While many people recognize the name chamomile (or camomile, an alternate spelling), few actually realize that two different species share the same name. Both possess the same medicinal properties and fragrance but have clear differences. Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) rarely reaches a foot in height and renders a bitter flavor. It was once a very popular groundcover for English lawns. German chamomile is the species likely to be found in herbal teas, medicinals and cosmetic preparations.
"Chamomile is the most favoured and most used medicinal plant in Slovakia. Our folk saying indicates that an individual should always bow when facing a chamomile plant. This respect resulted from hundred years' experience with curing in folk medicine of the country."
-- Dr. Ivan Salamon, The Herb, Spice and Medicinal Plant Digest
Although the chamomiles bear no resemblance to the fruit in any way, they were called kamai melon (to mean ground apple) by the ancient Greeks who favored their apple-like fragrance. The Spanish referred to chamomile as mazania, or "little apple," and used them to flavor their finest sherry. Inspired by chamomile's medicinal value, the Germans described it as alles zutraut, or "capable of anything."
Chamomile (German) has long been used to ease tension, indigestion and headache. You may recall that Peter Rabbit's mother nurtured his aching head with chamomile tea after he'd had a night of indulging in Farmer McGregor's garden.
Chamomile was also a popular remedy for muscle pain and menstrual cramps. In fact, the Romans rubbed the herb on sore muscles and sprains. Taken internally, chamomile does seem to have an anti-inflammatory action. A clinical study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology in 1973 on the anti-inflammatory qualities of chamomile produced some interesting results. Ten out of twelve subjects who were given chamomile tea reportedly dozed off to sleep within ten minutes, even while they were undergoing a painful procedure. (Personally, I'm not very likely to rely upon chamomile at the moment of a tooth extraction, but I would highly recommend it for muscle soreness and headache.)
The therapeutic benefits of chamomile are due to the presence of chamazulene, bisabololoxides A and B and matricin. The flower heads contain quercimertrin, apigenin and luteolin (flavonoids) which also lend anti-spasmotic and anti-infammatory qualities, as well as the coumarins herniarin and umbelliferone. Chamomile may be an old-fashioned remedy, but more than 4,000 tons is cultivated and harvested each year world-wide.
A word of caution is warranted in the use of chamomile by allergy sufferers. The chamomiles (sometimes including yarrow) do contain some degree of allergens. Only about 50 cases of allergic reaction have been reported since 1887, however, with five of these being a direct result of consuming German chamomile. Still, it would be advisable to avoid frequent use of chamomile if you are known to be sensitive to chrysanthemums or ragweed.
Properties: Analgesic, antibacterial, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antineuralgic, antiphlogistic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, cholagogue, digestive, emmenagogue, febrifuge, hepatic, sedative, stomachic, sudorific, tonic, vermifuge, vulnerary
Roman Chamomile essential oil is steam distilled from the flowers of Arthemis nobilis or Chamaemelum nobile, and has a fruity, apple-like aroma. The essential oil is used for its skin healing properties in the manufacturing of body care products, as well as for aromatherapy. It has a very pleasant, soothing, apple-like aroma. The Roman chamomile plant is a low growing, perennial ground cover.
The essential oil is not from a true chamomile plant. It is used mainly in perfume blends, and for aromatherapy. The plant is an annual that grows in the Mediterranean and in the Middle East. This is a product new to the market, it does not have a long history of traditional uses like true chamomile.
The essential oil has a high content of azulene, the active organic compound of chamomile, which bears a blue color. Azulene has anti-inflammatory, skin healing properties. This oil is most suitable as an ingredient for skin care products. Blue chamomile is derived from the German chamomile plant, which is an upright growing annual. There are German chamomile plants that were breed for a high azulene content to use in the manufacturing of medicinal chamomile products.
Chamomile essential oil blends well with: Bergamot, clary sage, eucalyptus, geranium, grapefruit, jasmine, lavender, lemon, neroli, oakmoss, palmarosa, rose, tea tree.
How the Doctor's brow should smile
Crown'd with wreath of camomile..."
- Thomas Moore
Wreaths for the Ministers