People popularly know chamomile as a flower with a daisy-like appearance.1 However, this member of the Asteraceae or Compositae family is actually a potent herb.2 There are two known chamomile plants today: German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile).3
German chamomile flowers are tiny and have white collars and hollow receptacles, surrounding a raised and cone-shaped yellow center.
The flowers are less than an inch wide, grow on long, thin and light green stems and are distributed in a comb-like arrangement. The plant’s leaves are tiny and twice-divided into linear segments.4,5
German chamomile develops wild and close to the ground, but can be also found in herb gardens. This plant, which grows up to 3 feet tall, is native to Europe, North Africa and some parts of Asia.
Meanwhile, Roman chamomile has inch-wide white flowers, a disk with a broader conical shape and a solid receptacle. Its leaves are flatter and thicker and are twice or thrice divided into linear segments, and its flowers sit atop slightly hairy stems.
Roman chamomile is usually found in Western Europe, northward to Northern Ireland.6
Chamomile’s Important Benefits
There are many vital health benefits of chamomile:7,8
• Calming down nerves, promoting general relaxation, relieving stress and controlling insomnia
• Combating allergies, eye inflammation and infections
• Relieving nausea, heartburn and stress-related flatulence
These benefits are linked to the volatile oils found in chamomile flowers, which include bisabolol, bisabolol oxides A and B and matricin, as well as other bioactive ingredients:9,10
✓ Chamazulene or azulenesse
✓ Farnese and spiro-ether quiterpene lactones
✓ Flavonoids like apigenin, luteolin, patuletin and quercetin
✓ Coumarins like herniarin and umbelliferone
Common Uses of Chamomile
Chamomile is known for its medicinal uses, especially in ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations. It helps treat or alleviate conditions like:11,12
✓ Chest colds
✓ Sore throats
✓ Gum inflammation or gingivitis
✓ Minor first-degree burns
✓ Inflammatory bowel disease or ulcerative colitis
✓ Stomach ulcers and cramps
✓ Diarrhea or gas
✓ Chickenpox, diaper rash, colic and teething problems in children
Nowadays, chamomile can be used to relax muscle contractions, typically the smooth muscles of the intestines.
It’s added to salves, lotion or a wash or compress to relieve hemorrhoids, wounds, burns, irritation, cold or canker sores, pink eye, dermatitis and inflammations of mucous tissue.13,14,15
Chamomile is also used as a mouth rinse for sore gums, gingivitis or inflammation of the oral cavity,16 while chamomile vapor may help alleviate cold symptoms or asthma.17
Some salads, soups or drinks use fresh or dried chamomile flowers. The essential oil and flower extracts are also added into foods, while chamomile leaves can be used in salads or steeped into tea.18
Sometimes, chamomile is incorporated into skin and hair care products, ointments, shampoo, soap, detergent, perfume and cosmetics. Chamomile extract may be useful for these purposes:19,20
✓ Mosquito repellent
✓ Biological pest control
✓ Improvement of dairy
✓ Veterinary medicine
✓ Reclamation of sodic soils
✓ Bioremedication for metals like cadmium
How to Grow Chamomile
To grow chamomile, use seeds that are relatively easy to grow or plants that can be established quickly into your garden. Plant chamomile in an area with cool weather and under partial shade, (not in areas where summers are hot and humid), and in dry soil with an acidity between 5.6 and 7.5.21,22
Ensure that chamomile plants are at least 6 inches apart from each other.23 Growing chamomile actually involves little fuss, and going overboard on fertilizer may lead to weakly flavored foliage and few flowers. Overwatering should be avoided too, and you must allow the soil to become virtually dry and then soak thoroughly.
Chamomile is drought-tolerant, and may only need to be frequently watered during prolonged drought.24
Chamomile plants are recommended as a “companion plant” alongside vegetable crops, since the strong scent keeps potential pests away. Just make sure to check the plants thoroughly. If plants are weak due to a lack of water or other issues, they may attract insects like aphids, mealybugs or thrips.25,26
What Is Chamomile Tea Good For?
Drinking chamomile tea is a popular way to get your daily dose of chamomile. Aside from having little to no caffeine (chamomile tea is naturally caffeine-free),27 there are numerous health benefits linked to chamomile tea:28
✓ Improves skin health: Chamomile tea can effectively eliminate oxidative stress and enhances immune response.
✓ Boosts immune system: The tea’s phenolic compounds target bacterial infections to help eliminate them from the body.
✓ Relieves menstrual discomfort: Bloating, cramping, sweating, inability to sleep, mood swings and other problems experienced during periods may be improved by drinking chamomile tea.
✓ Lessens stress: Chamomile tea raises your serotonin and melatonin levels, eliminating feelings of stress and worry, slowing down the mind and combatting anxiety symptoms.
✓ Promotes better sleep: For those dealing with restless sleep, chamomile tea may be particularly helpful. It helps you fall asleep faster and wake up feeling more refreshed.
✓ Helps manage diabetes: Chamomile tea combats massive drops and spikes of blood sugar levels, and regulates the insulin in the blood.
✓ Alleviates stomach issues: Chamomile tea assists in easing the gut’s twisting nature, allowing gas and bowel movement.
✓ Strengthens hair: Chamomile tea relieves scalp irritation, builds better hair strands, eliminates dandruff and gives your hair a silkier appearance.
✓ Lessens allergic reactions: Chamomile assists with modulating immune response to allergens, and is a known anti-histamine that soothes allergic reactions and prevents worsened symptoms.
✓ Enhances health of pregnant women:29 Drinking chamomile tea while pregnant could alleviate morning sickness, constipation, gas or bloating.
✓ Reduces colic in babies:30 Diluted chamomile tea may help relieve colic in babies by relaxing their intestines.
Try applying hot or cold chamomile tea on irritated skin. A study discovered that direct application could boost healing and reduce appearance of blemishes and wrinkles. Continuous intake of chamomile tea may prevent development of more serious gut conditions. Prior to giving chamomile tea, consult a pediatrician first, since some babies may be allergic to it. If you want to make chamomile tea, try this recipe:31
Chamomile Tea Recipe
- 2 tsp. dried chamomile flowers
- 2 cups hot water
- Optional: 2 tsp. raw honey
1. Mix chamomile flowers in hot water and let it infuse for two to three minutes.
2. Strain and serve.
3. Optional: Add honey to flavor it.
Take note that chamomile tea can lead to side effects, like allergic reactions and anaphylactic shocks or severe allergic responses, especially if you’re also sensitive to ragweed, daisies, marigold and chrysanthemum.32
Pregnant or breastfeeding women must limit their chamomile tea intake, as its anti-inflammatory properties could be harmful, depending on the expectant mother’s medical history, consumption and other factors. Pregnant women who have a history of hay fever or pollen allergies shouldn’t drink chamomile tea at all.33,34,35
Excess chamomile tea consumption raises a pregnant woman’s risk for preterm labor, excessive uterine contractions, premature delivery and miscarriage (since the tea may serve as an abortifacient). Plus, children whose mothers drank too much chamomile tea were more prone to have circulation problems.36
Make Chamomile Oil a Staple, Too
You can reap some of chamomile’s benefits by using chamomile essential oil. German chamomile flowers yield a meager 0.2 to 0.4 percent essential oil, while Roman chamomile flowers produce 1.7 percent essential oil.37 You can find the following ingredients in these oils:38
|German Chamomile Oil||Roman Chamomile Oil|
• Oxide azulenes like chamazulene and acetylene derivatives
• Proazulenes like matricarin and matricin
• Propyl angelate
• Butyl angelate
• Sesquiterpene lactones of the germacranolide variety, particularly nobilin and 3-epinobilin
Chamomile oil can induce sleep, calm down nerves and promote a general sense of calmness, making it ideal for people who are nervous or have anxiety problems. It also can help reduce pain caused by sore muscles, tight joints, menstrual cramps or back aches, relaxes your digestive system and relieves indigestion and other stomach problems.39
Chamomile oil is a mainstay in some cosmetic products, since it soothes redness, irritation, itchiness and swelling triggered by rashes or skin irritants. Meanwhile, chamomile oil’s antibacterial properties can assist with wound clean-up and protection.
Try inhaling chamomile oil directly or add a few drops to a vaporizer. This works in relieving headaches and soothing nerves. You can also apply it topically to soothe skin problems, add to your bath water or incorporate into cream-based lotions. You can add one to two drops of oil in a glass of water to use as a mouthwash or a remedy against an upset stomach or other gastrointestinal problems. A blend of chamomile and olive oil could be helpful in massaging aching muscles or joints.
Storage Tips for Chamomile
Ideally, harvest chamomile during the summer. Chamomile flowers continue to bloom all summer long if these are picked daily. However, a major challenge in growing chamomile is the different blooming schedules of flowers. As a rule of thumb, try to harvest chamomile 30 days after the seeds first sprout:40,41
1. Begin harvesting chamomile flowers in the morning after the dew has evaporated, but before the sun is high.
2. Harvest flowers that are nearly open. Pinch the stalk just below the flower head and pop off the bloom. Collect in a tightly woven basket.
Once harvested, shake the flowers and check for insects or dirt.42 While you can use fresh flowers immediately, you can also dry chamomile flowers for future use:43
1. Lay flowers in a single layer on trays.
2. Set oven or dehydrator temperature between 115 and 125 degrees F and dry for three to five hours, checking carefully after four hours and rotating the trays periodically to ensure the flowers are evenly dried. Make sure to not overly dry the flowers. Chamomile flowers are considered dried when the tiny petals curl inward, and the blossom’s center is totally dry.
3. Store in an airtight container, out of sunlight.
Chamomile May Come With Risky Side Effects
Although occurrences of chamomile side effects are relatively uncommon, chamomile can trigger vomiting or allergic reactions, such as difficulty in breathing, closing of the throat, hives or swelling of the lips, tongue or face. Consult a physician or take an allergen test prior to taking chamomile, especially if these conditions apply to you:44,45,46
• If you’re taking warfarin (Coumadin) or another blood thinner (you may not be able to take chamomile or would require special monitoring during treatment)