Chamomile is among those herbs which you are bound to have encountered, especially as a tea drinker. It has an aromatic, slightly bitter taste which is reminiscent of apples. However, the use of this undervalued herb goes far beyond tea drinking, as it has been used for its high medicinal qualities for over 2000 years. Today, over 120 chemical constituents have been identified and its therapeutic and pharmacological effects have been studied widely. The pharmacological and cosmetic industry benefit from its qualities with a range of products containing chamomile extracts, especially skin care products.
It grows wild in most parts of temperate Europe and Northern Africa and is part of the Asteraceae family with many different subtypes. Some may consider it a weed due to its hardiness and regrowth abilities. The most commonly used and best known are the German Chamomile and the Roman Chamomile.
The list of beneficial properties is long and includes, but is not limited to, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, antispasmodic, relaxant, carminative, sedative, anti-microbial, anti-depressant, anticarcinogenic, hepatoprotective and antidiabetic properties. Additionally, chamomile is beneficial for a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders and can aid with premenstrual syndromes, stomach and muscle cramps and osteoarthritis. In fact, this herb is so powerful and varied that it could be seen as ‘universal remedy’. The strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial actions are protective, preventative and curative for a wide range of ailments of various origins.
A lot of research can be found on chamomile and its constituents, however there are still many more questions to be investigated and trials to be concluded on its endlessly long list of health benefits. The variation in the exact composition of the plant depending on where it was grown and which subspecies was used also attributes to some of the variation found in studies. Even the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) acknowledges the preference in use for the whole plant due to there being no side-effects compared to synthetic chemicals.
Chamomile is best known for its use as a relaxant to help with insomnia and anxiety. To sooth the gastrointestinal tract and to treat skin conditions, particularly due to its strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. The question remains, what can this undervalued herb do for you?