Synonyms and Common names: commonly known as Roman Camomile, Chamomile, garden camomile, ground apple, low chamomile, or Mayweed.
Description and Habitat: There are a number of species of Chamomile spread over Europe, North Africa and the temperate region of Asia, but in Great Britain we have four growing wild: the sweet-scented true Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis); the Fetid Chamomile or Stinking Mayweed (Anthemis cotula), which has what Gerard calls 'a naughty smell'; the Corn Chamomile (Anthemis arvensis), which flowers rather earlier and is noticeable because its ray florets are empty and wholly for show and possess no sort of ovary or style, and fourthly, the Yellow Chamomile, with yellow instead of white rays, which is found sometimes on ballast heaps, but is not a true native.
It is Anthemis nobilis we need to look for when acquiring this Herb for use as Herbal Medication.
Its tufts of leaves and flowers are around a foot high. The root is perennial, jointed and fibrous; the stems are hairy and freely branching, and are covered with leaves which are divided into thread-like segments, this gives the whole plant a feathery appearance.
Its flowers appear in the latter days of summer, from the end of July to September, and are borne solitary on long, erect stalks, drooping when in the bud. With their outer fringe of white ray-florets and yellow centres, they are remarkably like the daisy, but the centre of the daisy is considerably flatter than that of the Chamomile. There are usually eighteen white petals arranged around a conical centre, botanically known as the receptacle, on which the yellow, tubular florets are placed.
The fruit is small and dry, and as it forms, the top of the receptacle gets more and more conical.
The whole plant is downy and greyish-green in colour. It prefers dry commons and sandy soil and is found wild in Cornwall, Surrey, and many other parts of England.
Parts used: Flower heads and essential oils.
Harvesting: The flower heads are collected when they are at their most mature and expanded, collected from June to August. The harvesting of chamomile flowers must not be delayed: the flavour and potency of the flowers are lost once they start to darken.
Dry the flower heads by placing them on a rack or piece of kitchen roll and allow them to dry slowly in a warm room; I usually use an airing cupboard. The flowers can be stored in the jars in the dark when they are completely dry.
Constituents: 0.3-2% volatile oil (including bisabolol, which is the primary constituent of Antheris noblis essential oil ); 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.
Actions: Anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, vulnerary, antimicrobial, mild sedative, carminative, antiseptic, anticatarrhal.
Indications: Chamomile is the instant go-to when someone is stressed or feeling down, an Infusion taken as a cup of Chamomile Tea does the job nicely.
Take internally, by way of an Infusion, for spasm or inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, peptic ulcer, flatulence, nervous dyspepsia, travel sickness, nasal catarrh, restlessness, mild sleep disorders.
Chamomile is excellent for use in the common cold, having the ability to relieve the symptoms and calm the patient, as well as fighting the infection.
Chamomile is one of the few Herbs recommended for use for children, both internally as an infusion or topically by a cream, ointment or a gel.
Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Chamomile has a wide range of actions. It is used in the treatment of insomnia, anxiety and nervous tension, for the relief of spasmodic pain such as dysmenorrhoea or migraine, and is a safe remedy for most childhood illnesses, especially those with a high temperature, having calming, healing actions.
The spasmolytic action is due to the presence of flavones, bisabolol and other constituents of the volatile oil. This herb is particularly suited to digestive problems such as nervous dyspepsia and colic. The dicyclic ether in the volatile oil relaxes the smooth muscle, regulating peristalsis, while the carminative volatile oil reduces flatulence and irritation of the gut wall. The bitter glycosides stimulate the appetite and digestive activity, and the herb also helps relieve inflammatory conditions of the upper digestive tract.
Chamazulene and Bisabolol is the primary constituent of Chamomile (directly reduces inflammation in tissues with which they come into contact, stimulates the formation of granulation tissue, and has an antibacterial action. Bisabalol is also protective against ulcers. The polysaccharides have an immune-stimulant action, activating macrophages and B-lymphocytes, thus demonstrating a scientific basis for the use of the herb in the topical treatment of wounds and ulcers. Chamomile also makes an effective lotion for eczema, a mouthwash or eyewash, or as a steam inhalation for catarrh and inflamed mucous membranes.
Chamomile has a reputation as a ‘female’ herb and has been used to relieve morning sickness, menopausal symptoms, dysmenorrhoea, mastitis, amenorrhoea with a psychological component (e.g. anorexia nervosa), and hysteria.
Chamomile has a traditional use in the treatment of asthma and hay-fever, probably due to the herb’s action on the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract. It is thought to reduce the reaction to allergens such as pollen or dust in sensitive individuals.
Contraindications: Do not use if you are allergic to ragweed pollen.
Possible interactions have been reported with warfarin or cyclosporine. Because warfarin and cyclosporine have a narrow therapeutic index, patients taking either of these medications in more than modest amounts should avoid using chamomile at the same time.
Use of the infusion and essential oil has infrequently resulted in anaphylactic shock, those who are allergic to asters, chrysanthemums and ragweed, should avoid chamomile.
Preparation and Dosage:
Infusion - made from 1 oz. of dried flowers to 1/2 pint of boiling water and drink a cup 2-3 times a day. Chamomile has a high content of essential oils, always make the infusion in a pot that has a lid to contain these from leaking away in the steam.
Tincture – 3-4 drops in a cup of warm water taken 2-3 times a day.
Additional Comments & Folklore:
In Egypt, chamomile was associated with the sun gods and was used in the treatment of diseases like malaria, as well as in the mummification process. It is believed that a number of other cultures used chamomile similarly, including the ancient Romans, the Vikings, and the Greeks. Interestingly, the healing properties of chamomile do not apply only to people. If a plant was withering and failing to thrive, planting chamomile nearby could improve the health of the ailing plant.
The Egyptians were proven to be correct in this; Chamomile is naturally antibacterial and antifungal, so it is the perfect plant for companion planting. Plant them around your apple or other fruit trees to prevent fungal infections.
It’s especially beneficial to plant chamomile around brassicas (broccoli, kale, cabbage, etc.), onions, beans, and cucumbers. If you have chamomile plants next to other herbs ie; basil, rosemary and mint they will help to increase the herbs oil production, making them more potent.
As well as being an excellent companion herb, chamomile helps to attract beneficial insects and pollinators to the garden; hoverflies, wasps, ladybirds and honey bees are all attracted to chamomile. And, as an added benefit, chamomile deters mosquitoes.
The fresh plant is strongly aromatic, with a distinct scent of apples; a characteristic noted by the Greeks, which is why they named it 'ground-apple' - kamai (on the ground) and n (an apple) - the origin of the name Chamomile. The Spaniards call it 'Manzanilla,' which signifies 'a little apple,' and give the same name to one of their lightest of sherries, flavoured with this plant.
When walked on, its strong, fragrant scent will often reveal its presence before it is seen. For this reason, it was employed as one of the aromatic strewing herbs in the Middle Ages and used often to be purposely planted in green walks in gardens. Walking over the plant seems especially beneficial to it.
!Like a camomile bed
The more it is trodden
The more it will spread,"
“The aromatic fragrance gives no hint of its bitter taste.
Chamomile used in olden days to be looked upon as the 'Plant's Physician,' and it has been stated that nothing contributes so much to the health of a garden as a number of Chamomile herbs dispersed about it and that if another plant is drooping and sickly, in nine cases out of ten, it will recover if you place a herb of Chamomile near it.”
Called 'maythen' by the Anglo-Saxons, it was one of the nine sacred herbs given to the world by the god Woden. The root was traditionally chewed to relieve toothache. Chamomile is used in homoeopathic medicine for inner turmoil, anxiety, anger, convulsions, throbbing headache, earache, teething, hacking coughs, dysmenorrhoea and diarrhoea.
Slovakian folk-lore says you should always bow when facing a chamomile plant out of respect of its curing power.
In the language of flowers of Victorian origin; when you give someone chamomile flowers, it means “I admire your courage” or “may all your wishes come true”. Drinking chamomile tea is thought to instil positive energy and bring prophetic dreams.
A Chamomile rinse after washing hair gives a lightening effect to the hair, easy to do, just make an Infusion from the Herb and let it cool a little before pouring over the hair for the last rise.