German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), which is the most popular form of chamomile, is best known for its soothing and relaxing qualitities.
As a tea, it's often used to induce sleep. But even though chamomile may have health benefits, there isn't enough evidence yet to make any strong recommendations.
Soothes eczema and sore skin
Relaxes tense or aching muscles
Relieves nervous tension and irritability
Recent research shows that chamomile, along with apple pectin, may ease diarrhoea in children. Preliminary research also indicates that inhaling steam with chamomile extract may help ease common cold symptoms.
There are two major types of chamomile: the German type and the Roman type. The latter is mostly used in the United Kingdom.
Chamomile can be found in the form of capsules, extracts, infusions, bath formulations, compresses and lotions.
Chamomile tea is typically made using 2 to 3 heaped teaspoons of dried flowers per cup of water. Tea bags can also be used.
A gargle is made using 10 drops of fluid extract per glass of water.
The fresh chamomile plant can cause dermatitis.
People with allergies to other plants in the Asteraceae family (e.g. aster, chrysanthemum, ragweed) should avoid chamomile. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include throat swelling and shortness of breath. Do not take the essential oil internally without professional supervision.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use chamomile.
(Information source: The American Pharmaceutical Association's Practical Guide to Natural Medicines by Andrea Peirce, published by William Morrow and Company, 1999).
(Image: T Voekler)
- (updated by Birgit Ottermann, Health24, April 2010)