Born from the bright, cheerful blossoms of the chamomile plant, chamomile essential oil is one of the most therapeutic of essential oils.
Both German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) provide excellent health, even though their chemical makeup is a bit different.
Although both have leaves with a scent reminiscent of apple or pineapple, and white, daisy-like flowers with yellow centers, Roman chamomile is a perennial that grows up to 12 inches tall, while German chamomile is an annual that grows twice as tall.
Chamomile Fun Facts
Manzanilla, a Spanish sherry made from Palomino grapes, got its name because its scent is reminiscent of chamomile.
Hoppy IPAs could have been known as IPAs with floral notes. Chamomile was once used to flavor beer before brewers turned to hops instead.
More than one million cups of chamomile tea are consumed every day.
Chamomile is believed to bring a bit of magic to those who use it. According to Scott Cunningham, author of the book Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, chamomile is believed to attract money, love, and the calm of meditation.
Chamomile plants have been found to improve the health of sickly plants when planted nearby, making the herb a welcome addition to any garden.
Roman chamomile, also known as true chamomile, is native to the Middle East, parts of Europe, and eastern Africa. It is also is cultivated in parts of South America, England, France, Belgium, the United States. Its essential oil is white to light yellow in color.
German chamomile is grown in Hungary, Egypt, France, Eastern Europe, and Asia, and its essential oil is dark blue when freshly distilled due to high levels of azulene.
Chamomile oil pairs well with the citrus scents of grapefruit, bergamot, lemon, and lime, as well as the florals of lavender, jasmine, geranium, and ylang-ylang.
The History of Chamomile
Chamomile is one of the oldest and most-studied medicinal herbs, dating back thousands of years.
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Its first literary mention is from ancient Egypt, where it was used to treat fever (known then as ague).
While it was first believed to be a gift from Ra, the Egyptian Sun God, chamomile was previously used in ancient Egypt as part of the embalming oil used to preserve pharaohs in their tombs and as a skincare treatment by women of nobility, as shown in hieroglyphics.
Chamomile gets its name from the ancient Greek word chamomaela, which means “ground apple,” a name given to the flower because Pliny the Elder wrote of the similarities between chamomile and apple blossoms. The Spanish word for chamomile echoes that same idea. In Spain, chamomile is known as manzanilla, which means “little apple,” and is used to give Manzanilla, a Spanish sherry, its floral notes.1
Chamomile was used by the Greeks and Romans for a variety of purposes including medicine. For example, Pliny the Elder used chamomile to treat headaches and inflammation, both in beverages and in incense.
The Anglo-Saxons considered chamomile among the nine sacred herbs and used it for ceremonies as well as for healing. During the Middle Ages, chamomile blossoms were spread on the floors along with lavender and other scented blooms to perfume the air as people walked.
Cultivation of chamomile began in the 16th century, and later, chamomile became a mainstay in the black bags of doctors in Europe and the earliest days of the United States, due to its diverse health benefits.
The active ingredients in chamomile include flavonoids like apigenin, luteolin, and quercetin; terpenoids including the antioxidants chamazulene—an anti-inflammatory only found in chamomile essential oil— and azulene; as well as coumarins—natural compounds that have been shown to have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
Other compounds found in chamomile essential oil include Alpha-pinene, a terpene that may inhibit the activity of an enzyme that targets the neurotransmitters that send messages from the brain to the rest of the body, giving it the potential power to protect brain functions including memory. Alpha-pinene also interacts with the same neurotransmitters that are affected by anti-anxiety drugs, making it a compound that may offer stress relief.
Because chamomile also contains myrcene, a monoterpene believed to help ease anxiety, it provides a double dose of stress relief. Myrcene is effective because it has molecules small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier, so it can interact with neurotransmitters linked to feelings of stress.
Beta-pinene, another monoterpene, also plays a role in chamomile’s health benefits. Beta-pinene is believed to help improve mood and clear the body of harmful toxins.
In addition, the antioxidant benefits of chamomile—which can prevent oxidative stress caused by free radical activity, reducing the signs of aging—make it an excellent addition to skin care products.
For anxiety, Roman chamomile is a better option, while German chamomile, which offers more active ingredients, is a more effective choice for inflammation.2
Uses for Chamomile Essential Oil
There is a wide range of health benefits associated with chamomile essential oil. According to researchers, the aromatherapy benefits of essential oils are triggered by the scent’s impact on the brain, where it has the ability to influence mood, arousal, hormonal responses, and pain.
Some of the key health benefits associated with chamomile are highlighted below.
Alleviates Stress and Anxiety
Chamomile tea has always been a go-to option to ease anxiety, but chamomile essential oil provides even more effective treatment for anxiety. According to several studies, chamomile oil helps alleviate anxiety by acting as a mild sedative because the compound Alpha-pinene interacts with the same neurotransmitters affected by anti-anxiety drugs. A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology found that chamomile relieved mild symptoms associated with general anxiety disorder.3
Improves the Appearance of Skin
The ancient Egyptians were onto something when they used chamomile to add a rosy, youthful glow to their skin. The antioxidants in chamomile, specifically the plant flavonoids, make it an excellent option for improving the tone and texture of skin while reducing the appearance of aging. It protects the skin from oxidative stress due to free radicals and encourages the production of the skin proteins collagen and elastin. Because it is so gentle, chamomile essential oil is ideal for sensitive skin. It can be paired with calendula oil to soothe and soften skin when mixed with a carrier oil.
Relieves Allergy Symptoms
Chamomile oil helps relieve congestion associated with hay fever and other allergies and can be applied topically to help relieve the irritation of allergy-related itching.4
This essential oil has been shown to help ease digestive issues including irritable bowel syndrome and other chronic conditions. The benefits are believed to be the result of chamomile’s stress-relieving effects. Because the gut and the brain communicate directly via the vagus nerve, the longest cranial nerve in the body, a relaxed brain can lead to decreased digestive irritation.5
Chamomile might be as effective at controlling inflammation as NSAIDS, based on a 2009 study in the journal Life Science. Chamomile was an effective inhibitor of prostaglandin molecules in white blood cells, a response to inflammation. The flavonoids in chamomile penetrate beneath the skin’s surface, so oil applied topically could help relieve inflammation associated with arthritis.6
Sleepless nights can be a thing of the past with chamomile, based on the results of a 2006 study. The aromatherapy benefits of Roman chamomile oil encouraged the release of hormones that helped reduce stress and trigger drowsiness. According to the Sleep Disorders website, chamomile can be used in several different ways to treat insomnia effectively.
- Apply chamomile oil directly to the skin. Mix seven to 10 drops of the essential oil with 25mL of a carrier oil such as olive or sunflower oil before applying.
- Add five to 10 drops of chamomile oil to a warm bath.
- Use chamomile essential oil in a diffuser. An oil diffuser will help distribute the soothing scent of chamomile throughout the room, creating a restful environment.7
Improves Heart Health
German chamomile has been shown to help open blood vessels, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis. Chamomile also contains flavonoids that have been linked to lowering cholesterol levels. High cholesterol raises the risk of heart disease.8
Detoxifies the Body
Both Roman and German chamomile encourage perspiration, which helps remove toxins from the body while bringing welcome relief from the heat. This benefit is why chamomile was used to lift fevers. Chamomile also encourages increased urination as well as the flow of bile in the liver, two other ways that toxins are removed from the body.9
In addition to easing the hormonally-triggered symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), chamomile has also been shown to ease the pain of cramps, as well as headaches and back pain, that can accompany a period.
Safety and Precautions
While chamomile is gentle, making it safe to use on children, it should not be used during pregnancy.
It should also not be used with aspirin or NSAIDs because of interactions triggered by the compound apigenin.
There’s a good reason as to why the chamomile has been so popular throughout history, dating back thousands of years.
Whether used topically when diluted with a carrier oil or lotion, ingested in an herbal tea, or used in aromatherapy through a room diffuser or portable aromatherapy diffuser like Sleepy MONQ, chamomile can provide you with the same range of health benefits when incorporated into your daily routine.