Chamomile, a member of the daisy family, is native to Europe and western
Asia. Matricaria recutita is widely distributed in the tropics and subtropics.
German chamomile is the most commonly used. It grows freely everywhere. Chamomile
is one of the most widely used and well-documented medicinal plants in the world.
It is included in the pharmacopoeia of 26 countries (Salamon,
German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum
nobile) are the two major types of chamomile used for health conditions
and both are form compositae family. They are believed to have similar effects
on the body, although German chamomile may be slightly stronger. Most research
has used German chamomile, which is more commonly used everywhere except for
England, where Roman chamomile is more common. German chamomile is considered
the more potent of the two, has received more scientific evaluation, and is
more widely cultivated than Roman chamomile, it is believed to possess anti-inflammatory,
vulnerary, deodorant, bacteriostatic, antimicrobial, anticatarrhal, carminative,
sedative, antiseptic and spasmolytic properties (Newall et
al., 1996a; Blumenthal, 1998). Roman chamomile
is believed to possess carminative, antiemetic, antispasmodic and sedative properties.
Chamomile is widely used throughout the world. Its primary uses are as a sedative,
anxiolytic and antispasmodic and as a treatment for mild skin irritation and
inflammation. Chamomiles main active constituents are chamazulene, apigenin
and bisabolol. Despite its widespread use as a home remedy, relatively few trials
have evaluated chamomiles many purported benefits. Randomized controlled
studies have shown conflicting results for the treatment of dermatologic and
mucosal irritations including eczema and mucositis. Animal trials suggest efficacy
as a sedative, anxiolytic and antispasmodic, but clinical studies in humans
are needed. Chamomile is generally safe for consumption. Although patients with
hypersensitivity to ragweed and other family members of the Compositae family
should use caution (Salamon, 1992a).
Chamomile is also extensively consumed as a tea or tonic. It is used internally
to treat anxiety, hysteria, nightmares, insomnia and other sleep problems, convulsions
and even delirium tremens (Chamomile, 1993). Chamomiles
essential oil is also a treatment for malaria and parasitic worm infections,
cystitis, colds and flu (Nemecz, 1998; Anonymous,
The use of chamomile as a medicinal plant dates back to ancient Greece and
Rome. The name chamomile comes from two Greek words meaning ground
apple for its apple-like smell. The ancient Egyptians considered the herb
a sacred gift from the sun god and used it to alleviate fever and sun stroke.
In the sixth century, it was used to treat insomnia, back pain, neuralgia, rheumatism,
skin conditions, indigestion, flatulence, headaches and gout. In Europe it is
considered a cure all and in Germany it is referred to as alles
zutraut, meaning capable of anything (Berry, 1995).
M. recutita: The annual form of chamomile is also called German
chamomile. It grows to 20 inches and has feathery foliage with daisy-like flowers
like its cousin. The flowers are scented, but the foliage is not. Roman chamomile
is an aromatic creeping perennial which grows only one foot in height. The flower
heads are one inch in diameter, with a broad conical disk that is covered in
yellow florets surrounded by white florets. It has many freely branching hairy
stems and finely divided leaves.
C. nobile: This perennial is also known as Roman chamomile. It can be used as a ground cover since it grows only 4 to 12 inches in height. The foliage is feathery with an apple scent and it is accented by white, daisy-like flowers with down-turned petals. German chamomile is an apple-pineapple scented, smooth, branched annual, which grows two to three feet tall. Its flower head is one inch in diameter and has a hollow conical center covered with tiny yellow florets surrounded by silver-white to cream colored florets. It has erect branching with finely divided leaves.
||Terpenoids: α-bisabolol, α-bisabolol oxide
A and B, chamazulene, sesquiterpenes
||Flavonoids: Apigenin, luteolin, quercetin
||Spiroethers: En-yn dicycloether
||Other constituents: Anthemic acid, choline, tannin, polysaccharides
(Newall et al., 1996b).
||Terpenoids: Chamazulene, bisabolol
||Flavonoids: Apigenin, luteolin, quercetin
||Other constituents: Angelic and tiglic acid esters, anthemic acid,
choline, phenolic and fatty Acids
Chamomiles essential oil comprises 0.5% to 1.5% of the flower head. One
hundred Twenty chemical constituents have been identified in chamomile, including
terpenoids, flavonoids and coumarins (Salamon, 1992b).
The essential oil of both German and Roman chamomile is a light blue color due
to the terpenoid chamazulene. Chamazulene is an artifact formed during heating
and comprises about 5% of the essential oil (Anonymous,
Antispasmodic activity: An alcoholic extracts of German chamomile inhibited
acetylcholine- and histamine-induced spasms. Essential oil of chamomile was
comparable to papaverine in reducing isolated guinea pig ileum spasm. Apigenin
and bisabolol have dose-dependent spasmolytic effects on isolated guinea pig
ileum (Achterrath-Tuckermann et al., 1980).
Antiulcer activity: In rats, chamomile flowers and bisabolol inhibited
stomach ulcers caused by stressful stimuli, alcohol and indomethacin (Mann
and Staba 1986; Szelenyi et al., 1979).
Healing times for ulcers induced by chemical stress or heat coagulation were
reduced by α-bisabolol. Extracts of the flowers of German chamomile had
an inhibitory effect on gastric acid secretion (Tamasdan
et al., 1981).
Anxiolytic and sedative activity: Chamomile extracts significantly reduced
locomotor activity in rats (Avallone et al., 1996).
In ovariectomized rats, inhaling chamomile oil vapor decreased the stress-induced
increase of plasma ACTH. The plasma ACTH level decreased further when diazepam
was administered along with the chamomile oil vapor. A benzodiazepine antagonist,
flumazenil, blocked the decrease in plasma ACTH caused by inhalation of chamomile
(Yamada et al., 1996).
Uterine tonic activity: An aqueous extract of chamomile enhanced guinea pig and rabbit uterine tone.
Anti inflammatory and antiallergic activity: The anti-inflammatory effects
of chamomile are well documented in animals. Bisabolol reduced inflammation,
fever and adjuvant arthritis in animal studies. Bisabolol was also an antipyretic
in yeast-induced fever in rats. Apigenin has demonstrated anti inflammatory
properties in animal studies. It demonstrated potent anti-inflammatory activity
in carrageenan-induced rat paw edema and delayed type hypersensitivity in mice
(Gerritsen et al., 1995; Isaac,
1979; Jakovlev et al., 1979; Ammon
et al., 1996).
Antimicrobial: Antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral activity: The antibacterial
and antiviral effects of chamomile have been well documented (Aggag
and Yousef, 1972). An ethanolic extract of German chamomile inhibited the
growth of Herpes and Poliovirus (Suganda et al.,
1983). Compounds in the essential oil of chamomile were effective against
Staphylococcus and Candida. Chamomiles essential oil components,
α-bisabolol had the strongest activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative
bacteria. Chamazulene also had strong antimicrobial activity. Spiroethers had
weak activity against Gram-positive bacteria but were inactive against Gram-negative
bacteria (Kedzia, 1991). German chamomile esters and
lactones showed activity against Mycobacterium tuberculosis and
M. avium (Lu et al., 1998). Chamazulene,
α-bisabolol, flavonoids and umbelliferone displayed antifungal properties
against Trichophyton mentagrophytes, T. rubrumand Candida albicans
(Kedzia, 1991; Szalontai
et al., 1976, 1977; Ahmed
et al., 1994).
The multiple benefits of Matricaria recutita made it a true miracle
of nature. Numerous studies have been conducted on different parts of Matricaria
recutita but, this plant has not yet developed as a drug by pharmaceutical
industries. A detailed and systematic study is required for identification,
cataloguing and documentation of plants, which may provide a meaningful way
for the promotion of the traditional knowledge of the herbal medicinal plants.
In view of the nature of the plant, more research work can be done on humans
so that a drug with multifarious effects will be available in the future market.
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