Scientific Name: Matricaria recutita, Chamomilla recutita, Matricaria chamomilla
Common Names: Hungarian chamomile, wild chamomile
An aromatic annual herb prevalent in Europe, North Africa, and Northwest Asia, chamomile has been used as a medicinal plant for several centuries. It has been used to treat stomach and menstrual disorders, insomnia, rheumatic pain, and hemorrhoids.
Today, chamomile-derived essential oils are used in cosmetics and aromatherapy. Chamomile tea, which is brewed from the dried flower heads, has gained worldwide popularity as a sleep aid and for its calming effects. Current data indicate chamomile’s effectiveness against generalized anxiety disorder and insomnia. It also has wound-healing properties and is being considered as a treatment for mucositis associated with chemotherapy.
Chamomile is available online and in health food stores in the form of tablets, capsules, liquid extracts, oil, tea, tinctures, and in ointments for topical use.
Chamomile extracts have demonstrated anti-inflammatory,1 antihyperglycemic,2 antigenotoxic,3 wound healing,4 and anticancer5 effects in vitro and in animal models. Terpenoids and flavonoids, present in the dried flowers, contribute to the herb’s medicinal effects.
Proposed mechanisms of chamomile’s anti-inflammatory activity involves inhibition of COX-2 (cyclooxygenase 2) enzyme, resulting in release of lipopolysaccharide-induced prostaglandin E2 in RAW 264.7 macrophages.1 Apigenin, a flavone present in chamomile, exerts strong chemopreventive effects,6 and was shown to inhibit the progression and metastasis of choriocarcinoma cells by regulating the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/protein kinase B (PI3K/AKT) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase/mitogen-activated protein kinase (ERK1/2 MAPK) pathways.7 Also, concurrent use of bisabolol oxide A, another constituent, decreased the dose of fluorouracil (5-FU) needed to inhibit the growth of human leukemia cells.8
Jyothirmai Gubili, MS
Preliminary data from clinical studies suggest modest benefits of chamomile, taken orally, in improving chronic insomnia.9 Oral intake of a chamomile extract was also shown to have a mild-to-moderate effect in patients with generalized anxiety disorder.10 The precise mechanisms underlying the anxiolytic effects of chamomile have yet to be determined.
Chamomile’s wound-healing property has been explored in a few studies as well. Application of a chamomile compress was shown to be effective—and superior to hydrocortisone ointment—in facilitating healing of peristomal skin lesions in patients following colostomy,11 but trials involving a mouthwash containing chamomile for ameliorating 5-FU–induced mucositis produced conflicting results.12-14
A recent observational study reported that consumption of chamomile tea was associated with a decreased risk of thyroid cancer.15 Additional research is needed to determine the anticancer potential of chamomile.
Hypersensitivity reactions, including asthma, contact dermatitis, and anaphylaxis, can occur following exposure to chamomile.16-18
Premature constriction of fetal ductus arteriosus after consumption of chamomile tea by a mother during pregnancy19
Severe anaphylaxis with generalized urticaria, angioedema, and severe dyspnea in a 38-year-old man 1 hour after consuming chamomile tea; symptoms improved following treatment with an intravenous antihistamine20
Multiple internal hemorrhages in a 70-year-old woman after concurrent use of chamomile products and warfarin21
Occupational allergic rhinoconjunctivitis from the inhalation of dried chamomile flowers22
Anticoagulants/antiplatelets: Chamomile may have additive effects. Because of its coumarin content, it may inhibit platelet activity.21
Cytochrome P450 substrates: Chamomile has been shown to inhibit CYP1A2, CYP2C9, CYP2D6, and CYP3A4 and may increase the intracellular concentration of drugs metabolized by these enzymes. The clinical relevance is yet to be determined.23
Cyclosporine: Concurrent use of cyclosporine and chamomile resulted in increased serum levels of cyclosporine.24 ■
Disclosure: Ms. Gubili reported no potential conflicts of interest.References
3. Hernández-Ceruelos A, Madrigal-Bujaidar E, de la Cruz C: Inhibitory effect of chamomile essential oil on the sister chromatid exchanges induced by daunorubicin and methyl methanesulfonate in mouse bone marrow. Toxicol Lett 135:103-110, 2002.
7. Lim W, Park S, Bazer FW, Song G: Apigenin reduces survival of choriocarcinoma cells by inducing apoptosis via the PI3K/AKT and ERK1/2 MAPK pathways. J Cell Physiol. March 11, 2016 (early release online).
10. Amsterdam JD, Li Y, Soeller I, et al: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. J Clin Psychopharmacol 29:378-382, 2009.
11. Charousaei F, Dabirian A, Mojab F: Using chamomile solution or a 1% topical hydrocortisone ointment in the management of peristomal skin lesions in colostomy patients. Ostomy Wound Manage 57:28-36, 2011.
22. Benito P, Rodríguez-Perez R, García F, et al: Occupational allergic rhinoconjunctivitis induced by Matricaria chamomilla with tolerance of chamomile tea. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol 24:369-370, 2014.