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Chamomilla matricaria

Chamomile has been used as a medicinal plant for centuries. In the West, over a million cups of chamomile tea are consumed daily (, 1997), primarily for its reported relaxation benefits. Today, chamomile is the most widely used herb for relaxation in the western world (, 1998). The flowering tops of both A. nobilis and M. recutita are harvested and used in herbal remedies (Scalia, et. al., 1999). Dried flowers of A. chamomilla are largely used to provide sedative as well as spasmolytic effects (Avallone, 2000). Throughout history, chamomile has been (and still is) used in a variety of ways: healing baths, teas, poultices, air fresheners, hair rinse, cosmetics, insect repellents, wine flavoring, dyes, companion planting, potpourris, and landscaping (, 1998). Chamomile is medically specific to be useful with all of the following: soothing, calming, sedative, relaxation, anti-inflammatory, tenseness, aching muscles, indigestion, acidity, hay fever, asthma, morning sickness, eczema, sore nipples, and exhaustion (Maday, et. al. 1999). Chamomile is known for its calming effect on smooth muscle tissue, and is still a popular remedy for nervous stomach, menstrual cramps, and other common problems related to stress (Avallone, et. al. 2000). Used externally, it is also useful as a treatment against skin inflammation and hemorrhoids (, 1996). Used as a mouthwash, it can relieve the pain of a toothache (, 1996). Matricaria chamomilla is among several medicinal herbs that are popular in Hispanic folk medicine (Appelt, 1985).

chamomilla matricariaChamomile has several other clinically proven effects. The flowers produce a compound called chamazulene, which is a remarkable anti-allergenic and is useful in the treatment of asthma and hay fever (Jackson, 2000). Chamomile tea dosage is commonly studied for its effects. Chamomile flower tea is used as a sedative and is used to treat insomnia and many other nervous conditions when taken in larger doses as a strong tea (Jackson, 2000). Milder tea in just as large doses was proved to treat fevers, sore throats, aches and pains due to colds, flu, and allergies (Subiza, et. al. 1989). Chamomile also has clinically proven effect when applied externally. The flowers can be made into a salve for use on hemorrhoids and wounds (Jackson, 2000). When applied externally as a wash or compress, it can treat skin inflammations, sunburn, burns, and can also be added to baths for relaxing tired, achy muscles and feet, and softening the skin (Merfort, et. al. 1994).

Scientists reported significant relief from burns, diaper rash, and serious leg ulcers using chamomile (Maday, 1994). They found that for burns or diaper rash, cool chamomile is most effective, as well as adding chamomile to bath water (Maday, 1994). Chamomile is also useful for soothing babies with upset stomach or colic and for helping them to sleep (Jackson, 2000).

Chamomile exists in many folk remedies as well. One example is that the Egyptians dedicated chamomile to their sun god and valued it over all other herbs for its healing qualities. Due to its sedative and relaxing properties, chamomile was an ingredient in some love potions in the Middle Ages (Jackson, 2000).

Side effects of chamomile are quite common. Since it is a member of the daisy family, anyone who is allergic to this family, including ragweed, should not use the chamomile herb (, 1996). An 8 year-old boy who ingested a chamomile-tea infusion experienced a severe anaphylactic reaction (Subiza, et. al. 1989). The patient suffered from hay fever and bronchial asthma caused by a variety of pollen grains (Subiza, et. al. 1989). This severe reaction was developed after his first ingestion of chamomile tea (Subiza, et. al. 1989). These findings suggest a Type I IgE-mediated immunological mechanism as being responsible for the patient's anaphylactic symptoms and also suggest that the patient cross-reacted the pollens of M. chamomilla contained in the chamomile tea because he was previously sensitized to Artemisia pollen (Subiza, et. al. 1989). People who have allergies to members of the Compositae may experience contact dermatitis or other allergic reactions when using chamomile and should be cautious when using this herb (Miller, 1996).

Matricaria chamomilla is a very common plant used for its medical attributes. It has been used for centuries and is still used today. It can be used to treat very unique disorders, as well as the common cold and other ailments that people come across on a daily basis. For these reasons, chamomile is an important medicinal plant.

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