is so low in most of us, aside from the fact that simply aging tends to lower it. When NAD+ is lowered, then PARP doesn’t function, and you don’t repair your DNA damage.
This is one of the reasons why I pay attention to keeping my NAD+ levels high and why I use chamomile every night. Additionally, the volatile oils found in chamomile flowers, which include alpha-bisabolol, alpha-bisabolol oxides A and B, and matricin, are said to be responsible for its beneficial properties.10 The health benefits linked to chamomile include its ability to help:11,12
- Calm down nerves, promoting general relaxation, relieving stress13 and controlling insomnia
- Ease allergies, inflammation14 and infections
- Alleviate muscle spasms
- Relieve nausea and flatulence
- Ease stomach ailments, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, diverticular disease,15 Crohn’s disease16 and irritable bowel syndrome
Other beneficial bioactive ingredients also found in chamomile include:17
- Chamazulene or azulenesse
- Farnese and spiro-ether quiterpene lactones
- Flavonoids like apigenin, luteolin, patuletin and quercetin
- Coumarins like herniarin and umbelliferone
Common Uses of Chamomile
Chamomile is known for its medicinal uses, especially in ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations. According to the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, chamomile was revered because of its potential to help alleviate conditions like:18
- Chest colds
- Sore throats
- Gum inflammation or gingivitis
- Acne, psoriasis or eczema
- Minor first-degree burns
- Inflammatory bowel disease or ulcerative colitis
- Stomach ulcers and cramps
- Diarrhea or gas
- Chickenpox, diaper rash, colic and teething problems in children
Nowadays, chamomile can be used to relax smooth intestinal muscle contractions,19 and may be added to salves, lotion and ointments for use as a wash20 or compress21 to aid in relieving hemorrhoids,22 wounds,23 skin irritation,24 cold or canker sores,25,26 pink eye27 and mucous tissue inflammation.28 Chamomile is also used as a mouth rinse for gingivitis29 or inflammation of the oral cavity, while chamomile vapor may help alleviate cold symptoms30 or asthma.
Chamomile is incorporated into skin and hair care products, detergent, perfume and cosmetics, while its extract may be useful for these purposes:31
- Mosquito repellent
- Biological pest control
- Veterinary medicine
- Enhancing the flavor of labneh, a fermented dairy made from goat’s milk32
- Reclamation of sodic soils
- Bioremedication for metals like cadmium
Fresh or dried chamomile flowers, chamomile essential oil and flower extracts can be added to salads, soups or drinks, while chamomile leaves can be used in salads or steeped into tea.33
How to Grow Chamomile
Chamomile plants may grow in cool weather or under full sun. Make sure to provide partial shade, and that the soil is dry with a neutral pH level between 5.6 and 7.5.34,35,36 The good thing about growing your own chamomile plants is there is very little fuss involved. Avoid using too much fertilizer because this may lead to weak-flavored foliage and few flowers.
Also, provide just enough water to prevent overwatering. Chamomile is drought-tolerant and only needs to be frequently watered during prolonged drought.
If you have a vegetable garden, growing chamomile plants may help deter pests, as they emit a strong scent. Just make sure to check the plants often to ensure that they’re thriving. If you have weak plants due to lack of water or other issues, they may attract aphids, mealybugs or thrips.37,38
What Is Chamomile Tea Good For?
Drinking chamomile tea is a popular way to get your daily dose of this herb. Aside from having little to no caffeine (chamomile tea is naturally caffeine-free),39 there are numerous health benefits linked to it:
Helps boost immune system — Chamomile tea may help eliminate oxidative stress40 and ease colds and infections.41
Relieves menstrual discomfort — If you frequently suffer from menstrual cramps, drinking chamomile tea may lessen the pain.42
Alleviates stress and depression — Chamomile tea helps promote relaxation and combat anxiety symptoms.43,44
Promotes better sleep — Studies have shown that drinking chamomile tea may help you fall asleep faster.45,46
Helps manage diabetes — Chamomile tea may aid in combating massive drops and spikes in blood sugar levels.47
Alleviates stomach issues — Research has linked chamomile tea to addressing indigestion, promoting movement of gas,48 and alleviating stomach cramps and muscle contractions.49
Eases colic in babies — Diluted50 and cooled chamomile tea may help relieve colic in babies by relaxing their digestive systems.51 Prior to giving chamomile tea, consult a pediatrician since some babies may experience side effects.
If you want to make chamomile tea, try this recipe from Genius Kitchen, which is unique because of the addition of apple slices:52
Chamomile Tea Recipe
2 Tablespoons fresh chamomile flowers
2 cups boiling water
2 thin slices of organically grown apples
- Rinse the flowers with cool water.
- Warm your teapot with boiling water. Add the apple slices to the pot and mash them with a wooden spoon.
- Add the chamomile flowers and pour in the 2 cups of boiling water.
- Cover and steep for three to five minutes.
- Strain the tea into two cups. Add raw honey to taste.
This recipe makes 2 servings.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Take note that chamomile tea can trigger vomiting and allergic reactions, especially if you’re sensitive to asters, ragweed, daisies and chrysanthemum.53 Pregnant or breastfeeding women must limit or avoid drinking chamomile tea, since there’s a lack of information regarding its safety.54 Excess consumption of chamomile products like chamomile tea may increase a pregnant woman’s risk for increased stillbirth, premature delivery55 or miscarriage.56
Make Chamomile Oil a Staple, Too
You can reap some of chamomile’s benefits by using either German or Roman chamomile essential oil. Research has revealed that these oils offer the following potent, health-boosting substances:57
|German Chamomile Oil||Roman Chamomile Oil|
• Oxide azulenes like chamazulene and acetylene derivatives
• Proazulenes like matricarin and matricin
• Propyl angelate
• Butyl angelate
• Sesquiterpene lactones of the germacranolide variety, particularly nobilin and 3-epinobilin
Chamomile oil may help induce sleep, calm down nerves and promote a general sense of calmness, making it ideal for people who are nervous or have anxiety problems. It also can help ease sore muscles, tight joints, rheumatism or back aches, relax your digestive system, and aid in relieving constipation and other related problems. The oil is also a mainstay in cosmetic products, since it soothes redness, irritation, itchiness and swelling, while helping address wounds and inflammation.58
Storage Tips for Chamomile
Ideally, harvest chamomile flowers during dry days after the dew has dried, and once you notice flower petals are fully open. Getting the flowers should be easy, as Gardening Know How details:59
“Gently pinch the stem of the plant just below the flower head. Then place your forefinger and middle finger under the head of the flower, between the flower head and the other pinched fingers, and pop the flower head off.”
While you can use fresh flowers immediately, you can also dry chamomile flowers for future use. Here’s how to do it:60
- Lay flowers in a single layer on trays.
- Set oven or dehydrator temperature between 115 and 125 degrees F and dry for three to five hours, checking carefully after four hours and rotating the trays periodically to ensure the flowers are evenly dried. Make sure not to overly dry the flowers. Chamomile flowers are considered dried when the tiny petals curl inward, and the blossom’s center is totally dry.
- Store in an airtight container, out of sunlight.
Chamomile May Come With Side Effects
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Although occurrences of chamomile side effects are relatively uncommon, chamomile can trigger vomiting, drowsiness61 and allergic reactions,62 such as breathing difficulties, closing of the throat, hives or swelling of the lips, tongue or face.63
As mentioned in a previous section, chamomile mustn’t be taken by people who are allergic to daisies, asters, chrysanthemums or ragweed. Chamomile is also known to interact with some drugs and substances, so exercise caution if you’re taking the following:64,65
- Anticoagulant and antiplatelet medications like warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix) and aspirin — A high risk for bleeding has been linked between chamomile and anticoagulant and antiplatelet medicines.
- Blood pressure medicines — Chamomile may lead to extremely low blood pressure levels among people taking them.
- Diabetes drugs — Taking diabetes medicines alongside chamomile raises a person’s risk for hypoglycemia or extremely low blood sugar levels.
- Sedative medications (barbiturates, tricyclic antidepressants, benzodiazepines and antiseizure medications) and herbs (valerian, kava or catnip) — Their strength can be greatly increased when you consume chamomile along with them.
- Drugs broken down by the liver like statins, antifungal drugs and fexofenadine (Seldane) — The liver is known to break down chamomile, and it’s possible that this can interact with other medicines broken down in the same manner.
To prevent such side effects from occurring, take an allergen test before using chamomile and consult a physician to see if your body can handle this herb.
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Sources and References
2, 10, 17, 30, 41, 54, 57, 62 Mol Med Report. 2010 Nov 1; 3(6): 895–901
5, 11, 18, 19, 24, 53, 56, 64, 65 Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, March 25, 2015