Herb: Chamomile


Chamomile, a member of the daisy family, is native to Europe and western Asia. German chamomile is the most commonly used. The dried and fresh flowers are used medicinally. Chamomile has been used for centuries in Europe as a medicinal plant, mostly for gastrointestinal complaints. This practice continues today.

How It Works

The flowers of chamomile contain 1-2% volatile oils including alpha-bisabolol, alpha-bisabolol oxides A & B, and matricin (usually converted to chamazulene). Other active constituents include the flavonoids apigenin, luteolin, and quercetin. These active ingredients contribute to chamomile’s anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and smooth-muscle relaxing action, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract.

Topical applications of chamomile have been shown to be moderately effective in the treatment of eczema. One double-blind trial found it to be about 60% as effective as 0.25% hydrocortisone cream. Topical use of chamomile ointment was also found to successfully treat mild stasis ulcers and bed sores in elderly bedridden patients.

Benefits and Uses

  • Anxiety: Chamomile is an old folk remedy for anxiety, particularly anxiety that causes insomnia. Animal studies support this idea, due possibly to the herb’s calming compounds.
  • Colic: A soothing tea made from chamomile, vervain, licorice, fennel, and lemon balm has been shown to relieve colic more effectively than placebo. Chamomile is a carminative herb with long history of use as a calming herb and may be used to ease intestinal cramping in colicky infants.
  • Eczema: Topical applications of chamomile have been shown to be moderately effective in the treatment of eczema.
  • Gingivitis: A mouthwash containing sage oil, peppermint oil, menthol, chamomile tincture, expressed juice from echinacea, myrrh tincture, clove oil, and caraway oil has been used successfully to treat gingivitis.
  • Wound Healing: Topically applied chamomile can be used to speed wound healing.
  • Canker Sores: Chamomile has healing properties and swishing a tincture made of strong tea may have a soothing effect on the lining of the mouth.
  • Conjunctivitis: Chamomile has been traditionally used to treat eye inflammation.
  • Chron’s Disease: Chamomile is an anti-inflammatory herb historically recommended by doctors for people with Crohn’s disease.
  • Diarrhea: Typically taken as a tea, chamomile may reduce intestinal cramping and ease the irritation and inflammation associated with diarrhea.
  • Gastritis: Chamomile may soothe injured and inflamed mucous membranes. Active ingredients in chamomile appears to inhibit H. pylori and reduce free radical activity.
  • Gingivitis: Chamomile provides anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial actions critical to successfully treating gingivitis.
  • Indigestion: Chamomile is effective in relieving inflamed or irritated mucous membranes of the digestive tract.
  • Heartburn: Chamomile is effective in relieving inflamed or irritated mucous membranes of the digestive tract.
  • Insomnia: Chamomile is commonly recommended by doctors as a mild sedative for those suffering from insomnia or nervous exhaustion. It is a particularly good choice for children whose insomnia may be related to gastrointestinal upset.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Chamomile’s essential oils may ease intestinal cramping and irritation. The herb is sometimes used by herbalists to relieve alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation.
  • Peptic Ulcer: Chamomile has a soothing effect on inflamed and irritated mucous membranes. It is also high in the flavonoid apigenin, which has inhibited growth of H. pylori in test tubes.
  • Ulcerative Colitis: Practitioners of herbal medicine often recommend chamomile to people with colitis.


Though rare, allergic reactions to chamomile have been reported. These reactions have included bronchial constriction with internal use and allergic skin reactions with topical use. While reports of such side effects are uncommon, people with allergies to plants of the Asteraceae family (ragweed, aster, and chrysanthemums), as well as mugwort pollen should avoid using chamomile. Chamomile is usually considered to be safe during pregnancy or breast-feeding. However, there is one case report in which a pregnant woman who took chamomile as an enema had an allergic reaction that led to the death of her newborn.

Resources to Dive Into

Achterrath-Tuckerman U, Kunde R, et al. Pharmacological investigations with compounds of chamomile. V. Investigations on the spasmolytic effect of compounds of chamomile and Kamillosan® on isolated guinea pig ileum. Planta Med 1980;39:38-50.

Aergeerts P, Albring M, Klaschka F, et al. Vergleichende prüfung von Kamillosan®-creme gegenüber seroidalen (0.25% hydrocortison, 0.75% flucotinbutylester) and nichseroidaseln (5% bufexamac) externa in der erhaltungsterpaie von ekzemerkrankungen. Z Hautkr 1985;60:270-7.

Albring M, Albrecht H, Alcorn G, Lüker PW. The measuring of the antiinflammatory effect of a compound on the skin of volunteers. Meth Find Exp Clin Pharmacol 1983;5:75-7.

Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 107.

Brown DJ. Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1996, 49-56.

Della Loggia R, Tubaro A, Dri P, et al. The role of flavonoids in the antiinflammatory activity of Chamomilla recutita. In Plant Flavonoids in Biology and Medicine: Biochemical, Pharmacological, and Structure-Activity Relationships. Cody V, Middleton E, Harbone JB (eds). New York: Alan R. Liss, 1986, 481-4.

Foti C, Nettis E, Panebianco R, et al. Contact urticaria from Matricaria chemomilla. Contact Derm2000;42:360-1.

Glowania HJ, Raulin C, Swoboda M. The effect of chamomile on wound healing – a controlled, clinical, experimental double-blind trial. Z Hautkr 1987;62:1262-71.

Jakolev V, Isaac O, Flaskamp E. Pharmacological investigations with compounds of chamomile. VI. Investigations on the antiphlogistic effects of chamazulene and matricine. Planta Med 1983;49:67-73.

Jakolev V, Isaac O, Thiemer K, Kunde R. Pharmacological investigations with compounds of chamomile. II. New investigations on the antiphlogistic effects of (-)-alpha-bisabolol and bisabolol oxides. Planta Med1979;35:125-40.

Jensen-Jarolim E, Reider N, Fritsch R, Brieteneder H. Fatal outcome of anaphylaxis to chamomile-containing enema during labor: A case study. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1998;102:1041-2.

Nissen HP, Blitz H, Kreyel HW. Prolifometrie, eine methode zur beurteilung der therapeutischen wirsamkeit kon Kamillosan®-Salbe. Z Hautkr 1988;63:184-90.

Reider N, Sepp N, Fritsch P, et al. Anaphylaxis to chamomile: clinical features and allergen cross-reactivity. Clin Experiment Allergy 2000;30:1436-43.

Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994, 322-5.

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2 Replies to “Herb: Chamomile

  1. Hi how effective is it for a insomnia patient? I have been taking pills and want to convert towards natural way to cure insomnia. Please advice? thanks

    1. That is a fantastic question for a medical professional. Seek out a naturopathic doctor that will work with your physician to guide you towards a natural solution that best fits your needs. Thanks so much for writing.

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