Chamomile is among the most popular of all herbs and for good reason. It can be used for a wide variety of physical and emotional health issues from treating stomach complaints and skin infection to easing stress and anxiety.
Chamomile actually refers to a variety of plants in the Asteracae family. Two of these plants in particular are used for health purposes. German chamomile or Matricaria recutita and Roman chamomile or Chanaemelum nobile actually belong to differing species but are generally used to deal with similar health problems.
History of Chamomile
The use of chamomile as a medicinal herb dates back to ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt. Its popularity grew during the Middle Ages as people started to recognize its ability to treat a whole host of complaints including colic, fever, asthma, inflammation, skin diseases and nervous conditions.
Chamomile is such a popular and diverse remedy that it is often seen as the European version of China’s ginseng. Chamomile is native to much of western Europe but is also cultivated in Northern Africa and Eastern Europe. Different types of chamomile flourish under different conditions.
Roman chamomile for example is a perennial herb which grows near the ground while German chamomile is annual and blossoms several feet off the ground.
When it comes to flavor, German chamomile is the sweeter variety and makes for a delicious tea while the Roman variety is much more bitter.
The Active Ingredients in Chamomile
The reason that chamomile has such amazing healing properties comes from its flowers which possess several volatile oils including bisabolol oxides, bisabolol and matricin.
These small daisy like flowers also contain flavonoids one of which – apigenin confers numerous benefits. Its medicinal properties include anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antispasmodic and sedative actions.
How is Chamomile used?
Chamomile can be used in a variety of ways both internally and externally. It is most popularly made into a soothing tea or its blossoms are used to produce a popular essential oil with various excellent health benefits. Chamomile is also available in tincture form and is an ingredient in many topical creams.
The Health Benefits of Chamomile
1. Rich Source of Antioxidants
Chamomile is an excellent source of essential antioxidants that can help prevent cellular damage caused by infamous free radicals. The major antioxidant compounds in chamomile are terpenoids which are best when preserved in alcohol or in the form of essential oil.
Chamomile also contains a variety of flavonoids including quercetin, apigenin and patuletin.
These compounds fight damage done by free radicals and help to reduce inflammation. The antioxidants found in chamomile help your health in a variety of significant ways.
They can help improve immune function, reduce inflammation and pain, improve emotional wellbeing and stave off premature aging. They also help take care of your skin, teeth and hair.
2. Stress and Depression
Whether taken as a tea, tincture or used as an essential oil, chamomile is one of the very best herbs to help combat stress and anxiety and promote relaxation. Inhaling the vapors produced by its essential oil or adding a few drops to your bath can do wonders for your peace of mind.
In aromatherapy, chamomile is a popular choice to relieve many emotional problems including stress, depression, stress related headaches and insomnia. It works because its vapors travel directly to the brain which helps switch off tension and decreases the stress response.
Whether you choose to inhale it or use it as part of a massage oil, chamomile really does seem to have a calming effect on many people.
3. Digestive Complaints
Chamomile can help relax the digestive system and is used to treat numerous digestive complaints. These include indigestion, diarrhea, gas and bloating, vomiting and nausea. It can safely be used on children to deal with colic and other forms of digestive discomfort.
Chamomile possesses anodyne compounds with antispasmodic properties that help relieve cramping, constipation and similar stomach pain.
These benefits are thought to be related to the herbs natural relaxant effects. The brain communicates with the gut and when your mind is more relaxed, it can have a very beneficial effect on several digestive complaints such as leaky gut syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome.
In its tea form, it can be a great choice for pregnant women to ease their stomach and to potentially ease morning sickness.
4. Anti-inflammatory and Pain relief
You might have heard chamomile referred to as an herbal aspirin. That is because it has been a traditional home remedy for pain relief for many long years. You can use chamomile alone or combined with other natural anti-inflammatory food in order to reduce pain, swelling, redness and congestion.
Chamomile is an effective remedy for irritated skin, swelling in the face, toothache and pain that stems from other inflammatory complications. Because of its ability to relieve swelling, you will often see chamomile added to various cosmetic products, body lotions and even toothpaste.
Because of its ability to naturally relieve pain, it is popular with people suffering from back pain, arthritis, gout and headaches. It is even used to help new mothers overcome physical and emotional pain derived from childbirth.
If you are suffering from a headache or some sort of muscular pain, try drinking a few cups of chamomile tea a day or massaging its healing essential oil into your temples and sore muscles.
5. For Congestion
Chamomile can help ease the breathing difficulties that you experience when you are congested. It is often added as a natural ingredient in nasal sprays designed to relieve a build-up of mucus.
When you drink it in tea form, it can help eliminate those familiar symptoms of the cold or influenza while inhaling its vapors can have a similarly beneficial effect. Many people find that gargling chamomile tea or a gargle made with essential oil can ease inflammation in the sinuses, mouth and throat.
6. For the Skin
Not only does chamomile help you to deal with internal health and emotional problems but it can also help your external appearance. If your skin is swollen, red or inflamed then chamomile may be just the thing you need to help and don’t forget that it will be helping you safely and naturally.
Because it has such excellent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, you can use apply its essential oil or tea directly to your skin in order to preserve your youthful appearance or defeat a range of skin conditions.
For many years, chamomile has been used as a natural remedy for minor wounds, bruises, burns, canker sores and skin conditions like eczema but it an also be used to reduce signs of aging like wrinkles and blemishes.
7. For Oral health
If you are suffering from some sort of oral infection, then I know just how miserable it can be. Fortunately, there are many natural remedies that can help ease your pain and eliminate infection. Chamomile is one such excellent natural remedy.
You can simply gargle a chamomile tea or make your own gargle mixture with chamomile essential oil and water. Whichever way you choose will hopefully eradicate the infection and provide you with natural comfort.
8. Heart Health
Chamomile may well help protect your heart because it is such a rich source of flavonoids. Studies have demonstrated that the more flavonoids we consume, the less risk we have of developing heart diseases. There is certainly nothing to lose in adding a few cups of delicious chamomile tea to your diet each day.
9. Other Uses of Chamomile
We could go on forever extolling the virtues of this priceless herb so suffice to say that it is extremely good for you and I will add a few more uses that have not been written about in depth above. Chamomile’s other uses includes the treatment of hemorrhoids, eye infections, menstrual cramps and sunburn.