Herb Spotlight: Chamomile

As part of this blog, I want to share with you some of my favorite herbs I have had the pleasure of spending extra time with while I was in school. This one may be my actual favorite herb of all time and the inspiration for my logo: Matricaria chamomilla, or chamomile. First a quick list of health-promoting properties:

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Smooth muscle soothing/anti-spasmodic

  • Antimicrobial

  • Gas soothing

  • Nervous system soothing

  • Digestion promoting

  • Skin and mucosal healing

  • Sleep promoting

  • Menses promoting


Matricaria chamomilla is an annual herb with fragrant, fern-like leaves. It is native to Eastern and Southern Europe as well as Western Asia. Chamomile has been introduced to most of North America and was cultivated first my German settlers in the 19th century, hence the common name, German chamomile. The genus name Matricaria comes from the Latin word, matrix, meaning womb, as a reference to its traditional uses for the female reproductive system. The species name, chamomilla, comes from the Greek words chamos and melos which mean ground and apple respectively. Matricaria chamomilla has been described to have an apple-like scent which is divine.

Luckily chamomile found its way to me and was undoubtedly one of my gateway "drugs" into naturoapthic medicine! Matricaria chamomilla was probably the first tisane (herbal tea) I ever tried. I remember drinking it in high school in hopes of relieving menstrual cramps. I chose to write about it for my first monograph I was assigned in school, and was lucky enough to get to spend more time with M. chamomilla in my bitters formula for digestion promotion. I carried with me daily and often enjoyed chamomile tea around meals and before bed. I fell in love all over again when I first sampled a fresh flower glycerite (glycerine preserved herbal extraction). You could almost mistake it for honey with its soft yellow glow, sweet honey and apple-like flavor with the now unforgettable slight bitter floral taste. The wonderful thing about Matricaria chamomilla is that it is gentle yet powerful!


I loved the glycerite so much I made my own with dried flowers, which did dilute the wow honey taste a bit. I though it was still sweet, mostly due to the glycerin. The glycerite is such a nice treat I look forward to taking it throughout my day, which is hard for me to say about any capsule or pills. It provides all of the botanical goodness that gives me a slight relaxation and ease. While taking it regularly I felt less anxious overall, which is always welcomed for my constitution. More-so, I noticed I was better able to with the flow (both physically and mentally) more jovially. I also noticed my previously daily symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome improved substantially. I think that my IBS symptoms had a lot to do with the vagus nerve autonomic influence in the gut mucosa, which is a fancy way of saying anxiety that goes to the gut. It also relieved an other symptoms of nervous tension like muscle cramps and pain.


The energy of M. chamomilla is so inviting it feels like soaking in rays of sunshine. I think it is interesting that I was first drawn to this herb during a time of year I was missing the sunshine of Colorado, where it is often just as sunny in the winter as the summer. I think of how M. chamomilla needs a fair amount of rain but prefers the sun, much how I view myself living here in Seattle. The color of the glycerite and tea exemplify these feelings. They are the sunniest pale yellow that is inviting, yet subtle. The flavor and smell are both slight, but recognizable as an old friend. I really appreciate how there is almost no aftertaste. I noticed that the tea did aid in me wanting to go to sleep, which reflects its mild hypnotic or sleep inducing, effects, which I did not notice taking the glycerite during the day. Maybe this has to do more with ritual of warm tea before bed which can be a lovely habit. I am thankful for the opportunity to spend time with such a great herb and share my experience with you. Have you tried chamomile alone or in a blend? What did you think? Comment to let me know.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only. This information not meant to diagnose or treat any disease and is not an adequate substitute for professional medical care.


Resources:

Engels, G. J. Brinchmann. (2015). Chamomile. HerbalGram, Journal of the American Botanical Council. 108:8-17.

Gladstar, Rosemary. (2008). Rosemary Gladstar’s Recipes for Vibrant Health. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing. Print.

Hoffman, David. (2003). Medical Herbalism The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press. Print.

Mitchell, William A. (2000). Application of Botanical Remedies in Naturopathic Medicine. Print.

Sarris, J. E. McIntyre, D. A. Camfield. (2013). Plant-based Medicines for Anxiety Disorders Part 2. A Review of Clinical Studies with Supporting Preclinical Evidence. CNS Drugs 27:301-319.

p://www.botany.wisc.edu/courses/botany_400/PlantsofDay/Matricaria.html

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