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.
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
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.
Roman chamomile is available as dried flowers in bulk, tea, tinctures, and in
creams and ointments.
How to Take It
There are no known scientific reports regarding the appropriate pediatric
dose of Roman chamomile. For this reason, children should not take this herb.
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
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
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.
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you
should not use Roman chamomile without first talking to your healthcare
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
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.
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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.
The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of
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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