German Chamomile Summary:

The common name chamomile, can suggest 2 separate species, German chamomile (Matricaria chamomila) or Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). These 2 species may be used similarly, and they even look quite similar. Their chemistry, however, is very different. German chamomile is the preferred species for conditions involving inflammation, arthritis, and digestive complaints. 

The flower of this herb is used, and the essential oil can be extracted and used in cosmetic applications successfully, or the flowers can simply be made into a tincture or tea. 

The flowers are useful for digestive disorders of all kinds, and are gentle enough to use on children. In fact, the essential oil is commonly used to alleviate the pain associated with teething in children.

Other uses includes the mild sedative and anxiolytic effects. They are a great addition to nightly tea to help fall asleep quicker, and enter a more restful, deeper sleep.


Botanical Name

Matricaria chamomila

Family

Asteracea
Former: Compositae

Part Used

Flowers, essential oil

Herbal actions

[8, 9, 13]

  • Anti Inflammatory
  • Anti-diarrhoea
  • Anti-secretory
  • Anti-spasmodic
  • Antiallergenic
  • Antiphlogistic
  • Antibacterial
  • Carminative
  • Diaphoretic
  • Mild astringent
  • Mild bitter
  • Mild sedative
  • Stomachic
  • Tonic
  • Vulnerary
  • Cholagogue [9]
  • Choleretic [9]
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Dosage

Liquid Extract (1:2)

3-6 mL/day

Recommended Source

Indications

[8, 9, 13]

Internally For:

  • GI spasms
  • IBS
  • Bloating
  • Infantile colic
  • Anxiety
  • Travel sickness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Restlessness
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Amenorrhea
  • Teething
  • Earache
  • Neuralgic pain
  • GI disturbances associated with nervous irritability
  • Insomnia

Topically for:

  • Eczema
  • Wounds
  • Boils
  • Burns
  • Bacterial skin infection

Common Names

  • Blue chamomile
  • Matricaria reutita
  • Hungarian Chamomile

Traditional Uses:

Traditionally, Matricaria chamomilla has been used to treat the common cold, bronchitis, gastrointestinal spasms, epilepsy, hypertension, neuralgia, toothache, dysmenorrhea, eczema, impetigo, indigestion, colic, rheumatism, flatulence, diarrhoea, and other digestive disturbances [5, 9]. Externally the flower heads were used to treat skin disorders [9]. 

Its use was referred to by individuals such as Hippocrates, Galen, and Asclepius and the entire plant including its arial parts, flowers, roots, and volatile oil have all been used medicinally [5]. In modern times, the flowers and volatile oils are generally preferred. 

Today, the herb is generally consumed as a tea internally, and its essential oil is mainly used in cosmetics [9]. 


    Botanical Description

    German chamomile is an low growing annual herb, with feathery leaves, and small daisy-like flowers growing on a single stem [9]. 


    Habitat Ecology, and Distribution

    German chamomile is native to central and northern Europe [9]. 

    It is cultivated on a large scale in Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Russia, Germany, Belgium, and Spain [9]. 


    Harvesting Collection, and Preparation

    The essential oil of german chamomile is obtained by steam distilling the dried flower heads. This essential oil is contained in the highest amounts in the flowers during the beginning of flowering [9]. 

    Drying the flowers at 40-45C is suggested to preserve the matricarin the most, and as such will result in the highest quality essential oil [9]. 


    Constituents:

    [1, 8, 13]

    • Flavonoids
    • Sesquiterpene lactones
    • Mucilage
    • Choline
    • Tannins
    • Polysaccharides
    • Fatty acids
    • Phenolic acids
    • Coumarins
    • Flavone glycosides (~8%)
    • Essential oil (Percentages of essential oil content) [1]
      • trans-beta-Farnesene (6.95%)
      • (z,z)-alpha-Farnesene (1%)
      • Germacrene B (0.25%)
      • beta-Pinene (0.22%)
      • 1,3,8-para-Menthatriene (0.27%)
      • alpha-Bisabolol oxide B (51.43%) (Major constituent)
      • alpha-Bisabolol (4.14%)
      • Chamazulene/azulene (17.69%) (Major constituent)
      • Limonene (3.3%)
      • En-in-dicycloether (10.84%)
      • Butanedioyldihydrazide (1.39%)
      • alpha-(1-Naphthyl)ethylamine (0.5%)
      • Hexadecane (0.23%)
      • Dotriacontane (0.75%)

    The essential oil of chamomile comes in 4 main chemotypes deoending on where it has grown [9]:

    Type C

    • alpha bisabalol (highest)
    • alpha bisabolol oxide B (second)
    • alpha bisabalol oxide A (lowest)

    Type D

    • alpha bisabolol oxide B (equal portion)
    • alpha bisabalol oxide A (equal portion)
    • alpha bisabalol (equal portion)

    Type A:

    • alpha bisabolol oxide B (highest)
    • alpha bisabalol oxide A (second)
    • alpha bisabalol (lowest)

    Type B

    •  alpha bisabalol oxide A (highest)
    • alpha bisabolol oxide B (second)
    • alpha bisabalol (lowest)

    Pharmacology and Medical Research:

     

    Antimicrobial

    Matricaria chamomilla has been shown to exhibit both antibacterial, and anti fungal actions in the past, however one recent study [1] found that it had very little antimicrobial action. They suggested that this was due to the low alpha-Bisabolol content in the essential oil (4.14%) as compared to other studies which have noted a significant antimicrobial (especially anti fungal) action which used samples with high alpha-bisabolol content (56.86%) [2].

    This leads to the suggestion that this chemical (alpha-Biasabolol) may be the significant antimicrobial constituent of Matricaria chamomilla, which appears to vary greatly depending on either location it was grown, time of the year it was picked, or a combination of both. 

     

    Antidiarrheal

    Matricaria chamomilla was found to possess antidiarrheal actions in mice, and was determined to be through K+ channel activation as well as through a weak Ca++ channel antagonism [5]. This mechanism of action on reducing spasmodic activity of the gut may provide evidence for its ability to treat other hyperactive disorders of the GIT such as colic as well. 

     

    Antinflammatory

    Pharmacological investigations have determined anti-inflammatory effects in Matricaria chamomila [6]. The essential oil specifically has also been shown to produce antinflammatory actions when applied topically as well [10, 11]. 

    It is generally accepted that the majority of the anti-inflammatory actions of German chamomile is due to the blue coloured constituent chamazulene. This chemical is formed during heat distillation from the chemical matricarin [9]. Another important anti-inflamatory constituent of German chamomile is alpha-bisabalol, especially for arthritis inflammation [12]. 

     

    Antispasmodic

    German chamomile was found to possess antispasmodic actions, mediated through K+ channel activation, and weak Ca++ antagonist effects [5]. This study has been supported by other pharmacological investigations of a similar species M. recutata as well [7]. 

     

    Effects on Sleep:

    Apigenin, contained in German chamomile, as well as other herbs from the Asteraceae family, have been found to possess anxiolytic actions in lab studies [3]. This flavonoid acts via the GABA receptor modulation, which is a common mechanism for many hypnotics as well [4]. 

     

    Toxicity

    Avoid using German chamomile with known allergies to Asteraceae family [13] 

     

    Cautions:

    German chamomile can reduce the absorption of iron (polyphenol content), therefore do not take with iron supplements. [13]


    Traditional Chinese Medicine:

    In TCM, German chamomile is considered to promote the free flow of Qi. This explains the ability for German chamomile to relax the nerves, relieve spasms, and reduce or ease general pain [9]. 


    Synergy:

    Possible synergy with lemon balm, liquorice, fennel, and vervain for infant colic.


    Author:

    Justin Cooke

    The Sunlight Experiment

    Updated: June 2017


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    References:

    1. Mekonnen, A., Yitayew, B., Tesema, A., & Taddese, S. (2016). In VitroAntimicrobial Activity of Essential Oil ofThymus schimperi,Matricaria chamomilla,Eucalyptus globulus, andRosmarinus officinalis. International Journal of Microbiology, 2016, 1-8. doi:10.1155/2016/9545693
    2. M. Tolouee, S. Alinezhad, R. Saberi et al., (2010). Effect of Matricaria chamomilla L. flower essential oil on the growth and ultrastructure of Aspergillus niger van Tieghem, International Journal of Food Microbiology, vol. 139, no. 3, pp. 127–133
    3. P. Zanoli, R. Avallone, and M. Baraldi, (2000). Behavioral characterisation of the flavonoids apigenin and chrysin,” Fitoterapia, vol.71, supplement 1, pp. S117–S123
    4. Yurcheshen, M., Seehuus, M., & Pigeon, W. (2015). Updates on Nutraceutical Sleep Therapeutics and Investigational Research. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015, 1-9. doi:10.1155/2015/105256
    5. Mehmood, M. H., Munir, S., Khalid, U. A., Asrar, M., & Gilani, A. H. (2015). Antidiarrhoeal, antisecretory and antispasmodic activities of Matricaria chamomilla are mediated predominantly through K+-channels activation. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 15(1). doi:10.1186/s12906-015-0595-6
    6. Mazokopakis EE, Vrentzos GE, Papadakis JA, Babalis DE, Ganotakis ES. (2005). Wild chamomile (Matricaria recutita L) mouthwashes in methotrexate-induced oral mucositis. Phytomedicine. 12:25–7.
    7. Maschi O, Cero ED, Galli GV, Caruso D, Bosisio E, Dell' Agli M. (2008). Inhibition of human cAMP-phosphodiesterase as a mechanism of the spasmolytic effect of Matricaria recutita L. J Agric Food Chem. 56:5015–20.
    8. A Modern Herbal. (1931). Chamomile (german). Retrieved from http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/c/chammo49.html
    9. Battaglia, S. (2003). The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy (2nd ed.). Brisbane, Australia: The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy. (Pg 179-180)
    10. Fleischer AM. (1985). Plant extracts: To accelerate healing and reduce inflammation. Cosmetic Toilet. 100. 147-153
    11. Maiche AG. (1991). Effect of chammomile cream and almond ointment on acute adiation skin reaction. Acta Oncol. 30(3). 395-396. 
    12. Jakovlev V, Isaac O, Theimer K, Kunde R. (1979). Pharmacological investigations with compounds of chamomile. New investigations on the antiphlogistic effects of (-)-a-bisabalol and bisabalol oxides. Planta medica. 35. 125-140
    13. Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: Herbal formulations for the individual patient. Edinburgh [u.a.: Churchill Livingstone. (Pg. 137-141).