What is camomile?
Camomile is a pretty wild-growing flower that may look delicate but it packs a powerful punch when it comes to calming – both your mind and also your digestive system, and even your skin. It’s also a powerful dye – crushed and applied to clothing it produces a bright yellow colour.
What is camomile used for?
There are two types of camomile in use – one is German camomile and the other is Roman – Matricaria recutita and Chamomilla recutita. Most research focuses on German camomile as it appears to be slightly stronger in its effects, and it’s this species that’s mainly used to treat anxiety, insomnia, digestive disorders, skin and hair.
What’s the history of camomile?
Camomile has been used to treat all kinds of ailments for thousands of years, it dates back to ancient Egypt where it was used to treat fever, and the Romans used camomile in their beverages as well as a medicine.
What’s the best way to take camomile?
Camomile products are made from the flower heads. These are used to make camomile tea, camomile extra, supplements in the form of tablets, and also added to cosmetics such as moisturiser or hair conditioner for example. It is also produced in the form of a mouth rinse to help treat mouth sores caused by cancer treatment.
Camomile tea is the most widespread method for gaining benefits from the herb. As with all teas, the longer the leaves are steeped in hot water the stronger the tea becomes. So, if you are just trying camomile tea for the first time start with a weaker brew, and allow it to steep longer each time until you find what works best for you.
If you’re not keen on tea, you may prefer to try a tincture (camomile suspended in an alcohol solution) – 30-60 drops three times a day (check the label to be sure); or capsules/tablets – 400mg three times a day.
To use camomile as a mouthwash, simply make tea and then use the cooled liquid to gargle. To apply camomile to skin you can mix dried and crushed camomile (or moistened camomile tea leaves) with water or your usual cream to help reduce inflammation. You can also use a used tea bag on the area.
Does camomile really work?
As with so many natural herbs and medications there isn’t the same vast quantity of research as there is for man-made medicines but there are some studies that suggest camomile is effective for relieving anxiety symptoms, as well as digestive disorders, such as upset stomach, diarrhoea and indigestion. It is, however, classified as a drug in many countries in the world, which in itself indicates that it is effective in some way.
The substances believed to be beneficial in camomile are oils – bisabolol and matricin, for example, and also flavonoids such as apigenin and chrysin. Until more research is undertaken, however, isolating these substances and testing them on humans, it is impossible to say which of the substances is most effective at producing a specific result.
A study on rats published in Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin found that camomile aided sleep.
Research published in journal Nutrition found that drinking camomile tea three times a day improved glycaemic indices in patients with type 2 diabetes.
While there are no large-scale studies proving camomile’s effectiveness when it comes to healing mouth sores, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this claim. You can use cooled camomile tea is a mouth wash or apply a wet tea bag directly to the ulcer.
Inflamed skin (eczema)
Camomile’s anti-inflammatory properties may help calm the symptoms of eczema. A review of available studies undertaken by researchers at Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, USA, found that camomile can be 60% as effective as hydrocortisone cream in treating the symptoms of eczema, easing irritation and inflammation. Add ground camomile to your cream or use as a poultice (applying moistened camomile directly to the area), or add camomile to a warm bath.
A review of studies on therapeutic effects of camomile relating to digestive problems, published in journal Electronic Physician suggests that it may aid in relieving symptoms but that more research is needed. 
How long does camomile take to work?
With an upset stomach camomile tea can produce calming effects almost immediately on drinking. This may simply be down to the psychosomatic effects of relaxing with a cup of hot liquid, or it may be down to the medicinal properties of camomile. For anxiety or sleeplessness, the effects of regular tea drinking can occur within a few hours of ingesting tea or a supplement. And for sores inside the mouth, regular rinsing will produce an immediate calming sensation leading to a gradual healing over days.
Where can I get camomile?
Camomile tea is available at most supermarkets, health food shops and online, and supplements or tinctures are available in chemists, health food shops and online too.
What are the side effects of camomile?
In extremely rare cases camomile products or the plant itself could produce allergic response. Those who are allergic to similar plants (ragweed, marigolds, daisies) may also find they are allergic to camomile.
Are there any contraindications when taking camomile?
There are some medications that could interact with camomile – blood-thinning medications, sedatives, diabetes, hormonal, and blood-pressure medications may be affected. If in any doubt see your GP before taking camomile products.
Those with asthma should take extra care with camomile products as it may exacerbate symptoms.
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