German Chamomile: Plant Characteristics & Health Properties
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) belongs to a medicinal plant species and is often referred by some as the “star among medicinal species.” It comes in two plant varieties such as chamomile: German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) which is more popular and Roman, or English, chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile).
It is one of the popular and vital medicinal herb that is native to southern and eastern Europe, however it is also grown in countries like Germany, Hungary, France, Russia, Yugoslavia, and Brazil. In the United States one probably knows it in the role of a tea to calm the nerves down or an upset stomach remedy or to aid in sleep.
The chamomile is a yearly plant with an erect branch stem with superficial roots. It can grow to a height of 10–80 cm. The leaves are long and narrow (bi- to tripinnate). The flower heads are separated. They have a diameter of 10–30 mm, and are pedunculated and heterogamous. Due to its beneficial pharmacological and pharmaceutical assets this plant is in demand especially in major European countries.
Health Benefits of Chamomile
Dating back to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome Chamomile was part of herbal remedies for several years. It is part of an ingredient regimen of many traditional, nutraceutical, and homeopathy medicines. Some of the health benefits of Chamomile are as follows:
- Gastrointestinal Issues: If used as a drug, it is beneficial for flatulence, colic( for colic several doctors suggests 1 – 2 oz. of tea per day, however your doctor may recommend otherwise), stomach cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis), stomach ulcers and diarrhoea.
- Inflammatory Issues: Chamomile is used as an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, Gum inflammation (gingivitis), antispasmodic, chickenpox, diaper rash and mildly sudorific.
- Skin conditions: It is used for Psoriasis, acne, Eczema, minor first-degree burns, in an ointment or lotion or cream formulation to soothe irritated skin. Several animal studies, suggest these outcomes. However, only a few human researches suggested that a chamomile cream aided to relieve symptoms of eczema.
- Anxiety & insomnia related issues: The trend in the U.S is such the majority of people who are on German chamomile tea use it to relieve anxiety or aid in sleep. As far as research is concerned only one controlled, randomized clinical trial using chamomile to treat anxiety in people could be found. The research findings suggested that chamomile capsules decreased the symptoms of anxiety in people with mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Furthermore, several animal studies suggested that low doses of chamomile could relieve anxiety, while higher doses aiding in sleep. With the emerging benefits of this herb more and more human trials are currently in progress.
- Miscellaneous conditions: It is effectively used for urinary tract infections and commonly used for painful menstruation. When used superficially (powder form) it can be applied to wounds that are hard to heal, and infections, such as boils, and finally for haemorrhoids and for inflammation of the mouth, throat, and the eyes.
Side Effects and Contraindications
Herbs interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications just like our regular medications. Due to these reasons, herbs should be taken carefully, usually under the care of a health care provider. However, German chamomile is considered generally safe. Some of the precautions for this herb are as follows:
- Chamomile can aggravate asthma and make it worse, so asthmatics should avoid it.
- It poses a risk of miscarriage so pregnant women beware.
- Ask your doctor if chamomile is right for you as women with a history of hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast or uterine cancer can be prone to estrogen hormone stimulation.
- If allergies run in your family especially to asters, daisies, chrysanthemums, or ragweed, then include chamomile to the list as well.
- Chamomile tea taken in high concentration or amount can cause vomiting.
- As chamomile aid in sleep and may cause drowsiness, so don’t indulge and drive. Additionally do not combine it with alcohol either.
- With a planned surgery discontinue chamomile at least 2 weeks prior to dental surgery, because of the possibility of bleeding. Moreover, do not use it in combination with drugs such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), and aspirin.
Nowadays there is an increase demand for nutraceutical’s and natural substances as they are mostly free of side effects and one can double on the dose as well. Similarly the demand for chamomile has grown in the world market. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not govern dietary supplements under the same policies as it regulates medicine. Therefore when taking dietary supplement make sure you check the ingredients, precautions and the dose needed to get the desired results or ask your doctor if you are on a dietary supplement whether it is right for you.