Updated: Jun 11, 2020
In herbal medicine it is the dried flowers of Chamomile, an annual, wispy plant that grows all over the world. The name Chamomile comes from Greek where it means ‘Earth apple’. Chamomile’s Latin name comes from the word Mater, meaning both mother and womb.
Chamomile is able to relieve intestinal cramping and at the same time induce relaxation. It can be very good for digestive disturbances from infant colic to adult indigestion and everything in between.
Inhaling the steam from a strong and hot chamomile infusion is an old treatment for hay fever and skin and eye infections have been treated with chamomile compresses and ‘washes’ by many cultures for many centuries.
Strong chamomile teas have been used for both headaches and migraines around the world and Chamomile is considered in European herbal medicine to be one of the most reliable treatments for menstrual cramps.
Chamomile has had a number of excellent studies in recent years, some highlights as follows: ~ 12 people who were undergoing cardiac catheterization took one strong cup of Chamomile tea just before this catheterization procedure that is infamous for its ability to cause pain and anxiety. 10 of the 12 fell into a deep sleep during the process (Gould L, Reddy RCV, Gomprecht RF: J Vlin Pharmacol 1973;13:475-479).
~ A double-blind study on babies approximately 3 weeks of age with severe colic showed that a tea containing chamomile was significantly better than placebo and a number of the treated babies had a complete resolution of the colic (Weizman Z, Alkrinawi S, Goldfarb D et al. J Pediatrics 1993;122(4):650-652).
~ A combination of Chamomile and pectin was shown in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to be significantly better than placebo in the resolution of acute, uncomplicated diarrhoea (De La Motte S, Bose-O'Reilly S, Heinisch M et al. Arzneim-Forsch 1997;47(11):1247-1249)
~ Chamomile extract in cream form was compared against steroidal and non-steroidal preparations in the treatment of eczema and was found to be as effective as a mild hydrocortisone cream and superior to the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agent (5% bufexamac) and a glucocorticoid preparation: 0.75% fluocortin butyl ester (Aertgeerts P, Albring M, Klaschka F et al. Z Hautkr 1985;60(3):270-277).
~ Chamomile creams have shown benefit in treating eczema, varicose eczema and varicose ulcers in several trials. Standardised Chamomile cream showed mild superiority over 0.5% hydrocortisone cream in medium atopic eczema - the study was partially 'blinded' in that the patient treated one half of their body with the steroidal cream and the other half with the Chamomile cream with the two creams being otherwise identical in appearance (Patzelt-Wenczler R, Ponce-Poschl E: Eur J Med res 5(4):171-175, 2000)
~ Laboratory studies with Chamomile show that its essential oil (bisabalols and chamazulene) contain potent anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-spasmodic actions.
Given how widely Chamomile is consumed in the world there are exceptionally few reports of adverse reactions and Chamomile can be said to be extremely safe for the great majority of people. However a very few people will find that they have a mild allergy to Chamomile and that getting their skin in contact with the herb will cause itching or a rash or drinking the tea will cause some moderate swelling or discomfort. Chamomile tincture will almost certainly not cause an allergic reaction even in someone who cannot drink the tea as it appears to be the pollen in the plant that are the problem (which do not remain present in the tincture)
Source: Richard Whelan Medical Herbalist