Chamomile (matricaria recutita) ~ gentle giant

Soothing Skin Bath Soak

Soothing Skin Bath Soak

Chamomile is a common name for an herb that usual includes both the Roman and German varieties. Once called ‘maythe’ or ‘mayweed’, the name is based on an old English word for ‘maide’ or ‘woman’ and is probably due to the plant’s calming, relaxant effects which have been used to soothe menstrual pains (Pollington2000). While both varieties have similar action, German chamomile is purported to be better tasting and milder in action that Roman Chamomile, which makes the former a better choice for pregnant women and children.

Chamomile is a commonly known herb that has amazingly wonderful, diverse qualities. It is traditionally used as a remedy for teething or cranky babies, to relieve and upset stomach, to ease menstrual cramps, and to reduce tension and induce sleep (K&W2001). Though individuals who have ragweed allergies may find that they are allergic to topical application of chamomile poulstices or salves, an allergic reaction is fairly unusual. In addition, in treating eczema, chamomile has been found to be as effective as hydrocortisone (steroidal cream) and superior to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (Aertgeertsetal1985). My own daughter has had eczema since she was an infant, and I have been delighted to find that a lotion created with chamomile & calendula infusions in both distilled water and natural vegetable oils has provided wonderful eczema relief. I now offer this lotion in my shop, primarily targeted for use for individuals with eczema, for children & infants, and for those with sensitive skin, though this lotion is fine for anyone and has a light scent of chamomile tea without the use of any fragrance or essential oils.

Chamomile

Chamomile

Chamomile is a wonderfully calming herb, both calming to the skin (as above) and calming to the tummy, the mind, the body, and the spirit. It gently brings someone into a state of restful sleep, and soothes even an irritated baby or newborn struggling with colic. German Chamomile has a long history of use during pregnancy and breast-feeding and is a common tea in Europe, Central America, & South America. (That said, it is important to note that Roman Chamomile has been found to have aborficent effects in studies on animals, and so it is important to choose German Chamomile over the Roman variety.) Part of chamomile’s calming effect on the nervous system is the large amount of easily assimilable calcium, making it a great herb to treat insomnia, nervousness, irritability, restlessness, and nighmares, along with connected conditions such as hypertension and cramps, spasms, and stomach distress. Menstrual cramps can be eased with the combination of chamomile & ginger (Tierra2003).

Conditions for which chamomile is beneficial are myriad, and include irritable bowl syndrome, indigestion, infant colic, gastric reflux disease, dysmenorrhea (cessation of menstrual cycle), gastritis, stress-related insomnia, peptic ulcer disease, spastic colon, cramping w/ diarrhea, oral ulcers, topical wound healing, eczema, and anogenital irritation. Chamomile can be taken in many forms: dried flowers, capsules, cream, salve, tea, tincture, bath tea or salt blend, but in this case we are fortunate because chamomile both smells and tastes lovely! I use chamomile in several different bath tea blends, including my Dream Journey bath tea

Chamomile & Calendula body lotion

Chamomile & Calendula body lotion

Dried flowers can be added to the tub or in a muslin bag and in combination with epsom salts, this remedy can be very beneficial for hemorrohoids or irritated skin. Add a handful of oatmeal to the bag and you have a soothing emollient, combined with chamomile’s anti-inflammatory powers to aid allergic skin rashes, eczema, or just as a wonderfully soothing bath for baby. Topical poulstices made from the dried flower (clean cloth dipped into a water infusion) is useful for treating mastitis or other inflammatory issues

I find that the smell of the essential oil is a bit cloying and not always reflective, in my mind, of the light sweetness of the dried flowers, but the essential oil also has therapeutic action and is a welcome (though sometimes expensive!) addition to facial creams that require some ‘calming’ action to facial tissue. It is also good to use in balms and salves for children, as it is both therapeutic and very safe for all ages. For insect bites, the essential oil can be mixed with some aloe vera gel and applied directly to the bite.

Contraindications are few, though it may potentiate anticoagulants such as warfarin so use should be cautious and monitored if an individual is taking such a pharmaceutical. Again, though chamomile has a long, empirical track record of use for pregnant & breast-feeding mothers, it’s probably a good idea that Roman Chamomile be avoided throughout pregnancy (breastfeeding would be okay) and perhaps even in the first trimester because of chamomile’s mild emmenogogic effect (brings on menstruation). Chamomile overall represents one of the safest possible herbs for use with infants, childrens, and nursing mothers, who deliver the benefit of the tea through their breastmilk, and therefore is one of my herbs of choice in bath teas and products for babies, though it’s light, sweet fragrance and flavor certainly add to the strengths of this gentle giant. I say ‘giant’ because its gifts to us are so great.

REFS:
Aertgeerts, P. et al (1985) Z Hautkr. 60(3):270-277
Kuhn, Merrily and David Winston (2001) Herbal Therapy & Supplements: A Scientific and Traditional Approach
Pollington, Stephen (2000) Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plantlore, and Healing
Tierra, Leslie (2003) Healing with the Herbs of Life

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7 Responses to Chamomile (matricaria recutita) ~ gentle giant

  1. Tia says:

    Hi~ I found your site because I’m trying to figure out why I’m spotting in between my menstrual cycle. I have several other symptoms that point to pregnancy but I have never spotted while pregnant before (it’s too soon to test) and so I doubt that I’m expecting. But I’ve been taking 2-6 Chamomile capsules a day for the past two months. Yesterday I read all about cervical cancer and today I decided to see if that was a little overboard for another wise healthy 35 yr old and just maybe it’s my beloved chamomile! Anyway, I’m wondering if you can help me determine if I’m taking the Roman or the German variety. My bottle is Nature’s Way brand and the Latin is Chamomilla Recutita. The answer seems very pertinent on whether or not this is the cause of my spotting.

    • lilithsapothecary says:

      Hello Tia,
      Thank you so much for your post ~~ now, I have to reaffirm that i am a student of herbal medicine and not a master herbalist, but I have gained significant experience, and certainly enough to say that the German Chamomile you are taking is extremely unlikely to be causing your spotting. Chamomile is a rediculously safe herb that is known to help ease menstrual pain, among other things listed in my post, and I certainly do not believe it to be causing any bleeding. Reproductive system issues can be a bit complex, and there are conditions much less serious than cervical cancer that can contribute to mid-cylce spotting. Even some endocrine/hormone regulation issues can result in spotting. I would suggest going to a good OB/GYN or nurse midwife who may take a more holistic approach to care. Are there any pharmaceutical drugs that may be contributing? For a proper assessment, one would need a much more thorough understanding of your situation, and I do urge you to seek out a certified herbalist for a consultation. I wish you the best!
      ~Sarah

  2. [...] (or chinese wolf berry/lyciium fruit), acai, and powerhouse herbs such as turmeric, lavender and chamomile.  You can get a great solid blueberry extract at Herbalist & Alchemist. The benefit of these [...]

  3. Lindsey says:

    I love Chamomile! I just planted some this year. I drank cup after cup when I had inflamed intestines and I bathe my daughter with a chamomile tea when her eczema flares up. Works miracles on her inflamed skin!

    • lilithsapothecary says:

      It is an *amazing* anti-inflammatory, isn’t it? I didn’t realize it until I was making creams for my daughter’s eczema with chamomile water & oil infusions. Works so well! I usually offfer this cream in my etsy store b/c so many people with eczema now rely on it, but I just ran out. Have to make a new batch and soon because my daugher’s jar is almost empty :-)
      Thanks for your comment!
      Sarah

  4. [...] Chamomile (Matricaria recutita): Calming, anti-depressent, mood-elevator, [...]

  5. [...] Chamomile provides wonderful anti-inflammatory action (topically) and has aromatherapeutic qualities all by itself. It’s a remarkable, calming herb that not too long ago deserved a post all its own. Lavender is one of my absolute favorite herbs for all reasons, and its aromatherapeutic, calming activity is well-established. Topically, lavender is an analgesic, which means that it helps relieve pain. Lavender is a wonderful herb and essential oil for topical application to scrapes, insect bites, and burns, and I include it in my All-Purpose healing salve. Need I say more? The balm smells strongly of lavender. Mugwort is a wonderful herb that grows everywhere here in the NorthEast, favoring waste places and empty lots. However, it’s an herb with an old history as a “dream herb”. People would hang it over their beds to bring good dreams at night, and the dried herb has traditionally been stuffed into dream pillows. I have a special love for this fragrant member of the Artemesia family. Rose imparts a feeling of comfort and well-being, lifting the spirits and easing the mind. It’s a romantic touch to the Dream Balm, and a welcome addition. [...]

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