Chamomile (American English) or camomile (British English; see spelling differences) (/ - /, KAM-ə-myl or KAM-ə-meel) is the common name for several daisy-like plants of the family Asteraceae. Two of the species are commonly used to make herbal infusions for traditional medicine, and there is some evidence that chamomile has an effect on health.
The word "chamomile" derived via French and Latin from Greek χαμαίμηλον (khamaimēlon), "earth apple", from χαμαί (khamai) "on the ground" and μῆλον (mēlon) "apple". First used in the 13th century, the spelling "chamomile" corresponds to the Latin chamomilla and Greek chamaimelon. The spelling "camomile" is a British derivation from the French.
Some commonly used species include:
- Matricaria chamomilla Often called "German chamomile" or "Water of Youth",
- Chamaemelum nobile, Roman, English or garden chamomile, also frequently used, (C. nobile Treneague is normally used to create a chamomile lawn).
A number of other species common names include the word "chamomile". This does not mean they are used in the same manner as the species used in the herbal tea known as "chamomile". Plants including the common name "chamomile", of the family Asteraceae, are:
- Chamomilla recutita, German Chamomile
- Anthemis arvensis, corn, scentless or field chamomile
- Anthemis cotula, stinking chamomile
- Cladanthus mixtus, Moroccan chamomile
- Chamaemelum nobile, Roman Chamomile
- Cota tinctoria, dyer's, golden, oxeye, or yellow chamomile
- Eriocephalus punctulatus, Cape chamomile
- Matricaria discoidea, wild chamomile or pineapple weed
- Tripleurospermum inodorum, wild, scentless or false chamomile
Tea and herbal products
Chamomile tea is an herbal infusion made from dried flowers and hot water. Two types of chamomile used are German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Chamomile may be used as a flavoring agent in foods and beverages, mouthwash, soaps, or cosmetics. When used as an herbal product, such as in tea or as a topical skin cream, chamomile is not likely to have significant health effects or major side effects.
The main constituents of chamomile flowers are polyphenol compounds, including apigenin, quercetin, patuletin, and luteolin. Essential oil components extracted from the flowers are terpenoids. Chamomile is under preliminary research for its potential anti-anxiety properties. There is no high-quality clinical evidence that it is useful for treating insomnia or any disease.
Use of chamomile has potential to cause adverse interactions with numerous herbal products and prescription drugs, and may worsen pollen allergies. Apigenin, a phytochemical in chamomile, may interact with anticoagulant agents and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, while other phytochemicals may adversely interact with sleep-enhancing herbal products and vitamins.
"Chamomile consists of several ingredients including coumarin, glycoside, herniarin, flavonoid, farnesol, nerolidol and germacranolide. Despite the presence of coumarin, as chamomile’s effect on the coagulation system has not yet been studied, it is unknown if a clinically significant drug-herb interaction exists with antiplatelet/anticoagulant drugs. However, until more information is available, it is not recommended to use these substances concurrently."
People who are allergic to ragweed (also in the daisy family) may be allergic to chamomile due to cross-reactivity. Chamomile should not be used by people with past or present cancers of the breast, ovary, uterus, endometriosis or uterine fibroids.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Because chamomile has been known to cause uterine contractions that can invoke miscarriage, pregnant mothers are advised to not consume Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Although oral consumption of chamomile is generally recognized as safe in the United States, there is insufficient clinical evidence about its potential for affecting nursing infants.
The chamomile plant is known to be susceptible to many fungi, insects, and viruses. Fungi such as Albugo tragopogonis (white rust), Cylindrosporium matricariae, Erysiphe cichoracearum (powdery mildew), and Sphaerotheca macularis (powdery mildew) are known pathogens of the chamomile plant. Aphids have been observed feeding on chamomile plants and the moth Autographa chryson causes defoliation.
Use in beer and ale
Chamomile has historically been used in beer. Unlike tea, in which only the flowers are used, the whole plant has been used. The bitter taste is useful in beer, but it was also used for medicinal purposes. Modern craft breweries and homebrewers use chamomile, and there are several hundred commercially brewed beers with chamomile.
Mary Wesley's 1984 novel The Camomile Lawn features a house in Cornwall with a lawn planted with chamomile rather than grass.
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