in this article:
‘Alternative drink to milk, the first medicine of children’: this is the definition that is given to chamomile, or Matricaria Recutita, a plant par excellence that boasts spasmolytic (internal use) and soothing properties (for external use). Chamomile belongs to the Asteraceae family (Composite) and is currently widespread throughout Europe, America and Australia.
Popular uses of chamomile
Chamomile is a drug of great popular use: used as a mild sedative, it is considered a real medicinal plant. Already the Ancient Egyptians considered chamomile for pains in the limbs and neuralgia; they also attributed it to febrifugal properties and by some it was considered the panacea of all ills. In the Middle Ages chamomile was considered an excellent aid against tiredness, due to its tonic properties. It is said that Alexander the Great also used chamomile for its notable properties, and it was he who introduced this plant to the West. If once it was used for its ability to appease anxiety, to calm pain and facilitate sweating in case of fever, in this article we will try to clarify whether all these properties attributed to chamomile have a foundation.
First of all, it should be remembered that chamomile is characterized by hydrophilic and lipophilic constituents, and that for each of these categories different typical properties are recognized. Among the hydrophilic components we recall the flavonoids, the glycosylated coumarins and the phenolic acids which, extracted with aqueous solvent, give the extract spasmolytic, sedative and antioxidant properties. In particular, the aniolytic property is due to the presence of a flavonoidic molecule called apigenin 7-glucoside.
The other class of active ingredients, soluble in oil, is represented by terpenes (low molecular weight molecules, including monoterpenes and ethereal cyclic sesquiterpenes), coumarins and azulenes (camazulenes and bisabolol, extracted above all from the flower heads), which attribute to extract a typical blue color: these constituents contribute to the formation of an essential oil that boasts antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties.
So from this distinction we can understand that the infused chamomile has no soothing properties, since water is not the solvent suitable for extracting substances such as azulenes; by infusion of dried flower heads, however, all those constituents that are similar to the hydrophilic solvent that characterize the drug with sedative properties will be obtained.
In this regard, however, scholars remain debated: if it is known the popular use of chamomile as a mild sedative, to combat insomnia and anxiety, recent studies have highlighted other factors: despite Chamomile are not attributed toxic effects, its abuse would determine not only the opposite effect (insomnia), but also nausea. Apigenin 7-glucoside, on the other hand, seems to have positive effects on the anxiolytic effects, because it has a competitive link with the benzodiazepine receptors (sedative anxiolytic drugs).
Chamomile in phytotherapy
The properties of chamomile are also used to relieve stomatitis, dermatitis and mucosal diseases; it is also used in gynecological disorders such as dysmenorrhea and inflammation. It is also used in cosmetics as a lightening for hair, to make the chestnut hair lighter and the blonde hair lighter.
Tradition teaches that chamomile has been always recognized for its tranquilizing, sedative and decongestant, chamomile hides other notes very specific: for example, was once a habit of putting chamomile flowers over bread smeared of garlic to make it more digestible. Chamomile was also applied topically on the eye, in the form of infusion in the treatment of conjunctivitis, to exploit its soothing properties.
Chamomile: method of use, dosages, formulations and use in herbal teas
In modern phytotherapy, Chamomile is used in the form of titrated dry extracts, herbal teas, infusions, fluid extracts, decoctions, powders, fresh juice and mother tincture. The relative recommended intake doses are equal to: 3 grams of flower heads per cup of boiling water (infused), 3-10 grams of flower heads per 100 ml of boiling water (infused for external use), 50 grams of chamomile flowers in 10 liters of water (baths), infused with 3% for eye drops, 20% infusion as a lightening shampoo for brown hair and to make the blond ones shine, 1-5 grams of fluid extract (1g = 42 drops), 30 drops of chamomile mother tincture two to three times a day.
Chamomile does not present particular contraindications and with the due attentions it can be taken also in pregnancy and lactation. The use of chamomile in herbal teas finds room for its antispasmodic, sedative, anti-inflammatory, cicatrizing, ulceroprotective, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, emollient, anti-reddening, lightening and protective properties. Essential oil is not a preparation suitable for anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and gastroprotective purposes. The dried extract of chamomile flower heads is particularly recommended for gastritis. Chamomile is also used in cosmetology as an anti-inflammatory and soothing.
Traditional herbal preparations such as teas, infusions, juices and decoctions, do not allow to establish exactly the quantity of active ingredients administered to the patient, which increases the risk of therapeutic failure. In fact, in an infusion, the quantities of active ingredients extracted can be excessive or more commonly insufficient, in addition to the risk of extracting undesired components. For example, while a hot short infusion of chamomile caplets is useful for reconciling sleep (sedative action), a prolonged hot infusion (several minutes) can aggravate insomnia due to its stimulating effect. Below are some examples of popular herbal teas that contain chamomile flower heads.
Chamomile tea against insomnia
Herbal tea to facilitate sleep
Herbal tea for dysmenorrhea
Emmenagogue herbal tea with chamomile
Mouthwash and stomatitis mouthwash
Digestive herbal tea with chamomile
Digestive herbal tea with anise
Herbal tea for gastritis
This herbal tea has been formulated to treat anxious syndromes and forms of nervousness. The most abundant drug is the top of the flower, which contains an essential oil, azulene, a sedative of the Central Nervous System, and a dicyclic ether that has an antispasmodic action on the digestive system. Chamomile also has healing and emmenagog action.
Hawthorn instead associates with the sedative action on S.N.C. the cardiovascular one for which it is particularly useful in palpitations. It acts on cardiac innervation by diminishing the effects of the sympathetic system and enhancing the vagus that decreases muscle tone and reduces the number of contractions resulting in a regularization of heart beats. Overall there is an anti-arrhythmic action. Furthermore, hawthorn, acting on vessel innervation, causes a coronary and peripheral dilatation which makes it useful to compensate for the hypertension present in anxious states. Its action is mainly due to a flavonoid (biflavanoid) and to some sterols and triterpenes. Hawthorn does not cause accumulation phenomena so it can be used for a long time.
Lime also has a mild sedative action on S. N. C. and antispasmodic, due to a flavonic glycoside and a sesquiterpenic alcohol, farnesol. It also has an emollient decongestant mucosal and diuretic action. Orange blossoms contribute to the sedative and antispasmodic action but are used in this herbal tea for their flavoring properties.
This herbal tea is particularly indicated for treating nervous conditions complicated by heart palpitations, states of anxiety, excitement due to physical and intellectual surmenage, insomnia, disturbances of the heart rhythm. Its use is quite safe and therefore should be encouraged in milder disorders instead of synthetic anxiolytic drugs which in the long run may give rise to intolerance and addiction.
Common chamomile extract: characteristics
The common chamomile extract is obtained from the flower heads of Chamomilla recutita, a plant belonging to the Asteraceae family. It comes in the form of powder. It is mainly composed of flavonoids such as apigenin, luteolin, quercetin, rutin and their glycosides, responsible for the marked anti-reddening, soothing and decongestant properties of the extract. Chamomilla Recutita extract stimulates the functionality of the microcirculation and the activity of fibroblasts with the promotion of the synthesis of collagen, elastic fibers and hyaluronic acid, thus favoring the repair of the epidermis and the dermis.
Chamomilla recutita extract is used for the preparation of a large variety of cosmetic products intended for the treatment of sensitive, cupero-sensitive, sensitive skin. es in products after sun, after beard, creams and soothing pastes. The extract is also used in the products for the cleansing and care of the scalp due to its ability to give light, light brown and golden highlights to the blonde and brown hair. It does not present particular contraindications to the normal concentrations of use, except that linked to the variations of the organoleptic characteristics of the finished product.
Chamomile essential oil
Chamomile: Matricaria recutita, Composite family. The drug is made up of flower heads, which have an envelope made up of green bracts, a receptacle and yellow tube flowers, surrounded by white ligulate flowers. There are two distinct varieties:
- Roman chamomile: larger flower heads with hollow receptacle and more ligulate flowers.
- Common chamomile: smaller flower heads with non-receptacle receptacle.
In both cases the drug can be used fresh – to obtain the essential oil – or dried, for the preparation of teas and infusions. Once again the essential oil is rich in mono and sesquiterpenic compounds, in particular among the latter we remember the azulenes, which give it a bluish color. The main monoterpene is bisabolol, found in cosmetic formulations intended for infancy for its anti-inflammatory and soothing properties.
In chamomile, as a proper drug, there are also flavonoids, such as apigenin 7 glucoside and derivatives, which give Chamomile in the form of infused particular functional properties. The affinity of flavonoids for benzodiazepine receptors seems to be established, hence the anxiolytic and sedative properties. Chamomile drug is also used in therapies for the treatment of gastric mucosal irritations, being a good anti-inflammatory and spasmolytic.
- Cyclic sesquiterpenes 25-50%: alpha-bisabol oxides A, B, C, bisabolon oxide A
- Camazulene (1,4-dimethyl-7-ethylazulene, minimum content 0.035%)
- Matricina or proazulene, sesquiterpene lactone precursor of camazulene
- Spiroethers (0.03%)
- Terpenes: farnesene, cadinene, spatulenol, pinene, 1,8-cineole.
- Cumarins: hernierina and umbelliferone
- Hydrophilic constituents in the drug: Flavonoids (0.15%): apigenin, luteolin, patuletin, quercetin, rutin, hyperoside and apogene monoglycoside
- Mucilages up to 10%,
The chemical composition of chamomile
Chamomile constituents can be distinguished between lipophilic and hydrophilic ones. The former are prevalent in the essential oil (yield of 0.3-1.5%), in chamomile: a true natural richness 27 which terpene, in particular the ethereal cyclic sesquiterpenes (25-50%), spiro ethereal (pollen), cumatine, esters and azulenes. The drug is also made up of germacranolides (nobiline and derivatives, 0.6%) to which the drug owes its bitter taste, together with polyenes (dehydromatricaria ester and polyphenols). The essential oil of chamomile is dark blue more or less opaque.
The smell is characteristic and penetrating and the taste bitter. In addition, the flowers contain caffeic acid and its derivatives, flavonoids, curamine and catechols. An essential oil of different constitution is extracted from the common chamomile with a high percentage of esters (60-85%), including isobutyl angelate (30-40%) and isoamylangelate (15-20%). The essential oil is used only in the production of high quality perfumes due to its warming characteristics. It is also used in liquor for the preparation of Benedictine liqueurs.
The results of some pharmacological research analyzes on the activity of chamomile are reported, highlighting the belief that medicinal plants carry out their action in a complex and not easily classifiable way with analytical categories and that they should be used in their entirety.
Because of its many remarkable properties, it is a plant widely used in the pharmaceutical, food, liquor, cosmetic and herbal industries, and the decoctions prepared with its flower heads. For its principles and constituents it is used in various fields from the pharmacological field, to the alimentary, liquoristic, cosmetic and herbal fields.
For the cosmetic industry, chamomile is a treasure of inestimable value: thanks to its soothing, emollient, protective and purifying action, it is used as an active ingredient in the most varied cosmetic products, but particularly in creams for sensitive, sensitive skin. in creams that act as a shield against atmospheric agents, in products affected by couperose skin and in specific products for children’s skin.
The proven use of this natural remedy for centuries is attributed to its multiple actions. It has recently been demonstrated the presence of some flavonoids which may have a benzodiazepine effect, with anti-convulsion, anxiolytic and moderately hypnogenic effects because they would be able to bind to benzodiazepine receptors. We speak of a natural flavonoid, apigenin, an aglycone of numerous natural glycosides. It is the main flavone of chamomile, it is the fundamental natural water soluble active substance of this plant, which can be found in its three forms: free apigenin, apigenin-7-0-glucoside and apigenin-6-7-0-acetylglucoside.
In general, apigenin is a bioflavone that has a bioactive effect on organisms capable of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, promotes the metabolism of sugars, modulator of the immune system. Apigenin is a potent inhibitor of the cytochrome P450 isoform CYP2C9, an enzyme responsible for the metabolism of many pharmaceutical drugs in the body.
Furthermore, apigenin proved to be a powerful modulator of the activities of some enzymes: the 5′-nucleotidase, the pleiotropic endogenous modulator; aromatase, the human enzyme responsible for the synthesis of estrogens; inhibits the action of phosphatase A2, the enzyme that splits the lipids of cell membranes and generates prostaglandins; inhibits some protein kinases involved in cell proliferation and in the genesis of some neoplasms; together with caempferol, it performs a target action of ACE inhibitors used in arterial therapies.
Flavoring and bittering
Chamomile in cosmetics for skin and hair
In cosmetics it represents a treasure of inestimable value. It is mainly used for sensitive and delicate skin like those of newborns or children for its lenitive, emollient, protective and purifying action.
With the term ‘chamomile’ we generally refer to two different types of plants: chamomile Matricaria and Roman chamomile. Chamomile Matricaria or Matricaria recutita is known as ‘common chamomile’ or ‘German chamomile’. This type of chamomile is an annual plant, of medium height (about 1 meter) native to Europe and Asia. Roman chamomile or Anthemis nobilis (Roman chamomile) is on the contrary a perennial plant, of a height equal to half a meter, also native to Europe and Asia. Although the properties of the two plants do not differ much from each other, Roman chamomile is preferred for the extraction of essential oils.
Chamomile is a real product of beauty, just think that the water of its decoction, added to that of the bath, has a relaxing effect, and is also an excellent soothing to use as a compress on the skin when it is irritated or on the eyes if they are tired or red. Precisely these excellent properties attributed to chamomile ritencalmanti consider it the main raw material used in cosmetics.
In fact, the use of chamomile preparations in topical applications brings out exceptional dermatological properties mainly linked to the soothing, emollient, antimicrobial power of the drug and to the marked anti-reddening and soothing properties of its extracts as well as their excellent skin tolerance characteristics. Chamomile extracts found in dermocosmetics a vast and practical interest without dose limits, especially in products for children and in products for particularly delicate and sensitive skin.
They are abundantly used in the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases (eczema, rashes, skin diseases) and mouth cavity, oropharynx and to combat the symptoms caused by insect bites and sunburn. Soothing properties are exploited in many products indicated for very sensitive skin and marked by couperose and in delicate products for children.
The flavonoids derived from apigenin and luteolin, especially abundant in the lyophilized extract, are among the main responsible for the effective decongestant activity of the plant: in experimental models of dermatitis they have shown a significant anti-inflammatory efficacy, while apigenin in particular inhibits dose-dependent mode dermatitis caused by subcutaneous injection of free radicals, showing an interesting ability to protect the skin from the harmful effects of solar radiation.
Finally, recent studies show that the flavonoids of chamomile not only act on the surface of the skin, but after the topical application penetrate well through the stratum corneum until reaching the deeper layers of the skin. In addition the flavonoids of chamomile are used in hair products. In adequate concentration, if inserted into the shampoo and after-shampoo formulations, they give shine and golden reflections to light blond and brown hair. The essential oil components, especially alpha-bisabolol and camazulene, contribute significantly to the decongestant activity of chamomile.
Camazulene in particular exerts a marked anti-radical activity, which in synergy with that of flavonoids could contribute to the effective antioxidant activity observed following the local application of drug extract preparations. Chamomile favors the repair of the epidermis and the dermis, stimulating the cutaneous microcirculation and the activity of the fibroblasts with the promotion of the synthesis of collagen, elastic fibers and hyaluronic acid. In addition, chamomile extracts inhibit the activity of the enzyme hyaluronidase, slowing down the destruction of the fundamental substance of the dermis.
Roman chamomile in herbal medicine: property of roman chamomile
Roman chamomile should not be confused with the common chamomile, given the quite different properties. Roman chamomile is attributed aperitifs and digestive properties. The flower of Roman chamomile (Official Pharmacopoeia), in fact, is used in infusions to be taken half an hour before meals in the case of chronic gastritis with atony and postprandial heaviness. Roman chamomile extracts are also used elective in cosmetic products dedicated to the treatment of delicate and sensitive skin.
As mentioned, Roman chamomile has bitter-tonic, stomachic, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory. The bitter-tonic and stomachic activities are ascribable to bitter substances contained in the same plant; while the antispasmodic and antiphlogistic activities are attributable to polyphenols. The essential oil obtained from Roman chamomile flower heads, moreover, is endowed with antibacterial and antifungal properties, practiced above all towards Gram-positive bacteria and against dermatomycetes. In addition, Roman chamomile is also able to act at the level of the central nervous system inducing sedation. In fact, some studies have shown that the use of this plant is able to reduce aggressive behavior in animals. However, despite this, the use of Roman chamomile did not obtain official approval for any kind of therapeutic indication.
In folk medicine, Roman chamomile finds uses for the treatment of spasms and gastrointestinal swelling, feeling of fullness, menstrual disorders and states of agitation. In addition, traditional medicine uses Roman chamomile as an external remedy for inflammation of the oral cavity and throat, toothache, earache, headaches and rhinitis. Roman chamomile is also widely used in the homeopathic field, where it can be found in the form of granules and mother tincture. Homeopathic medicine uses this plant in case of digestive disorders, epigastric swelling, belching, flatulence and asthma.
The amount of homeopathic remedy to be taken can vary from individual to individual, also depending on the type of disorder that needs to be treated and depending on the type of preparation and homeopathic dilution that is intended to be used.
The applications of Roman chamomile for the treatment of the aforesaid disorders are neither approved nor supported by the appropriate experimental tests, or they have not passed them. For this reason, they could be without therapeutic efficacy or even harmful to health.
Pharmacological interactions of Roman chamomile are observed with peptic drugs; NSAIDs; potentially gastropositive drugs.
Chamomile is applied in folk medicine for internal use for its properties: antispasmodic, sedative, anti-inflammatory, cicatrizing, ulceroprotective and antibacterial, while for external use has properties: anti-inflammatory, emollient, anti-reddening, lightening and protective.
Chamomile is therefore used for internal use in the treatment of dyspepsia, headache, insomnia, dysmenorrhea and menopausal disorders. For external use, chamomile is indicated for eczema, inflammation of the skin, dermatosis, conjunctivitis, varicose ulcers and wounds. The parts of the plant used in phytotherapy are the flowering tops (flower heads). The main active ingredients are: camazulene, alpha-bisabolol, matricine, apigenin, luteolin, rutin, coumarins (umbelliferone and herniarin) and spiroethers.
Chamomile: how to grow it on the balcony and recipes to use it
Chamomile can be grown on the balcony or inside your home, using a normal vase, preferably in terracotta. It is a herbaceous plant belonging to the Asteraceae family and available in two varieties: the common (Matricaria camomilla) and Roman (Anthemis nobile), both are very similar and can be grown throughout Italy both in pots and on the ground.
We will tell you about Roman chamomile which among other things is the one richest in essential oils. Roman chamomile has stems of 10 – 30 cm and pinnate leaves of about 5 cm; the inflorescences, flower heads, have central yellow flowers and white peripheral flowers.
Towards the end of spring, early summer, when the flower heads are ‘more balsamic’ and are not yet well hatched, you can start the harvest before they start to fade. Choose non-rainy days and preferably in the evening, when the plants are dry and dew-free so as not to affect subsequent drying. Chamomile flower heads should be placed to dry in the shade on large trimmed mats, in order to separate any dust or other corpuscles from the flower heads. Turn them at least a couple of times a day to facilitate drying.
Afterwards, you can keep your chamomile in well-closed dark glass jars paying attention to the molds that could form in the first days. Following these simple tips, you can have at your disposal chamomile, which will brighten up the environment with its pretty and fragrant little flowers and will allow you to take advantage of all its beneficial properties. In fact, you can use your chamomile not only to prepare excellent relaxing and organic teas, but also to prepare aromatic and digestive infusions, a mouthwash for stomatitis and mouth ulcers and to beautify your hair.
Prepare an infusion with 15 g of flowers in half a liter of boiling water. After 20 minutes, filter everything and use the yellow infused for the last rinse of blonde hair. Washing after washing, will give you golden, shiny reflections and a delicate scent. So what are you waiting for to start your home production? We assure you that it will give you great satisfaction!
Chamomile as a drug: harvesting and preparation
The harvesting of the flower heads is carried out in July morning and must be immediately dried to avoid losing its active ingredients. The natural drying takes place in dryers where the fresh flowers are placed in thin and thin layers.
The drying environment must be well ventilated and in the shade because direct solar irradiation, especially when there is a very high humidity, involves significant losses of essential oil. The duration of natural drying is typically 5-6 days. Artificial drying takes place with the use of horizontal dryers or vertical moving drawers, at a temperature between 35-40 ° C for a duration of 6-8 hours. According to the area from which they come, fresh flowers give 18-25% of the drug, and from the fresh plant you get 20-25% of dry material.
The drug can have a maximum moisture content of 10% even if the ideal would be 7%, and should be stored in dry and ventilated at a temperature
The name chamomile derives from a Greek word that means dwarf apple because the smell recalls that of ranette apples; Matricaria – from the Latin matrix, which means uterus – for its emmenagogical properties.
In pediatrics it is the first medicine that can be used as an alternative to milk. For the record, one kilo of dried flower heads corresponds to 50-80,000 fresh flower heads. It is subject to many sophistications with other species of Matricaria or Anthemis; chamomile flowers of daisy are often added to the sieved chamomile. The ‘Hungarian chamomile’ is of inferior quality but more beautiful to behold.