Chamomile: Properties and Benefits
Chamomile is one of the oldest medicinal herbs known to mankind. Thanks to the high antioxidant content this herb has interesting therapeutic properties. Let’s see which ones
The chamomile, scientific name Marticaria recutita, is an annual herbaceous plant with calming properties. The plant belongs to the Compositae family, genus Matricaria.
The chamomile blooms from May to September and you can find some everywhere. The plant develops very well on sunny soils, both in the hills and on the plain. There are many species of chamomile in nature, but the most widespread and used are two: the German one, the Marticaria recutita (or common chamomile) and the Roman one, the Chamaemelum noble.
- Chemical Composition
- Protects the Stomach
- Gastrointestinal Problems
- Anxiety and Depression
- Colic and Diarrhea
- Essential Oil
The chamomile and its properties were known since ancient times and some testimonies date back to the ancient Egyptian populations. As regards its collection in a spontaneous state, it is necessary to know it well. It is very easy to confuse it with another type of chamomile, called bastard, not poisonous but which can cause allergic reactions due to some substances present in the plant.
A peculiarity that allows us to recognize the common chamomile from the others is that the white petals, immediately after flowering, are turned downwards.
Dried chamomile flowers contain many terpenoids and flavonoids that contribute to its medicinal properties. The preparations based on this plant are commonly used for many diseases such as hay fever, inflammation, muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, insomnia, ulcers, wounds, gastrointestinal disorders and rheumatic pains.
With its flowers various preparations have been developed, the most popular being in the form of an herbal tea which according to statistics is consumed by more than one million people a day.
The chamomile is one of medicinal plants oldest used and well documented in the world and has been recommended for a variety of therapeutic applications. ( 1 ) Traditionally, chamomile has been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and a mild astringent. ( 2 )
In traditional medicine it is used to treat wounds, ulcers, eczema, gout, skin irritations, bruises, burns, mouth ulcers, neuralgia, sciatica, rheumatic pains, hemorrhoids, mastitis and other disorders. As an infusion it has been frequently used as a mild sedative to calm nerves and reduce anxiety, to treat hysteria, nightmares, insomnia and other sleep problems. ( 3 )
|Chemical composition for 100 grams of chamomile infusion|
|Vitamin A, RAE||mcg||1|
Chamomile contains 8% flavonoids, substances very useful for health, linoleic acid, palmitic acid, oleic acid, caffeic acid, geraniol, borneol, luteolin, quercetin, rutin, choline and mucilage.
100 g of infusion have a caloric yield of 1 kcal.
Chamomile: Properties and Benefits
It is one of the most widely used herbs for healing purposes. For this purpose its flowers are used which, once dried in the sun, are infused in hot water. To date the plant is used as a drug for the preparation of medicines in different countries.
Its health benefits are mainly due to the high content of antioxidants, terpenoids and flavonoids in particular. Some of these antioxidant compounds are quercetin, apigenin, quercetin and patuletin.
Scientific research has shown that antioxidants counteract inflammation and also the activity of the much feared free radicals. ( 4 )
A recent study, held in London and published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, confirmed that the normal intake of chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties.
Relieves inflammation and muscle spasms, as well as having antioxidant properties. As a ointment it is used for the treatment of hemorrhoids while, vaporized with aerosol, it is used for the treatment of colds and asthma.
A study conducted on humans has shown that flavonoids and essential oils of chamomile penetrate below the skin surface in the deeper layers of the skin. ( 5 ) This is important for their use as anti-inflammatory agents. ( 6 )
There are several studies that have investigated the potential antitumor activity of the plant. The results demonstrate the effectiveness of this herb in blocking the development of some cancer cells. In particular, the effectiveness of an antioxidant compound called apigenin was highlighted. This substance has been shown to be effective in combating skin, prostate and breast cancer.
In a study published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the effects of chamomile extract were studied . The results confirmed a significant reduction in the development of human cancer cells, particularly those that lead to prostate cancer. ( 7 )
Another recent study has shown that chamomile extract causes death by apoptosis of cancer cells but not healthy ones. A Swedish study instead supports the efficacy of the extract against androgen refractory prostate cancer. ( 8, 9 )
Studies on preclinical models of skin, prostate, breast and ovarian cancer have shown promising inhibitory effects on growth. ( 10, 11 )
In a recent study it was shown that chamomile extracts cause minimal inhibitory effects of growth on normal cells. Instead, they showed significant reductions in cell viability in various human tumor cell lines. Exposure to chamomile induces apoptosis in tumor cells but not in normal cells at similar doses. ( 12 )
Protects the Stomach
Another property of the plant is represented by its protective action against the stomach. In particular, the plant has anti-inflammatory effects on the stomach mucosa. The chamomile is also used to treat digestive disorders, menstrual pains and digestive problems.
Research confirms that this herb, in combination with others, is useful against the development of ulcers Gastric. Moreover its flower is traditionally used for numerous gastrointestinal problems: digestive disorders, flatulence and gastrointestinal irritation. ( 13 , 14 )
The chamomile is particularly useful for dispersing the gas, calm the stomach and relax the muscles that move food through the intestines. The protective effect of a commercial preparation containing melissa leaf extracts, chamomile flowers, cumin, peppermint leaf, licorice root, angelica root and milk thistle, against the development of gastric ulcers has been previously shown. ( 15 )
The chamomile is known worldwide for its sedative properties and for this reason it is recommended to those who have problems of insomnia. This property is due to the presence of flavonoids, and just recently it has been shown that they behave in the same way as some sedative-effect drugs.
According to some studies, apigenin is the compound that promotes sleep and therefore cures insomnia. ( 16 )
In aromatherapy the essential oil vapors, combined with other oils such as sesame, can be inhaled to reduce stress, calm the nerves and relax the muscles.
This relaxing effect can also be achieved by placing about 10 drops of essential oil of chamomile in the warm water of the bath. Ideal for those who suffer from asthma or have nervousness problems.
In one test some women were examined who, after giving birth, drank the chamomile tea for 2 weeks. At the end of the test these women saw their sleep quality improve compared to those who did not drink the herbal tea. ( 17 )
The sedative properties of the plant can be due to apigenin which binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. ( 18 ) Chamomile extracts show a hypnotic activity similar to that of benzodiazepines. ( 19 )
Anxiety and Depression
It has beneficial effects in mild cases of depression while in more serious cases it helps to relax the nerves. This helps in taking other medications or natural remedies for depression. The most positive aspect is the lack of side effects, since it is a 100% natural product.
To combat anxiety and depression, it can be taken in the form of tea, tincture or essential oil. According to recent studies of 2012 this herb has the best alternative method to drug treatments to combat stress. ( 20 )
To counteract anxiety and depression , the vapors of your essential oil are inhaled using aerosols. This is because its vapors directly reach the olfactory part of the brain, deactivating tension and nervousness. According to the research it is thanks to this property that chamomile is effective in reducing the symptoms of anxiety, stress and insomnia. ( 21 )
Its intake may be useful to reduce blood sugar levels. Its anti-inflammatory properties can prevent damage to the pancreas. These in fact occur when blood sugar levels are too high.
The pancreas has a very important role in our body because it produces insulin, the hormone that takes care of removing excess sugar in the blood.
There are several studies that suggest that chamomile herbal tea has useful properties to reduce blood sugar levels. Its intake in the fasted state and in good quantity can also prevent glycemic peaks. ( 22 , 23 )
As proof of all this, there is also a study conducted on 64 diabetics who took chamomile every day during meals for 8 weeks. At the end of the test these patients had lower sugar levels than those who only drank water. ( 24 )
Other studies suggest that chamomile improves hyperglycemia and diabetic complications by suppressing blood sugar levels, increasing hepatic glycogen retention and inhibition of sorbitol in human erythrocytes. ( 25 )
A cold infusion of chamomile can be used to make a compress to the eyes with problems of irritation or conjunctivitis.
Chamomile and Cold
The cold is the most common viral and infectious disease in the world concerning the upper respiratory system. There are some studies that suggest that the vapors of chamomile are useful to counteract the symptoms of colds.
Studies indicate that vapor inhalation with chamomile extract was helpful in the symptoms of the common cold. ( 26 )
Protects the Liver
Chamomile stimulates the production of bile and has protective functions against liver. For this purpose you can prepare an infusion with a spoon of dried flowers in a cup of boiling water. Drink 2 or 3 cups a day.
The presence of choline in chamomile instead, is a help to eliminate blood fats and this involves a reduction of bad LDL cholesterol from the arteries. Thus there are benefits in preventive terms against arteriosclerosis and cardio-circulatory diseases .
Thanks to its high content of flavonoids lately chamomile has been studied for its protective effects on the heart. A 2005 study conducted on men over 65 years of age confirmed this property. In fact, the intake of flavonoids from plant foods is associated with a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease. ( 27 )
Another study of 12 patients with heart problems showed slight improvements after taking chamomile. But the study was on a few people and more extensive research is needed to confirm the results. ( 28 )
A study conducted in Morocco has shown that its intake has beneficial effects against hypertension. ( 29 )
Cycle and Pregnancy
The chamomile is also useful to reduce menstrual cramps in women. For this purpose a mixed infusion of chamomile, sage and rosemary is prepared in equal parts to drink 3 times a day. In the form of tea it is used to alleviate the morning sickness of pregnant women.
It also has mild diuretic properties that can be used both to control weight and to eliminate harmful substances such as uric acid whose sedimentation causes gout.
Diarrhea and Colic
Two clinical studies have examined the effects of chamomile on children’s colic. Researchers found that herbal tea, including chamomile tea, reduced beautiful baby colic by 57% without side effects. ( 30 )
Another study showed that a chamomile extract together with apple pectin greatly reduces the duration of diarrhea in children.
Studies suggest that an ointment based on this plant can improve the symptoms of hemorrhoids. Even the tincture of chamomile may reduce inflammation associated with hemorrhoids. ( 31 , 32 )
Herbal Tea Against Weakness
To effectively counteract the states of weakness that can occasionally assail us, we can proceed with the preparation of this simple chamomile- based herbal tea. These are the ingredients:
Get yourself 60 grams of flowers , 20 grams of gentian roots and 120 grams of valerian roots. Mix these ingredients well, then take a spoon and put it in infusion in a cup of boiling water for 8 minutes. It is advisable to drink half of it in the morning and half in the evening.
The essential oil of Roman chamomile is extracted from its flowers and contains alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, sabinene, camphene, myrcene, farsenol, pinocarvone, cineol and caryophyllene.
While this oil has distinctly relaxing properties, that extracted from German chamomile, thanks to a compound called Azulene, is used for anti-inflammatory purposes.
Both varieties of the plant produce an oil with effects sudorifics and febrifuges, through the sweat dump body toxins and infectious agents and with the sweat make lower the body temperature in case of fever.
Deworming, antiseptic and bactericidal: the two oils are able to eliminate intestinal worms and, applied to the hair, kill lice and other microorganisms by disinfecting the scalp at the same time.
Antidepressant: both have useful properties to counter sadness and depression and their benefits work even if they only smell their aroma.
The main component that gives rise to the characteristic fragrance is the essential oil of azulene that is obtained from the flower by distillation. Strangely, despite the yellow color of the flower, the oil obtained is blue.
Without a doubt this plant is one of the oldest natural remedies. The ancient Egyptians, also thanks to its appearance, had consecrated it to the sun god.
The chamomile is a secular medicinal herb, its therapeutic properties were already known to the people of ancient Rome, Greece and ancient Egypt. The fame of this healing herb spread enormously throughout the Middle Ages. In fact, the populations of that era used it to treat various physical ailments such as asthma, fever and inflammation.
The first written description concerning the benefits of chamomile dates back to the 16th century, by the Roman doctor Castore Durante.
The chamomile has been evaluated as a soothing digestive and has been used to treat various gastrointestinal disorders such as flatulence, indigestion, diarrhea, anorexia, nausea and vomiting. ( 33, 34 )
Maybe not Everyone Knows That
In the past, its dried flowers were used as pipe tobacco.
The essential oil, as already written responsible for its fragrance, contains blue camazulene, flavonoids, coumarin, alcohol and vitamin C.
Today it is considered one of the most useful tools to combat stomach-related ailments.
The chamomile, thanks to the presence of mucilage, can be used for external use to treat skin complaints. Use gauze soaked in infusion obtained with dried flowers no older than one year that should be placed on the affected part for 15 minutes. This treatment is recommended for wounds, blisters, pustules, scratches, dermatitis and eczema.
It seems that women belonging to the ancient Egyptian nobility used to crush chamomile flowers on the skin to keep them young and healthy.
The major chamomile producing countries are Italy, Belgium, France, England, Poland and Germany. Some sources inform us that the Romans were the first to produce this large spice ladder.
According to studies, chamomile drinking was associated with a significant increase in urinary levels of hippurate and glycine, which were associated with increased antibacterial activity. ( 35 )
According to medical statistics, a relatively low percentage of people are sensitive to chamomile and develop allergic reactions. ( 36 )
Even if no signs of toxicity have been found, too long treatments or intakes of excessive quantities can cause nausea and vomiting.
This herb is considered a uterine stimulant product. If you are pregnant then it is best to consult a doctor before taking products derived from this medicinal herb.
People who have been shown to be allergic to plants belonging to the Compositae family should not take chamomile preparations.
There have been rare cases in which, instead of having sedative effects , chamomile has caused opposite effects. In one study it was shown that eye wash with chamomile in hay fever patients with conjunctivitis, aggravates eye inflammation. On the other hand, there was no worsening of eye inflammation with taking the herbal tea. ( 37 )
Chamomile: Properties and Benefits
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