Chamomile is another home remedy that is particularly effective in treating an upset stomach -- as well as several other conditions.
Chamomile's medicinal secret is the volatile oil derived from its daisy-like flowers. An extract produced from the herb can reduce muscle spasms and inflammation of mucous membranes, making it a useful treatment for indigestion and menstrual cramps. Chamomile also contains chemicals that fight infections that cause minor illnesses.
Several studies indicate that chamomile is a good digestive aid. The herb contains a wide variety of active constituents. Bisabolol, one of its prime constituents, has anti-inflammatory properties and relaxes the smooth muscle lining of the digestive tract. In experimentally induced gastritis and other inflammations of the mucous membranes, chamomile consistently demonstrated quick and prolonged anti-inflammatory effects.
As long ago as 1914, researchers were publishing papers proclaiming the herb's ability to block the actions of convulsants and other chemicals that cause spasms. Chamomile's sedating properties were documented in the 1950s. But we're still learning just how the herb works.
If you plan to try chamomile medicinally, take the advice of the late pharmacognosist Varro Tyler, Ph.D., who was professor emeritus at the Purdue University School of Pharmacy in Indiana, and get as much of the volatile oil as possible.
Many of the chemicals contained in the oil are lost through steam when tea is brewed. Even a very strong tea may contain only a small percentage of chamomile's volatile oils. So steep your tea in a covered container. You could also try eating the chamomile flowers after you've brewed your tea instead of simply throwing them in the trash or garden.
On the next page, see other ways chamomile benefits the digestive system.
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.
Other Chamomile Benefits
For years, researchers attributed the herb's antispasmodic effect to the presence of flavonoids, such as apigenin and luteolin. But several recent trials have demonstrated that other constituents also contribute substantially to the herb's total sedative action. The importance of chamazulene and its precursor, matricin, has been demonstrated in nearly all of chamomile's actions.
The anti-inflammatory constituents of chamomile, including azulene, chamazulene, bisabolol, and matricin, appear to have distinct modes of action. Some of them are more powerful than others but perform for a shorter period of time; others are milder but perform for longer periods of time.
What we're learning now is that apparently all of chamomile's constituents must work together for the herb to function medicinally. Thus, chamomile would seem to be one of the plant kingdom's best examples of holistic medicine at work.
Chamomile may also help to prevent and heal ulcers. In one study, two groups of animals were fed a chemical known to cause ulcers. Animals that were also given chamomile developed significantly fewer ulcers than those who did not receive it. And animals that did develop ulcers recovered more quickly if they were fed chamomile.
In 1979, experiments verified chamomile's protective healing effects on the mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract. In the first experimental studies, chamomile inhibited formation of ulcers produced under several conditions, including stress and administration of drugs, such as alcohol.
Although the ultimate role of hydrochloric acid in naturally occurring ulcers is a subject of dispute, it has been shown that chamomile is able to inhibit formation of ulcers that are experimentally induced by that acid.
In addition, a German study found that chamomile, when combined with apple pectin, helps put a quick end to diarrhea in children. Compared to placebo (dummy pill), the chamomile-pectin combination was significantly more effective and just as safe.
For more information about herbal remedies for other types of digestive problems, take a look at the links on the next page.