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There are two plants known as chamomile: the more popular German chamomile and Roman, or English, chamomile. Both belong to the Asteraceae family, which also includes ragweed, Echinacea, and feverfew. Both have been traditionally used to treat various digestive disorders, calm frayed nerves, relieve muscle spasms, and treat a range of skin conditions and mild infections. The dried flowers are normally used to make chamomile tea. They can also be crushed and steamed so that the blue chamomile oil they contain may be extracted and packaged separately – the oil contains ingredients that reduce swelling and limit the growth of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

What does it do?

Chamomile has been used to treat numerous conditions including chest colds, abscesses, sore throats, sore stomach, psoriasis, gingivitis, acne, eczema, minor first degree burns, stomach ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, chickenpox, diaper rash, and colic. Though studies in people are few, animal studies have shown German chamomile’s ability to reduce inflammation, speed wound healing, reduce muscle spasms, and to serve as a mild sedative to help with sleep.

Laboratory studies have shown some antimicrobial properties, meaning that it may fight against a variety of infections. In Europe, chamomile is commonly used as a digestive aid, to treat mild skin conditions, menstrual cramps, insomnia, and as a tension reliever.

What about side effects?

The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active substances that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, herbs should be taken with care, under the supervision of a practitioner knowledgeable in the field of botanical medicine.

German chamomile is considered generally safe by the FDA. Highly concentrated chamomile tea may cause vomiting, however, and those allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, asters or feverfew should avoid chamomile. Allergic reactions are somewhat common, actually, and may include stomach cramps, tongue thickness, swollen lips and eyes, conjunctivitis (pink eye), itching, hives, throat tightness, and even shortness of breath.

Because of its calming effects, chamomile probably should not be taken in conjunction with sedative medications (particularly benzodiazepines) or alcohol. As well, patients taking blood-thinning medications such as warfarin should use German chamomile only under the careful supervision of a healthcare practitioner. Although not proven scientifically, this herb, in theory, may enhance the effects of the medication.


Additional Resources:

Chamomile : Clinical Study and Analysis
Clinical Study References
The Scienece of Chamomile
Complementary and Alternative Medicines


National Center for Health and Wellness