If you have a hard time relaxing and have an instant gratification kind of personality, blue chamomile – also known as German or Hungarian chamomile – may be the perfect essential oil to add to your apothecary chest.
The versatile herb – known in German as “alles zutraut,” which translates as “capable of anything,” blue chamomile has, as its nickname suggests, a myriad of healing capabilities, especially because of its high levels of chamazulene, an anti-inflammatory compound that is only found in chamomile essential oil.
One expert, Dr. George Nemecz of Campbell University in North Carolina, called blue chamomile “a perfect example” of a therapeutic herb, and its essential oil condenses all of them into one small but powerful package.1
Of the different types of chamomile – German, Roman, and Moroccan – German chamomile has the highest levels of azulene, which gives the freshly-distilled oil its rich blue hue as well as its ability to help promote a healthy immune response. When fresh, the oil is a deep azure blue; over time, however, the color fades, and older oil may be light green or yellow.
A cousin of the daisy, chamomile is from the matricaria genus, derived from the Latin word for womb, because of chamomile’s benefits for gynecological health, which has been part of the plant’s history from the start. The name is derived from the Greek words chamos and melos, which mean ground and apple, and references the sweet scent of the plant’s flowers, which Pliny the Elder had compared to apples.
Blue chamomile is native to southern and eastern Europe and is also grown in Hungary, Egypt, France, and Asia.
Blue chamomile essential oil is steam distilled from those flowers, which contain the plant’s power-packed medicinal benefits.
Blue chamomile blends well with floral oils including rose, geranium, lavender, ylang ylang, and neroli, citrus scents including bergamot (and Italian citrus fruit), grapefruit, blood orange, lemon and lime, and woodsy scents such as cedar.
The History of Blue Chamomile
Though they share some of the same therapeutic properties, German, Roman and Moroccan chamomile oil are all different species. German, or blue chamomile, has a higher azulene content than its Roman cousin, which gives German chamomile its deep blue hue and makes it stand out as a distinct star among chamomile varieties.
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Chamomile is one of the oldest and most referenced medicinal herbs, with a history dating back thousands of years.
Ancient Egyptians revered blue chamomile for its therapeutic benefits, and chamomile was widely used in Latin American folk medicine.
Hippocrates, considered the father of modern medicine, used chamomile to reduce fevers, and Roman physician Pedanius Dioscorides and Greek physician Galen of Pergamon also recognized the widespread benefits of blue chamomile.2
Dioscorides mentioned blue chamomile in his reference book, “De Materia Medica Europe,” written in 78 AD, so it clearly has an extensive history.
German chamomile was used from the earliest days in history as a treatment for a wide range of ailments including fever and cold-related symptoms, motion sickness, allergies, insomnia, digestive disorders, colic, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, and anxiety.
Blue chamomile is also effective in treating the pain of fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual cramps, symptoms associated with chemotherapy or radiation and skin conditions including psoriasis, eczema, and acne.
Used in aromatherapy, blue chamomile can help heal inflammation and irritation of the respiratory tract, improving lung function.
The active ingredients that make chamomile special are numerous, and both Roman and German chamomile offer them, although German (blue) chamomile offers more therapeutic compounds than its plant cousins.
Blue chamomile is especially prized for its ability to slow the chemicals associated with inflammation, including prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and histamines, which are released as part of the body’s immune response.
But the essential oil is packed with properties that offer big-time health benefits, which explains why it has been prized since it was first used by ancient Egypt.
Some of the most important chemical compounds in blue chamomile include:
A terpene, azulene is what gives blue chamomile its deep blue color. It also acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory that helps inhibit the activity of leukotrienes, which are the first mediators that respond to inflammation by initiating an immune response.
Bisabolol is an excellent anti-aging compound, as it offers the benefits of antioxidants, which protect against free radical damage, helps improve the look of damaged skin by encouraging the production of collagen and elastin, which make up the structural layer of skin, it stimulates healing and may protect against sunburn. It also supports a healthy immune response.
Apigenin, a flavonoid, helps strengthen the connections between the nerve cells of the brain, enhancing communication between those cells.
This monoterpene works along with other compounds in chamomile including alpha- and beta-pinene to ease anxiety, creating a synergistic effect that makes blue chamomile especially beneficial at easing the symptoms associated with stress. Myrcene works by interacting with the neurotransmitters associated with stress, including cortisol, which when released lowers levels of feel-good hormones including serotonin and dopamine.
Alpha-pinene has been shown to inhibit an enzyme that is believed to damage the neurotransmitters in the brain used to communicate with the rest of the body, making it a valuable terpene with the potential to not only protect memory, but also help reduce symptoms of anxiety by interacting with the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which are the neurotransmitters targeted by benzodiazepines.
Another monoterpene, beta-pinene is believed to help lift a low mood, but it also acts as an antioxidant, reducing toxins and potentially slowing the growth of cancer cells.3
Another flavonoid, quercetin also acts as an antioxidant that protects against damage from free radicals and offers potential anti-cancer benefits. According to the results of a 2010 Italian study, quercetin also helps support healthy inflammation, especially by controlling inflammation triggered by allergic reactions.4
A monoterpene, thujone has an impact on GABA, the main neurotransmitter sending messages from the brain to the rest of the body. GABA is believed to be as an effective treatment for stress as drugs in the benzodiazepine family.
Farnesene, most commonly found in the skin of apples and the compound responsible for giving blue chamomile an aroma reminiscent of apples, helps protect against inflammation. It also helps calm frayed nerves and may reduce muscle spasms.5
This flavonoid has been linked to inflammation in the brain. A study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that luteolin inhibited microglia in the brain, the cells that are responsible for chronic inflammation in the brain. The production of interleukin-6, which communicates cellularly to trigger inflammation, was also reduced.6
Blue chamomile also contains coumarins that have been linked to lower blood pressure, sesquiterpenes, flavonoids, terpenoids, and antioxidants, which protect cells from oxidative stress caused by exposure to pollution, cigarette smoke, and other toxins.
Uses for Blue Chamomile Essential Oil
German chamomile oil is a popular addition to natural cosmetics, especially those formulated to ease dry or irritated skin or cleanse sensitive skin. (Chamomile mixes well with calendula, and together the two are safe in baby products).
Some other benefits of blue chamomile:
Alleviates Stress and Anxiety
A 2016 study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine found that chamomile helped ease the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, including high blood pressure and weight gain. Subjects ingested blue chamomile daily for eight weeks and saw reduced symptoms of both anxiety and depression.7
Promotes Healthy Blood Circulation
A 2013 study from the University of Nottingham Medical School in the United Kingdom found that chamomile helped relax blood vessels, improving the flow of blood and reducing high blood pressure. Researchers determined that the hydroxylates in blue chamomile, including luteolin, Bisabolol, and apigenin, were responsible for this health benefit.
Based on the results of a 2009 study, blue chamomile might be as effective at controlling inflammation as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Chamomile works by inhibiting the prostaglandin molecules in white blood cells, which respond to inflammation. Because blue chamomile is gentle and it has flavonoids that are able to penetrate the surface of the skin, the essential oil can be applied topically to relieve inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia or muscle pain from over-exertion or too much time at the gym.8
Improves Appearance of Skin
The bisabolol in blue chamomile essential oil, only isolated in the last century, helps reduce signs of aging including fine lines and wrinkles, sagging skin and dark spots by encouraging faster cell turnover while strengthening skin with the production of new collagen and elastin. Bisabolol is also believed to help reduce the risk of sunburn, adding a layer of protection against damage from exposure to the sun’s rays.9
Boosts Brain Health
According to a 2015 study from researchers at Brazil’s D’Or Institute for Research and Education, apigenin, which is found in blue chamomile, plays a role in protecting the brain against disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and depression. Apigenin not only encourages the production of new neurons in the brain, but it also strengthens the connections between brain cells, which is important for learning and memory retention. “Strong connections between neurons are crucial for good brain function, memory consolidation, and learning,” said neuroscientist Stevens Rehen, lead author of the study, which appeared in the journal Advances in Regenerative Biology.10
Potentially Protects Against Cancer
In addition to protecting the brain, the antioxidant apigenin may also play a role in preventing the spread of some cancers, according to a study appearing in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Chamomile was especially effective because it protected healthy cells while slowing the growth of cancerous ones. Studies have determined that blue chamomile and the apigenin it contains help reduce the growth of prostate, breast, skin and ovarian cancers.11
Protects Against Side Effects of Cancer Treatments
One of the side effects of radiation therapy and some types of chemotherapy is swelling and deterioration of the lining of the mouth. A rinse made with blue chamomile helped prevent the side effect and helped treat it for those who already had developed it.
Improves Sleep Quality
A 2012 study from researchers in South Korea found that blue chamomile helped improve sleep difficulties when used as aromatherapy.
In addition to protecting against the pain associated with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, blue chamomile essential oil has also been shown to help ease the pain of migraine headaches by constricting blood vessels, slowing the flow of blood to the site of the pain.12
Reduces Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies
Blue chamomile essential oil has the potential to reduce the symptoms of hay fever or asthma triggered by exposure to pollen when used as aromatherapy. It acts by helping to soothe respiratory inflammation, quieting coughing and alleviating congestion.13
Improves Hair Health
Adding a few drops of blue chamomile essential oil to shampoo or conditioner can help strengthen hair and make it shinier and easier to manage. It can also be used as an overnight hair mask by mixing a few drops of blue chamomile essential oil with four tablespoons of sweet almond oil as a carrier.14
Eases Muscle Cramps
Compounds in blue chamomile essential oil may help relieve muscle cramps or alleviate joint pain. A few drops of essential oil mixed with two tablespoons of sweet almond oil can be massaged into painful areas to relieve tension and help release painful cramps.
If you think stress only causes anxious thoughts, think again – but try not to get too stressed out about it. Stress can cause myriad health problems including digestive issues including irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea. Because blue chamomile essential oil calms the brain, it also prevents stress signals to be sent from the brain to the digestive tract via the vagus nerve, which can lead to digestive issues.15
How To Use Blue Chamomile Essential Oil
Blue chamomile essential oil is gentle enough to be applied topically, so it can be used as a compress or applied directly to the skin.
It can also be used as aromatherapy and added to a diffuser or breathed directly from the bottle or through the steam of a warm, relaxing bath.
Applying a few drops of blue chamomile to the soles of the feet can help support feelings of calm and relaxation.
German chamomile essential oil can also be taken orally, but consulting a doctor first is recommended to ensure safety.
Blue Chamomile Fun Facts
- Norse Vikings used blue chamomile essential oil in shampoo to add shine to their braided hair.
- Blue chamomile infused oil was used in ancient Egypt as part of an embalming oil used to preserve pharaohs in their tombs.
- In Spain, chamomile is known as manzanilla, which means “little apple.” Blue chamomile brings a punch of floral notes to Manzanilla sherry.
Chamomile may be a more widely recognized word in the world inside and outside of essential oils, especially if you enjoy a nice cup of tea. However, blue chamomile distinguishes itself with its benefits, aroma, and particularly color, making it an excellent oil to try if you already enjoy other the other types of chamomile.