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Table of Contents > Herbs > Roman Chamomile
Roman Chamomile
Botanical Name:  Chamaemelum nobile
 
Overview
Plant Description
What's It Made Of?
Available Forms
How to Take It
Precautions
Possible Interactions
Supporting Research

Overview

There are two plants known as chamomile: the more popular German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman, or English, chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Both belong to the Asteraceae family, which also includes ragweed, echinacea, and feverfew. Both have been used traditionally to calm frayed nerves, to treat various digestive disorders, to relieve muscle spasms and menstrual cramps, and to treat a range of skin conditions (including minor first degree burns) and mild infections. Chamomile can also be found in a variety of face creams, drinks, hair dyes, shampoos, and perfumes.

Most research on chamomile has been done with the closely related plant, German chamomile, which has similar, but not identical, active ingredients. Roman chamomile has not been used in studies of people as much as German chamomile, so claims about its use for specific health conditions are based on clinical experience and will have to be verified through future research. Nevertheless, Roman chamomile is an ingredient in many teas, ointments, and other types of medicinal preparations.

Traditionally, Roman chamomile has been used to treat nausea, vomiting, heartburn, and excess intestinal gas that can happen when feeling nervous. It is widely valued for its tension-relieving properties. As legend has it, Peter Rabbit's mother used Roman chamomile tea to calm him down after his adventures in Mr. MacGregor's garden. This herb may also reduce inflammation associated with cuts or hemorrhoids, and may ease the discomfort associated with conditions such as eczema and gingivitis (swollen gums). The traditional uses of Roman chamomile, again while not studied scientifically are quite similar to the uses for German chamomile.


Plant Description

Roman chamomile originates in northwestern Europe and Northern Ireland, where it creeps close to the ground and can reach up to one foot in height. Gray-green leaves grow from the stems, and the flowers have yellow centers surrounded by white petals, like miniature daisies. It differs from German chamomile in that its leaves are thicker and it grows closer to the ground. The flowers smell like apples.


What's It Made Of?

Chamomile teas, ointments, and extracts all start with the white and yellow flower head. The flower heads may be dried and used in teas or capsules or crushed and steamed to produce a blue oil, which has medicinal benefits. The oil contains ingredients that reduce swelling and may limit the growth of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.


Available Forms

Roman chamomile is available as dried flowers in bulk, tea, tinctures, and in creams and ointments.


How to Take It

Pediatric

There are no known scientific reports regarding the appropriate pediatric dose of Roman chamomile. For this reason, children should not take this herb.

Adult

Roman chamomile can be taken a number of ways. A cup of hot chamomile tea may help soothe an upset stomach or help those who suffer from insomnia. The oral dosages listed below should help relieve stomach discomfort; chamomile has also been used for reducing menstrual pain and the swelling of gums in the case of gingivitis. The ointment and bath recommendations are for skin conditions.

  • Tea: Pour one cup of boiling water over 1 heaping tablespoon of dried herb, steep 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Liquid extract (1:1, 70% alcohol) 20 to 120 drops, three times per day
  • Bath: Add two teabags or a few drops of Roman chamomile essential oil to a full tub of bathwater to soothe hemorrhoids or skin problems
  • Cream/Ointment: Apply cream or ointment containing 3% to 10% chamomile content

Precautions

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.

Chamomile is considered generally safe by the FDA. Roman chamomile contains an ingredient, anthemic acid, which can induce vomiting if taken in high doses. Highly concentrated tea may therefore cause vomiting.

Those who are allergic to ragweed or other plants in the Asteraceae family (including echinacea, feverfew, and chrysanthemums) should avoid chamomile. Allergic reactions are somewhat common, actually, and may include stomach cramps, tongue thickness, swollen lips and eyes (called angioedema), itching, hives, throat tightness, and even shortness of breath. The latter two symptoms are medical emergencies and medical care should be sought urgently.


Possible Interactions

If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use Roman chamomile without first talking to your healthcare provider.

Sedatives
Because of its calming effects, chamomile should not be taken in conjunction with sedative medications (particularly those that belong to a class called benzodiazepines such as alprazolam and lorazepam) or alcohol.

Warfarin
Patients taking blood-thinning medications such as warfarin should use Roman chamomile only under the careful supervision of a healthcare practitioner. Although not proven scientifically, this herb may, in theory, enhance the effects of the medication.


Supporting Research

Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Boston, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 1998:320-321.

Briggs CJ, Briggs GL. Herbal products in depression therapy. CPJ/RPC. November 1998;40-44.

Cauffield JS, Forbes HJM. Dietary supplements used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Lippincott's Primary Care Practice. 1999;3(3):290-304.

Ernst E, ed. The Desktop Guide to Complementary and Alternative Medicine: An Evidence-Based Approach. New York, NY: Mosby;2001:110-112.

Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal. New York, NY: The Haworth Herbal Press; 1999:105-108, 399.

Heck AM, DeWitt BA, Lukes AL. Potential interactions between alternative therapies and warfarin. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2000;57(13):1221-1227.

Leung A, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Wiley & Sons; 1996.

McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Products Associations's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, Fla: CRC Press; 1996:27.

Miller L. Herbal medicinals: selected clinical considerations focusing on known or potential drug-herb interactions. Arch Intern Med. 1998;158(20):2200-2211.

Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health Care Professionals. London, England: The Pharmaceutical Press; 1996:72-73.

O'Hara M, Kiefer D, Farrell K, Kemper K. A review of 12 commonly used medicinal herbs. Arch Fam Med. 1998:7(6):523-536.

Robbers JE, Tyler VE. Tyler's Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. New York, NY: The Haworth Herbal Press;1999:69-71.

Rotblatt M, Ziment I. Evidence-Based Herbal Medicine. Philadelphia, Penn:Hanley & Belfus, Inc. 2002:119-123.


Review Date: April 2002
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Steven Dentali, PhD (April 1999), Senior Director of Botanical Science, Rexall Sundown, Boca Raton, FL; Jacqueline A. Hart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, MA; Steven Ottariono, RPh, Veteran's Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH; David Winston, Herbalist (April 1999), Herbalist and Alchemist, Inc., Washington, NJ; Tom Wolfe, P.AHG (April 1999), Smile Herb Shop, College Park, MD. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team of experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine Works, Alexandria, VA;Enrico Liva, ND, RPh (August 2000), Vital Nutrients, Middletown, CT; Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; R. Lynn Shumake, PD (March 2000), Director, Alternative Medicine Apothecary, Blue Mountain Apothecary & Healing Arts, University of Maryland Medical Center, Glenwood, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Medicine, Honolulu, HI.

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

 
RELATED INFORMATION
  Uses of this Herb
Burns
Eczema
Hemorrhoids
Menstrual Pain
Stress
Wounds
  Herbs with Similar Uses
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  Drugs that Interact
Summary
Sedatives
Warfarin
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