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Chamomile, (Matricaria chamomilla syn. M. recutita, Chamomilla recutita, Asteraceae), also known as German or Hungarian chamomile, has been used for centuries in traditional medicine, including Greek, Roman, and Egyptian practices.1-2 In European traditional medicine, it was used for tension and related issues such as nervous dyspepsia, tension headaches, and sleeplessness, and was considered especially useful for children.1-2 Infusions, liquid extracts, and essential oils are made from the plant's fresh and dried flower heads.1,4 The flower contains about 0.4% essential oil.1-2 The essential oil is produced by steam distillation of the flower heads resulting in a dark blue, viscous liquid, due to the flower's azulene content, with a strong herbaceous scent.5 The herb and essential oil are considered analgesic, anti-inflammatory, digestive, hepatic, and nerve sedating. Externally, chamomile is used to treat inflammation in skin and mucous membranes, bacterial skin diseases, and the respiratory tract.6 Internally, it can be used to treat gastrointestinal diseases and inflammation.

An annual, the plant grows up to 30 inches (76 cm) in height with erect, branching stems.1-5 The leaves are feathery, and the white flowers have a daisy-like appearance. Native to eastern and southern Europe and Asia, chamomile has been naturalized in Australia and North America.1,2,5 The plant is grown extensively in Germany, Poland, Croatia, Hungary, Argentina, and Egypt.1 While chamomile is used worldwide, two large consumers are Germany1 and Mexico,6 where it is known as manzanilla. In Germany, the herb is used topically as a cream, ointment, inhalant, and rinse; and externally as a medicinal tea infusion.1 In Mexico, the tea infusion is often used for gastrointestinal complaints such as gastritis, diarrhea, and spasms.7 In a prospective study of older (>65) Mexican Americans in the Southwest United States, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston found that chamomile use could be shown to have protective effects in regards to mortality – at least for women. The findings revealed that drinking chamomile tea lowered the risk of death from all causes among women by 29%.7


1Engels G, Brinckmann J. Chamomile. HerbalGram. November 2015;108:8-17.

2Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

3Mills SY. The A-Z of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. London, UK: Thorsons Publishing Group Ltd.; 1989.

4Matricaria chamomilla (German chamomile). Altern Med Rev. 2008;13(1):58-62.

5Lawless J. The Encyclopaedia of Essential Oils. Shaftesbury, Dorset, UK: Element Books, Ltd.; 1992.

6Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Riggins CW, Rister RS, eds. Klein S, Rister RS, trans. The Complete German Commission E Monographs¾Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; Boston: Integrative Medicine Communication; 1998.

7Howrey BT, Peek MK, McKee JM, Raji MA, Ottenbacher KJ, Markides KS. Chamomile consumption and mortality: a prospective study of Mexican origin older adults. The Gerontologist. April 29, 2015/ doi:10.1093/geront/gnv051. Available at: http:// Accessed November 4, 2015.

Lori Glenn,  Managing Editor