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Chamomile: Herbal Remedies

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Chamomile is a calming herbal remedy for upset stomach, cramps and the stomach flu.

Peter Rabbit's mother gave him chamomile tea when he was feeling ill, and maybe your mother brewed you a cup of this soothing herbal remedy to help ease your tummy troubles too. Chamomile is, indeed, an excellent choice for stomachaches.

Several different plants are called chamomile but not all belong to the Matricaria genus. English or Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile, formerly called Anthemis nobilis), for example, is a different species, yet it shares many of German chamomile's chemical constituents and, therefore, many of its actions. Though they may have very different Latin names, if the plants have the same taste, color, and aroma as Matricaria chamomilla, they likely have a similar action.

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Uses of Chamomile

The genus Matricaria is derived from the Latin matrix, meaning "womb," most likely because chamomile is widely used to treat such gynecologic complaints as menstrual cramps and sleep disorders related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Chamomile has been found to contain fairly strong antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory constituents and is particularly effective in treating stomach and intestinal cramps.

Chamomile, or more specifically, typically the tops gathered in the early stages of flowering, reduces cramping and spastic pain in the bowels and also relieves excessive gas and bloating in the intestines. It is often used to relieve irritable bowel syndrome, nausea, and gastroenteritis (what we usually call stomach flu). Chamomile is also an excellent calming agent, well suited for irritable babies and restless children. Moreover, most children tolerate its taste.

Chamomile also can help a child fall asleep. Chamomile is calming to adults as well, but don't hesitate to sip it throughout the day -- its relaxing effects do not interfere with activities such as driving a car or completing difficult tasks, as is the case with prescription sedatives. Chamomile is an ideal choice for those with ulcers or other stomach problems aggravated by anxiety. Muscle pain that results from stress and worry is another indication for chamomile. Twitching and tics in muscles may respond to chamomile tea or other chamomile medications.

Chamomile is valued as an antimicrobial agent. A German study found that the herb inactivates bacterial toxins. Small quantities of chamomile oil inhibit staphylococcal and streptococcal strains of bacteria. You can drink chamomile tea combined with other antimicrobials, such as thyme, echinacea, and goldenseal, for internal infections. You can use chamomile topically, too, to treat infections and inflammations.

In the next section, you will learn how to prepare chamomile for herbal remedies and some of the potentially dangerous side effects.

To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.

Like all herbs, there are some precautions you should take before using chamomile medicinally.

Chamomile Preparations and Doseage

Although the plant contains not a hint of blue, chamomile contains a potent volatile oil that is a brilliant blue when isolated. This oil, called chamazulene (after its dark azure color), has strong anti-inflammatory actions. Apply a preparation made from its volatile oil to skin infections, or apply cloths soaked in strong chamomile tea to eczema patches and other inflamed skin surfaces.

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Small children with eczema, bug bites, or diaper rash may take a bath of warm chamomile and oatmeal: Put 4 tablespoons chamomile flowers and 1/2 cup oatmeal in a "knee-high" stocking, and tie the open end of the stocking with a rubber band. Place this herb-filled stocking under the spigot as you fill the tub. Let your children play in the bath as usual; the chamomile and oats will decrease their itch significantly. Remember to remove the herb-filled stocking before letting the water down the drain.

To make a simple serving of chamomile tea, steep 1 tablespoon of chamomile flowers per cup of water for 15 minutes. Drink 1/2 cup up to five times a day for digestive problems. For nervous conditions, combine chamomile with equal parts of passionflower, skullcap, oats, or hops.

For tincture: Take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon, three times per day.

To brew an all-purpose stomach tea useful for nausea, spastic colon, irritable bowel, ulcers, and colitis, use the recipe below. Omit the licorice root if you have high blood pressure. You'll need:

  •         German chamomile flowers
  •         Licorice root, shredded
  •         Fennel seeds
  •         Peppermint

Chamomile Side EffectsMost people tolerate chamomile well, although if you're allergic to ragweed, you may experience allergic symptoms after using chamomile. (That's because ragweed and chamomile are part of the same plant family.) You don't need to use chamomile strictly for medicinal purposes. It can be drunk as a beverage, even by the young and elderly. Many herbalists advise pregnant women to avoid using any herbs they don't really need, but chamomile is safe during both pregnancy and breastfeeding.

To learn more about treating common medical conditions at home, try the following links:

Jennifer Brett, N.D. is director of the Acupuncture Institute for the University of Bridgeport, where she also serves on the faculty for the College of Naturopathic Medicine. A recognized leader in her field with an extensive background in treating a wide variety of disorders utilizing nutritional and botanical remedies, Dr. Brett has appeared on WABC TV (NYC) and on Good Morning America to discuss utilizing herbs for health.This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.

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