Matricaria recutita, Chamaemelum nobile
Daisy Family (Asteraceae)
Chamomile is a beloved, well known herb commonly used for many ailments such as digestive distress, sleeping problems, and anxiety or restlessness. Because it can calm both the nervous system and muscle tissue, it has many applications. It is a very safe herb with a pleasant, apple-ish aroma and taste, which also lends itself to wide use.
Chamomile’s relaxing action on smooth muscle can calm spasms of the digestive tract, and its bitter taste facilitates better digestion through stimulating digestive juices in the mouth and gut. Its aromatic compounds can help break up stagnation in the digestive tract, which may be experienced as heaviness or bloating (De la Foret, n.d). It’s also safe enough to relieve colic in babies. The inflammation-modulating effect of chamomile helps with various inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis. A clinical trial showed that self-reported IBS symptoms significantly reduced at the second and fourth week after starting to take chamomile daily (Agah et al., 2015). The relief continued two weeks after the end of the intervention, and started to decrease four weeks after the end of the intervention (Agah et al., 2015).
Babies: Chamomile alleviates teething pain and colic. For teething pain, saturating a washcloth in a chamomile infusion and freezing it, and then giving the baby to such on can be helpful. (De la Foret, n.d.)
Menstrual cramps: Chamomile can relax smooth muscle, and so can calm cramps of the smooth muscle of the uterus. A strong cup of chamomile tea (or a few cups) can help relieve such cramps, and an oil infused with chamomile flowers can also be rubbed on the abdomen for relief (De la Foret n.d.).
Digestive system: Can relieve cramping in gut, or pain or distress associated with diarrhoea (Srivastava et al. 2010).
Oral: A poultice can be applied to relieve toothache, reapplying as necessary. A gargle can be done with a cooled infusion to alleviate inflammation in the mouth or throat.
Irritated or inflamed skin conditions are also issues chamomile’s inflammation-modulating and calming effects can help alleviate.
Eczema, acne, rashes, psoriasis, boils, swellings
Applying a strong infusion topically to eczema, acne, or itchy rashes can help soothe the irritation or redness.
Chamomile infusion can also be applied to swellings, boils, and mastitis.
A strong infusion can be added to the bath or sitz bath to alleviate inflammation in ano-genital area or haemorrhoids, a liniment can be added to either (Srivastava et al. 2010).
An animal study found that application of chamomile extract and rosemary extract each resulted in statistically significant healing of burn wounds compared to the control, and in combination they had a more pronounced healing effect (Abdolghafarri et al., 2010).
An infusion, cooled down, can be used as a wash for inflamed or irritated eyes, and may also be helpful for eye irritation from hay fever. Internal use may also help with calming allergies. However, because some people react to Daisy family plants, a small amount should be tried initially.
Anxiety: Chamomile can help alleviate mild to moderate anxiety. A clinical study in which participants with anxiety and past history of depression; with current depression; and with no current or past depression were given standardised chamomile extract or a placebo found clinically meaningful effects on anxiety and mood among all participants (Amsterdam et al., 2012).
Insomnia: Chamomile has traditionally been used to relieve sleep problems. The clinical research is limited thus far; a pilot study of people with primary insomnia - difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep - found that chamomile did not significantly affect any of the measures assessed. There was a nonsignificant improvement in total sleep time, and some improvement in daytime functioning which were not statistically significant (Zick et al., 2011). However, this study had limitations of subjective sleep diary assessment; small number of participants; and the dosage may not have been too low (Zick et al., 2011).
In an animal model, an extract of Matricaria recutita was found to significantly reduce histamine release by mast cells, thus showing an anti-allergic effect (Chandrashekhar et al., 2011).
In the Daisy family, which some people react to. It has historically been used to bring on menses so should be avoided in pregnancy.