"Chamomile Flowers are the expanded flower-heads of Anthemis nobilis, Linn., collected from cultivated plants, and dried." Br.
Anthemis, U. S. VIII; Flores Chamomillae Romanae, P. G.; Roman, Low, Garden, White or English Chamomile, Chamomile Flowers, Camil, Camovyne, Whig-plant; Camomille Romaine, Fr.; Römische Kamille, G.; Camomilla Romana, Camomilla Ingleses, It.; Manzanilla (Flor de), Manzanilla Romana, Sp.
Chamomile flowers were formerly recognized by the U. S. Pharmacopoeia. They still receive official recognition in the British, Austrian and Swiss Pharmacopoeias.
Several species of anthemis have been employed in medicine. A. nobilis, which is the subject of the present article, is by far the most important. A. Cotula L., Dog Fennel, or mayweed, was formerly recognized by the U. S. Pharmacopoeia. A. arvensis L. (corn chamomile), a native of Europe, naturalized in this country, bears flowers which have an acrid bitter taste and possess medicinal properties analogous though much inferior to those of common chamomile. They may be distinguished by their want of odor. A. tinctoria L. is occasionally employed as a tonic and vermifuge in Europe. Matricaria suaveolens is said to yield the chamomile of the Indian bazaars.
Anthemis nobilis is an herbaceous plant with a perennial root. The stems are from six inches to a foot long, round, slender, downy, trailing, and divided into branches, which turn upward at their extremities. The leaves are bipinnate, the leaflets small, thread-like, somewhat pubescent, acute, and generally divided into three segments. The flowers are solitary, with a yellow convex disk, and white rays. The involucre is of a hemispherical form, and composed of several small imbricated hairy scales. The receptacle is convex, prominent, and furnished with rigid bristle-like paleae. The ray florets are numerous, narrow and terminated with three small teeth. The whole herb has a peculiar fragrant odor, and a bitter aromatic taste.
This plant is a native of Europe, and grows wild in all the temperate parts of that continent. It is also largely cultivated for medicinal purposes. In France, Germany, and Italy, it is generally known by the name of Roman chamomile. By cultivation the yellow disk florets are often converted into the white ray florets. Thus altered, the flowers are said to be double, while those which remain unchanged are called single; but, as the conversion may be more or less complete, it generally happens that with each of the varieties there are intermingled some flowers of the other kind, or in different stages of the change. The double flowers are generally preferred; though, as the sensible properties are found in the greatest degree in the disk florets, the single flower heads are the more powerful. It is rather, however, in aromatic flavor than in bitterness that the radial florets are surpassed by those of the disk. If not well and quickly dried, the flowers lose their beautiful white color, and are less efficient. The flowers which are largest, most double, and whitest should be preferred. They are thus described: "Flower-heads hemispherical, from about twelve to twenty millimetres in diameter, white or pale buff in color. Involucre composed of several rows of oblong bracts with membranous margins; receptable solid, conical, and densely covered with concave, blunt, narrow, scaly bracts; florets mostly ligu-late and white, the ligula possessing four veins and terminating in three teeth. Strong aromatic odor; taste bitter." Br.
The seeds yield by expression a fixed oil, which is said to be applied in Europe to various economical uses.
Though not a native of America, chamomile grows wild in some parts of this country, and is occasionally cultivated in our gardens for family use, the whole herb being employed. The medicine, as found in commerce, consists chiefly of the double flowers, and is imported from Germany and England. From the former country the flowers of Matricaria Chamomilla are also occasionally imported, under the name of chamomile. (See Matricaria.) In Europe the flowers of A. arvensis L., corn chamomile, are sometimes substituted for the official drug. In France corn chamomile flowers are sold in commerce indiscriminately with those of Anthemis nobilis, of Chrysanthemum Parthenium Bernh. (Pyrethrum Parthenium Smith), or of Anthemis parthenoides De Cand. (Matricaria parthenoides Desf.). (J. P. C., May, 1859, p. 347.) For the peculiar character by which these two flowers may be distinguished from the chamomile, see Pyrethrum parthenium.
Properties.—Chamomile flowers, as usually found in commerce, are large, almost spherical, of a dull white color, a fragrant odor, and a warmish, bitter, aromatic taste. When fresh, their odor is much stronger, and was fancied by the ancients to resemble that of the apple. Hence the name chamaemelum; and it is somewhat singular that the Spanish name manzanilla (a little apple) has a similar derivation. The flowers impart their odor and taste to water and alcohol, the former of which, at the boiling' temperature, extracts only one-fourth of their weight. The investigations of several chemists made in 1878-1879, in Fittig's laboratory at Strassburg, have shown the oil of chamomile to contain the following constituents: a fraction distilling at 147° to 148° C. (296.6°-298.4° F.) consisting of isobutylic esters and hydrocarbons; isobutyl angelicate at 177° C. (350.5° F.); isoamyl angelicate at 200° to 201° C. (392°-394° F.); isoamyl tiglinate at 204° to 205° C. (399°-401° F.) (both of these esters answering to the formula C5H11,C5H7O2). In the residual portion, hexylic alcohol, C6H13,OH, and an alcohol of the formula C10H16O isomeric with camphor, to which the name of anthemol has been given (see Chem. Cb., 1903 (1), 1226), are met with, both probably occurring in the form of esters. By decomposing the angelicates and the tiglinate with potassium hydroxide, angelic acid, C5H8O2, and tiglinic acid (or methyl-crotonic), isomeric with the former, are obtained to the extent of about 30 or more per cent. of the crude oil. In the oil examined by Fittig, angelic acid prevailed; from another specimen E. Schmitt (1879) obtained but very little of it, tiglinic acid prevailing. Naudin (Bull. Soc. Chim., 1884, 41, 483) extracted also a solid paraffin, C18H36, to which the name of anthemene was given; Klopp obtained another body, anthesterin, from chamomile. (P. J., 1903, 458.) Umney states that pure oil of chamomile has the sp. gr. 0.905 to 0.912 at 15° C. (59° F.) (P. J., 1895, p. 949). The oil from Anthemis Cotula closely resembles that from A. nobilis, see A. J. P., 1885, pp. 376, 381. E. Amerman (A. J. P., 1889, p. 69) obtained a wax which was nearly white, bitter, and crystalline, melting at about 130° C. (266° F.), and a crystalline substance distinctly acid and of a glucosidal nature. There was no evidence of the presence of an alkaloid. (See Oleum Anthemidis, Br., and Extractum Anthemidis, Br. Pharm., 1898.)
Uses.—Chamomile is a mild tonic, in small doses acceptable and corroborant to the stomach, in large doses capable of acting as an emetic. In cold infusion it is often advantageously used in cases of enfeebled digestion in convalescence, of general debility, with languid appetite, which often attends convalescence from infectious fevers. The flowers are sometimes applied externally in the form of fomentation, in cases of irritation or inflammation of the abdominal viscera, and as a gentle incitant in flabby, ill-conditioned ulcers. The infusion is usually preferred. The decoction or extract cannot exert the full influence of the medicine, as the volatile oil is driven off.
Dose, of the powder as a tonic, from half a drachm to a drachm (2.0-3.9 Gm.) three or four times a day, or more frequently.