Chamomile - German / Roman

Roman: Chamaemelum nobile syn Anthemis nobilis
German: Chamomilla recutita syn Matricaria chamomilla
Family: Compositae (Asteraceae)
ORIGIN OF THE NAME

The name ‘chamomile’ is derived from the Greek words kamai and melon, meaning ‘ground-apple’. The Spanish word for chamomile, manzanilla, also means ‘little apple’.

Roman Chamomile is also referred to as ‘Noble’, English’, ‘Common’, or True Chamomile.
German Chamomile is also known as Hungarian or Blue Chamomile due to its distinctive dark blue oil.

Chamomile

Other varieties include:

  • Moroccan/Wild Chamomile (Anthemis mixta ssp multicaulis) 
  • Cape Chamomile (Eriocephalus punctulatus) 
  • Double flowered Chamomile (Flore Pleno) 
  • Lawn Chamomile (Chamomile Treneague) 
  • Dyers/Yellow Chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria)
HISTORY

Chamomile has been used medicinally as far back as Ancient Egypt where it was dedicated to the sun god Ra.
Hippocrates used chamomile as a febrifuge and it was also used extensively by the Romans Disocorides and Galen.
The Middle Ages saw Chamomile cultivated as a domestic garden herb and in the Tudor period, it was used as an aromatic strewing herb to scent the home.
Avicenna said of chamomile, ‘By its coldness it assists in clearing excess heat from the organs, and by its warmth it helps in resolving gross substances’

THE PLANT

Roman/ True Chamomile is native to western and southern Europe, East Africa and the Middle East. It is cultivated in the United States, England, Belgium, France and Argentina.

German/Hungarian/Blue Chamomile
is native to Europe and northern Asia and is widespread on wasteland, farmland and in gardens. It is cultivated in Hungary, France, Eastern Europe and Egypt.

Roman Chamomile is a sweetly aromatic evergreen perennial growing to 30cm in height. It has a creeping rootstock and low growing hairy stems supporting finely-cut leaflets. The flowering head is 15-30mm wide comprises a yellow disc with white florets.
Flowers are borne singly on long erect stems and are a favourite with bees and butterflies. The plant flowers throughout the summer summer. The foliage is sweet smelling and it can be grown as a ground cover or lawn or even as a scented seat.

German Chamomile is in contrast, an annual, and in botanical terms, not a ‘true’ chamomile. Being an annual, it completes its life cycle from germination to flower then death in one growing season. The stems are 60cm tall, erect and glabrous (without hairs) and much branched bearing 2-3 pinnate thread-like segments.
The dense flower heads are white with a yellow conical centre and 12-24 mm in diameter with long supporting stalks. Flowers are borne from spring to early summer. German Chamomile is taller and less spreading than Roman Chamomile.

As all chamomiles are highly aromatic, they are not troubled by pests and diseases. They are also known as the physician’s plant as they assist ailing plants near them. Chamomile can be planted next to onions to repel flying insects and increase crop yield.
Cooled chamomile tea acts as a compost activator. It can also be sprayed onto seedlings to prevent damping off. Chamomile tea has long been used as a final hair rinse for fair hair.

There are four principle chemotypes of German Chamomile based on the comparative percentages of its constituents. Factors involved relate to the developmental stage of the plant eg whether the flowers were still developing, or in full bloom.

THE OIL

The flowering tops are used for steam distillation with a yield between 0.3% and 1% (Roman Chamomile) and up to 3% (German Chamomile)
Roman chamomile gives out a clear to pale yellow, sometimes with a hint of blue oi whilst the oil from the German chamomile is a deep blue which is due to the chamzulene content of the oil.

The odour profile is one of bittersweet herbaceous hay like notes with a warm and fruity overture. It would be used in perfumery primarily as a middle note. German chamomile has a stronger raw herbeceous note than its roman counter part.

A comparison between the chamomiles of their main chemical constituents shows:

  • Roman Chamomile : esters (75-80%) incl. Isobutyl angelate (3-37%); monoterpenes incl camphene (<1-6%); sesquiterpenes incl. Chamazulene (<1-4%); monoterpenols incl pinocarveol (<1-5%); ketones incl pinocarvone (<1-4%); numerous trace compounds. 
  • German Chamomile : oxides incl bisabolol oxide(33-55%), alcohols inclusing bisabolol (2-6%); terpenes including farnesene (27%) and chamazulene (2-5%); numerous trace elements.

There are four principle chemotypes of German Chamomile based on the comparative percentages of its constituents. Factors involved relate to the developmental stage of the plant eg whether the flowers were still developing, or in full bloom.

MEDICINAL PROPERTIES COMPARED

Roman Chamomile:
Anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, calmative, analgesic, anti-allergen, carminative, digestive stimulant, stomachic, anti-neuralgic, anti-rheumatic.

German Chamomile:
Anti-inflammatory, anti spasmodic, analgesic, calmative, carminative, cholagogic, choleretic, digestive stimulant, stomachic.

THERAPEUTICALLY

Chamomile blends well with bergamot, clary sage, mandarin, geranium, lavender, rose, sandalwood, ylang-ylang.

Energetically, the oil is classified as cool with neutral moisture. It is associated with the Wood Element (Liver) .

Chamomile regulates Liver-Qi and the Qi in general. It is effective in pain relief. It raises Qi to the head and relaxes the nerves and calms the Shen, Useful for irritability, restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, headache*, migraine, opthalmia and tinnitus. And for children, it is used for tantrums. (*Roman Chamomile would be the preferred option for headaches)

Its key actions are to regulate Qi in the Stomach and intestine, stimulates bile production and promotes digestion and bowel functions. It also restrains infection and can be used for dyspepsia, epigastic and abdominal distension or pain, nausea, travel or morning sickness, flatulence, constipation, spastic colon, colitis and irritable Chamomile regulates the Qi in the Uterus and harmonises menstruation as well as relieving pain so indicated for PMT and dysmenorrhoea.

As it clears Heat, it is of great benefit to the repair of skin tissue in cases of dermatitis, eczema and cracked nipples. (Here German Chamomile would have an anti-allergenic effect and also be suitable for pruritis, bruises and cuts).

Chamomile clears Heat from the nerves, and alleviates Bi (Painful Obstruction) and relieves pain. It is useful for muscular stiffness, cramping, aching, facial neuralgia, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Due to its anti-allergen properties. german chamomile is also useful to hay fever sufferers to alleviate the symptoms of allergic reactions due to pollens or dust.  In the same way, it may bring some relief to asthma sufferers.

PSYCHOLOGICALLY

The psychological effect of chamomile as it works on the solar plexus region is to relieve a build up of stress and tension. The solar plexus is the vital centre of our psychological needs and wants, the focus both of our urge to control and desire to nuture and our search for recognition and sense of self worth.

According to Gabriel Mojay ‘Chamomile eases the tension of excessive ego-desire and the frustration, resentment and depression that frequently follow. It helps us to let go of fixed expectations,calmly acknowledge our own limitations, and more readily accept the help and support that others can manage to give us. A more sunny disposition will always emerge. The bittersweet herbaceous nature helps relieve tension, ease frustration and helps pacify the anger of the wood element.

Chamomile prevents over control (repressing) and loosing control (exploding) and calms our habitual tendency to criticize both others and ourselves.

Kurt Schnaubelt and others recommend using Chamomile after a debilitating illness as a liver and gall bladder support.

Susanne Fischer-Rizzi recommends Chamomile ‘when you are feeling moody and grumpy, reach for some chamomile. Roman Chamomile is beneficial for people who are short tempered, self involved, overly sensitive or rarely satisfied’.

Julia Lawless suggests using chamomile on children as it calms on the emotional level when they are impatient, tense or disagreeable. In addition it helps those who are hyperactive, workaholic worriers who over think.

CAUTION

Non-toxic and non-irritant in prescribed doses. One of the safest oils and can be used on young children.

SUGGESTION FOR USE

An absolute must in your first aid box if you have children. Use with apricot as an after bath massage blend to calm before bed and help them sleep better.

Children
As Chamomile is a pain reliever the blend could be gently massaged onto the cheeks, jawline and tummy if your little one suffers with colic or teething. Chamomile works well on tantrums so make sure you have a bottle ready for the Terrible Twos!

In a 30 ml bottle of jojoba or apricot oil, add 2 drops roman chamomile, 2 petitgrain, 2 mandarin, 1 ylang ylang

PMT
Blend with St Johns Wort, geranium, marjoram and lavender for a lower belly rub before and during menstruation. Also apply to the lower back and the tops of the buttocks and try taking a hot water bottle to bed if you suffer from cramping or pain.

in a 50 ml bottle, mix 30 ml apricot or sunflower, 20 ml st john's wort add 4 drops roman chamomile, 3 drops marjoam, 3 drops clary sage, 4 drops lavender

Dry skin, eczema, psoriasis
Use with calendula, rosehip, pomegranate, jojoba and sea buckthorn for eczema or psoriasis.

In a 50 ml bottle, blend 20 ml calendula, 15 rosehip, 10 jojoba, 5 pomegranate, add 5 drops seabuckthorne, 10 drops german chamomile

Allergy / asthma
Make a blend using 10 drops German chamomile, 20 drops frankincense, 15 drops bergamot, 10 drops black spruce, 10 drops eucalyptus radiata.  Put a few drops on a tissue and inhale.  Make sure that the oil does not come int contact with the nose as it will dry up the skin and cause an irriataion.  Alternatively, put 10 drops in a small container with water over a candle burner.

A single drop mixed with honey and warm water before bed assists digestion and helps one get to sleep after a stressful day.

Add to lipbalms made with shea butter and beeswax.

References:
  • The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy by Salvatore Battaglia 
  • ITHMA Course Notes 
  • Jekka’s Complete Herb Book by Jekka McVicar 
  • Medical Aromatherapy by Kurt Schnaubelt 
  • Aromatherapy and the Mind by Julia Lawless 
  • Complete Aromatherapy Handbook by Susanne Fischer-Rizzi