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Herb of the week: Chamomile.

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Photo: Matricaria recutita 4. A short-short profile:

Latin: Matricaria recutita (Matricaria chamomilla, Chamomilla recutita etc.)
Family: Asteraceae (Compositae)
Parts used: Flowers, green parts
Taste: aromatic, bitter
4 humors: Warmish, dryish.


  • calming
  • bitter (= digestive)
  • mildly antispasmodic (= good for mild gut and menstrual cramps)
  • takes away a craving for attention
  • anti-inflammatory

Food uses:

  • a nice tea


  • Roman chamomile is a different plant. (Chamaemelum nobile, (Anthemis nobilis)). I haven't used it, so can't say how similar they really are.
  • Pineapple weed can be used much like chamomile. (Matricaria matricarioides, (Matricaria suaveolens, Chamomilla suaveolens etc.)).
  • I use aboveground parts of the flowering plant. There's no need to restrict yourself to just the flowers, unless you pick for the trade.


  • Gotta love it for those who crave attention, be they kids or adults.
  • Good for grumpiness in kids, where food or sleep won't help.(I do stuff some food down the open mouth of my kid, whenever she's exceedingly grumpy. That usually helps.)
  • The antispasmodic action is especially pronounced in those who complain without suffering (= attention-craving + antispasmodic?).(For those who suffer without complaining, Potentilla is better) (= elbows).
  • The best use for teething kids is: dip a rag in the tea, freeze the rag, and give the frozen rag to chew on.
  • A great all-round calming tea.
  • It's strongly anti-inflammatory.An old guy came up to me after a lecture and told me that he'd had an inflamed appendix when he was about 10. His then doctor had told his parents to give him a lot of chamomile tea for weeks on end. (He still couldn't stand the taste of chamomile). Later on, he was wounded in WWII, and his gut was cut open. Those doctors were amazed at his appendix: basically, scar tissue.

Comments on Facebook:

  • From Nathalie C.:
    used the glycerite for the baby when he had colic, works within 20 mins, you can almost set a clock by it, marvellous.
    November 22 at 3:07pm
  • From Henriette's herbal:
    Cool, Nathalie! Was this for bona fide colic, ie. the kind that drives parents nuts?
    November 22 at 3:09pm
  • From Nathalie C:
    oh yes. he had it for months, only the chamomile would give noticeable relief.
    November 22 at 3:10pm
  • From Joan O'F:
    Loving Matricaria at the moment. It's saving me from pregnancy hearburn!
    November 22

Comments on the herblist:

    Uses thread:

  • From Zoe Hawes:

    The craving for attention is so right. I always think of it of the mother herb. Like a big hug from mum who makes you feel like everything is going to be ok and takes away all your worries for a bit. I used it all the time in the boarding school, for boys who came up to the infirmary either hysterically homesick and crying to phone mum or if they were complaining of lots of indiscriminate little ails. A 2 teabag cup of chamomile always worked like a dream to settle them down.

    It also stopped a tachycardia (150 bpm) a 16 year old boy came in with after doing a bet to eat a tablespoon of instant coffee. He was pale and shaking with the pounding of his heart. 3 teabags of chamomile in 100mls boiling water sipped over 20mins totally sorted him out. Well, chamomile and some ridicule from me. What a dimwit.

    The first thing to give after a tummy sickness bug or for nausea caused by stress.

    It self seeds beautifully once you've planted it. Sprinkle the 'gone over' flower heads about when you are harvesting, all over where you want it to grow next year and it will start growing through the autumn and then overwinter to flower early next summer.

    I pull all the flower heads together in a big bunch and chop them off, green bits and all and then it quite often flowers again and again from below.

    We have had such a mild autumn here it is still flowering now.

    Date: 2011 11 22 - 11:23:19 +0200

  • From Miriam:

    Chamomile tea definitely helps grouchy kids re-balance, and feeding them doesn't hurt either! Tea is good, although it's most useful as essential oil in massaging a tight, hard womb where the woman has menstrual cramps. Takes about 20 minutes of firm-but-gentle massage, but then the cramps just melt away. (5 drops chamomile combined with 2 each of geranium and/or clary sage in 1/4 cup oil. Chamomile alone is fine too.)

    Not too oddly, most of the women I've treated for cramps were teenagers well before first childbirth has relaxed their wombs some. Stressed teenagers.

    Strong chamomile infusion is also excellent as the liquid phase in moisturizing lotions. Or any tissue-healing topical application, for its soothing, anti-inflammatory properties. I include chamomile in all my ointments and creams.

    Apart from moisturizing, I use chamomile to reduce inflammation of acne. A brief steam-tent treatment with the tea helps. If broken veins or combination dry/oily skin contraindicate steam, pat the face with warm tea-soaked cotton balls or a soft cloth.

    And there's no doubt that a chamomile rinse brightens tired-looking blond hair.

    I also sometimes brew a liter of strong chamomile infusion and just pour it, hot, over my head in the shower. Yow!

    Date: 2011 11 22 - 12:27:05 +0200

  • From Diane:

    I've used a concentrated chamomile extract in a salve base for rosacea unresponsive to metrogel, etc.

    There is a commercial product, ChamoCare (nci) that we've found useful as well. Some types of rosacea have been aggravated by the use of even water .. but chamomile has soothed, healed, and prevented any secondary bacterial infections.

    We've used it for most any form of dermatitis as well.

    Use chamomile tea bags as a type of poultice for pinkeye - both in people and in animals (used it in our barn cats, cow and goats).

    Fabulous little innocuous herb.

    Date: 2011 11 22 - 16:11:02 +0200

  • From Veronica H:

    I have found the tall Roman chamomile to work very similarly to the short stuff. Just a bit taller makes it easier to pick.

    When we were kids (that was a long time ago) all my mother ever gave us was chamomile tea and a hot water bottle. An aspirin was considered a heavy drug from her Ukrainian heritage viewpoint.. It took many years before I could actually enjoy the taste of the tea again.

    Date: 2011 11 22 - 20:47:46 +0200

  • From Mailtodog:

    I found it interesting that people are using Chamomile to treat rosacea. After six months of using Chamomile tea as a sleep aid I noticed that my rosacea symptoms had disappeared. Some basic trial and error over a two year period convinced me that it was due to my regular use of Chamomile tea.

    Date: 2011 11 23 - 07:49:23 +0200

  • From Gail Faith Edwards:

    I especially appreciate the anti-inflammatory properties of chamomile for topical application. I've used it successfully to treat many a red, rashy, irritated and/or itchy skin condition...quiets it all down, just like it does to your stomach or your nervous system ... amazing. I like combining chamomile with rose for the extra soothing/healing action and have found them to work really well together for this purpose ... I've made the most incredibly aromatic massage oil by infusing wild pineapple weed tops in pure olive oil, intoxicating scent and so relaxing ... great to use as a baby massage or skin moisturizer, so gentle ...

    Chamomile is the herb dedicated to Saint Ann, or Sant Anna, as she is known in my Italian village where she is our patron, guardian grandmother.

    Matricaria - dear mother. Blessings to all of you!

    Date: 2011 11 23 - 15:02:26 +0200

  • From Janna Weiss:

    In addition to the digestive Spleen function, I have used chamomile in formulas for menstrual problems, and for severe post-psychiatric 'treatment' trauma and drug poisoning.

    A bit more on these last two:

    I treated a 13.5 year old kid with severe chronic dystonia (twisted neck and spine) from psychiatric drugs, and other torture and abuses, with tons of chamomile, 4.5 g/cup - 3-6 cups/day for several months, until the poor kid graduallly calmed down and could walk, along with some homeopathy and lots of acupuncture, massage, nasya therapy with ghee.

    I have also treated side effects of psychiatric drugs resembling hypomania, when the drugs were discontinued, with chamomile alone, large doses as above (up to 8 cups/day), with excellent and immediate results, 3-4 days.

    Highly recommended for post-traumatic rage.

    Date: 2011 11 24 - 19:24:27 +0200

  • Energetics thread:

  • From Nick:

    I always thought of chamomile being warm and drying energetically, but i notice that others see it as cooling and drying. The plant has got such a huge variety of uses and is a prestigious herb for many inflammatory conditions which would lead one to the cooling side. But is it a first heating / stimulating leading to a secondary cooling effect? Try drinking a chamomile tea when you've got a head cold. Bleurrgh!

    For a potential contra-indication, one of my friends who's tissue state was damp / cold and very lax found that drinking chamomile tea led to stomach cramps / increased transit time and very loose stools. Stopped the chamomile tea and everything settled down. Herbs like Verbena set her off as well.

    I know I've contradicted myself here! But I still feel there is a warming side to the herb.

    Date: 2011 11 26 - 11:16:02 +0200

  • From Seanna Tully:

    The language of energetics isn't always exact, meaning that the same terms don't always mean the same thing across systems. When some folks say warm, I might say acrid or aromatic (prelude to next paragraph). Since lately I'm expending the effort to learn TCM pharmacodynamic language, eg taste and temp, I'm more inclined to express myself using the specificity of that language. See Yifan Yang, Chinese Herbal Medicines, Chapter one, for the best TCM style definitions of flavors/temp. (Although you'll note below that I can't be exclusive to TCM no matter how hard I try, since I'm a western herbalist too.)

    To me, Chamomile is cool, acrid and aromatic, bitter (a little more so in a western sense, since it promotes bile excretion) and sweet (gen fluids). If I were to be notably TCM reductionistic, Cham might fall in the qi regulator category - mainly because it belongs with a bunch of herbs that treat the pattern of epigastric distension (in this case, the qi stagnation that causes air to collect over the stomach/upper quadrant/beneath ribs). This is because I can't get the teaching of Patricia Kaminski out of my head, as she had us pop the air out chamomile flower heads while teaching its use as a flower essence. Years later, it boils down to this for me --- Cham's kind of qi stagnation has a liverish quality (enter bitter flavor), which could be related to resentment or held in anger of some kind. Think of the kid that holds their breath when they are so mad that it gives them a stomach ache. Poss Liver invades stomach pathology, but let's not be overly simplistic. This presentation is not the only reason to use cham, since Cham may be indicated even when there is no clear emotional component, esp in tincture form.

    So, that warming, drying fxn you speak of, is more related for me to bitterness (tends to have a drying, downward draining effect), and acridity/aromatic effect (tends to break through accumulations as an action appears to be warm by nature), however acridity does also happen in a cooling aromatic herb (think Yarrow here too). I think that this is why Cham is better at accumulation of qi which has more of a yang quality to it than at clearing damp cold -- because Cham is also cool and sweet - so it generates fluids thereby exacerbating the condition. In fact, being kind of cold and boggy myself, I've not been able to tolerate cham tea, but can tolerate the tincture. I feel the tea's sweetness generates too much fluid, but also I get an allergic rxn to the pollen, when combined makes me pretty darn quesy, more cold and boggy, loose stools, etc etc. The warmth/acridity of alcohol in tinctures seems to nicely offset Cham's cooling boggy aspect, concentrating it into a stronger acting anti-spasmodic, making it work well in cases of acute GI spasm from multiple etiologies (see T Neubauer's use in Nicaragua in a recent issue of Medical Herbalism).

    Also wondering out loud here: I've always felt that Cham and Ju Hua/Chrysanthemum have similarities, and wondering if anyone has used Cham internally in cases of hot, itchy eyes caused by LV heat rising upwards? Cham has this nice bitter/cool quality to act on the liver heat being inappropriate and in the wrong places.

    I had a student once that used about 1/4 pound of cham in cheesecloth in the bath as a sponge and compress to treat a really large chemical burn on her leg. It worked wonders, in about 2-3 treatments, chem burn was drastically better.

    PS: Treating inflammatory processes doesn't always mean that an herb is categorically cool. How is the inflammation being reduced? Is it because the herb is acrid and improves circulation, and can move out stuck blood or other fluids that are perpetuating heat and stagnation? Think boswellia here, turmeric (E zhu type), cayenne and ginger.

    PPS: The resentment/emotional piece on Cham also comes from a discussion with the homeopath at my work, Sujatha Mannal, as well as PK mentioned above.

    Date: 2011 11 27 - 02:20:55 +0200

  • Allergy thread:

  • From Denise B:

    chamomile always sounds so lovely but i sneeze after i drink the tea. i am not plagued by these kind of allergies (that i know of anyway). is there a trick i can try?

    Date: 2011 11 22 - 21:24:10 +0200

  • From Lyn R:

    Hi everyone,

    I'm enjoying reading about wonderful chamomile, but I have a question about allergic reaction to it. Has anyone else ever experienced that? I had a very strong allergic reaction, a couple of years ago, to 3 sips of a Very strong and bitter infusion of chamomile. My palms, neck and face got very red and itchy, my lips and eyes puffed up, and my throat was scratchy. Quite a surprise! Fortunately, I had fresh freeze-dried nettles on hand and responded to that relatively quickly.

    But ever since then I'm wary of chamomile, and I don't want to be!! It's such a lovely and useful plant. But whenever anyone talks about all it's wonderful benefits, I have this nagging concern in the back of my mind, even to the point of hesitating to suggest it to others.

    Any thoughts?

    I have seasonal allergic rhinitis when lots of things are in bloom each year, especially to the Encelia that grows abundantly (and blooms profusely!) in my front yard and is also an Asteraceae. But other than that, I don't really experience allergic reactions, and that reaction to chamomile caught me totally off guard!

    Date: 2011 11 23 - 18:40:43 +0200

  • From Henriette:

    > I have a question about allergic reaction to it. Has anyone else ever experienced that?

    It's rare.

    It's in the "if you're allergic to mugwort (or, for the US, ragweed (Ambrosia)), be careful with ..." class of herbs, along with yarrow and a few others.

    Usually, the anti-inflammatory action of chamomile clobbers any budding allergic reaction ... but alas, not always.

    (Another surprise can be an allergic reaction to calendula, but as far as I know, that's even more rare than chamomile. A mechanical irritation of the green parts of the plant is different.)

    > Fortunately, I had fresh freeze-dried nettles on hand and responded to that relatively quickly.

    Nice idea!

    > But ever since then I'm wary of chamomile, and I don't want to be!! It's such a lovely and useful plant. But whenever anyone talks about all it's wonderful benefits, I have this nagging concern in the back of my mind, even to the point of hesitating to suggest it to others. Any thoughts?

    Nettle (stinging nettle, Urtica dioica and related mildish species) is of course great for various hay fevers, and extremely good if you take it throughout allergy season.

    A lot of people have gotten rid of their allergy meds just by using nettles regularly.

    But if it's a true allergy (and not a sensitivity reaction), I'd stay clear, nettles or no nettles.

    Date: 2011 11 23 - 19:56:34 +0200

  • From Jason B:

    Just an anecdotal comment... my friend is allergic to chamomile. If ingested she gets acute vomiting, headache, hives.

    Date: 2011 11 24 - 05:23:30 +0200

  • From Jill B:

    >Has anyone else ever experienced that?"

    I used to love the soothing benefits of the tea, but finally figured out that I was reacting to Chamomile with an intolerance kind of reaction like I get to gluten or dairy. Brain fog, fatigue. Had to stop using it.

    Date: 2011 11 30 - 15:03:21 +0200

  • From Jenn:

    Jill, I've had poor reactions to chamomile. I get an upset, acid stomach when I drink it. I do, however, also get an upset stomach with some other odd ones: oatmeal, avocados, and high fructose corn syrup (OK, that one isn't so odd, I suppose, since I've never been told, "Dear, just take a little of Grannie's high fructose corn syrup for that tummy ache, and you'll be better in no time." *grin*). I've always assumed it was an allergy or intolerance of some form, but I haven't been able to identify what specifically it is. I still enjoy all but the syrup, anyway, and just have some extra food with it to quell the stomach acidity that results.

    Date: 2011 11 30 - 18:08:22 +0200

Please add your own experiences etc.