Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

Botany, Geographical Distribution, and Horticultural Information of Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)


Chamomile, scientifically known as Matricaria chamomilla (synonyms: Chamomilla recutita, Matricaria recutita), is an annual plant belonging to the Asteraceae family. It is characterized by a branched, erect, and smooth stem, growing to a height of 15–60 cm. The plant’s leaves are long, narrow, and either bipinnate or tripinnate. Chamomile flowers are distinctive, with white ray florets and yellow disc florets, borne in paniculate flower heads. The hollow receptacle of the flower is swollen and lacks scales, a feature distinguishing it from similar species like corn chamomile (Anthemis arvensis). The flowers bloom in early to midsummer, emitting a fragrant aroma. A notable aspect of chamomile flowers is their blue essential oil, rich in chamazulene, giving the plant its characteristic smell and properties.

Geographical Distribution:

Originally native to southern and eastern Europe, Matricaria chamomilla has spread globally and can now be found on all continents. Its adaptability allows it to thrive in various environments, though it commonly grows on sandy to loamy soils that are mostly acidic.

Horticultural Information:

Chamomile cultivation does not demand special soil quality, though it performs best on well-balanced soils with good topsoil. The plant is tolerant and grows on light to heavy soils. Cultivation techniques include seeding as an annual crop in autumn or spring, or using it as a perennial crop with self-seeding. The seeding process requires a flat, weed-free seedbed and a specific sowing machine due to the small size of chamomile seeds. Moisture is crucial for germination and early growth stages. Harvesting is timed to maximize the essential oil content in the flowers, with multiple harvests possible per year. Mechanical harvesting is common, though hand harvesting is still practiced in small-scale cultivation.

Pest and Disease Management:

Chamomile is susceptible to pests like aphids and diseases such as downy mildew, powdery mildew, and rust. Effective weed control is essential, especially in the early growth stages. While there are no selective herbicides for chamomile, mechanical weed control is possible after germination.

Fertilization and Crop Rotation:

Chamomile responds to nitrogen fertilization with increased vegetative growth but requires adequate potassium for optimal stem development. Crop rotation is important for maintaining a weed-free seedbed, with chamomile often following row crops like potatoes, wheat, or corn.


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History, Traditional Herbal & Culinary Uses of Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)


Chamomile, known scientifically as Matricaria chamomilla and also referred to as German chamomile, has a rich history dating back to ancient civilizations. It was used medicinally in Ancient Egypt and Classical Antiquity, with evidence suggesting that Germanic tribes were familiar with chamomile before the advent of a written language. The plant was also cultivated in monastic gardens under Charlemagne’s reign, indicating its significance in early European herbal medicine.

Traditional Herbal Uses:

Chamomile has been a staple in traditional medicine for centuries, primarily for its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used to treat various gastrointestinal problems, including stomach cramps, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), indigestion, diarrhea, gas, and colic. Its antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory constituents make it effective in treating stomach and intestinal cramps. Additionally, chamomile tea has been a common remedy for anxiety, sleeplessness, general inflammation, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and painful menstruation. The plant’s ability to alleviate skin irritation has also been well-documented.

Culinary Uses:

While chamomile is predominantly known for its medicinal properties, it has also found its way into the culinary world. The dried flowers of Matricaria chamomilla are commonly used to prepare chamomile tea, a popular herbal beverage known for its calming effects. The tea is characterized by a mildly sweet flavor and a floral aroma, making it a favored drink for relaxation and stress relief.


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Scientific and Medicinal Studies on Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

Overview of Scientific Research:

Chamomile, specifically Matricaria recutita, has been the subject of extensive scientific research due to its wide range of therapeutic applications. It is recognized for its diverse group of therapeutically active compounds, making it a major subject in the study of medicinal plants.

Anxiolytic and Sedative Properties:

Numerous studies, including animal models and human case studies, have confirmed the anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects of chamomile. These studies support its traditional use as a sedative, particularly in treating mild to moderate Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The calming effects of chamomile are attributed to its active constituents, which interact with the central nervous system.

Antioxidant and Anticancer Activities:

Research has also focused on the antioxidant and anticancer properties of chamomile. Studies have shown that chamomile contains significant levels of antioxidants, which contribute to its ability to combat oxidative stress. Additionally, its antiproliferative activity against cancer cells has been evaluated, indicating potential in cancer treatment.

Wound Healing and Anti-Inflammatory Effects:

Chamomile has been studied for its role in reducing inflammation and accelerating wound healing. Animal studies have demonstrated these effects, highlighting the herb’s potential in topical applications for skin conditions and injuries.

Pharmacological Activities and Quality Control:

The pharmacological activities of chamomile, including its traditional uses and chemical constituents, have been thoroughly reviewed. These studies emphasize the importance of quality control in the production and use of chamomile-based medicinal products to ensure safety and efficacy.

Treatment of Eczema:

Specific studies have investigated the use of German chamomile in treating eczema. Network pharmacology approaches have been applied to understand the dose-effect relationships and the underlying mechanisms of action, revealing its potential as a treatment option for this skin condition.


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Specific List of Phytochemicals in Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

Chamomile, particularly the species Matricaria recutita, contains a variety of individual phytochemicals that contribute to its medicinal properties. The following is a list of specific phytochemical molecules identified in chamomile:

1. Apigenin: A flavonoid known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
2. Quercetin: Another flavonoid with antioxidant effects, known to help reduce inflammation and allergic reactions.
3. Patuletin: A flavonoid compound contributing to chamomile’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities.
4. Luteolin: A flavonoid that exhibits antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.
5. Bisabolol: A terpene that plays a significant role in chamomile’s soothing and anti-inflammatory effects.
6. Farnesene: A terpene known for its aromatic properties and potential therapeutic effects.
7. Chamazulene: A terpene with notable anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, contributing to chamomile’s blue oil color.
8. Coumarin: A compound with anticoagulant properties and a distinct sweet aroma.

These phytochemicals are primarily found in the essential oil of chamomile flowers and contribute to the plant’s wide range of medicinal uses, including its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and sedative effects.


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Contraindications and Safety of Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

General Safety:

Chamomile, particularly the German variety (Matricaria recutita), is generally considered safe when consumed in amounts typically found in foods and teas. It is possibly safe for short-term medicinal use when taken orally. However, the long-term safety of chamomile, especially when used on the skin for medicinal purposes, remains largely unknown.


1. Allergies: Individuals with allergies to plants in the Asteraceae/Compositae family, such as ragweed, marigolds, daisies, and chrysanthemums, may also be allergic to chamomile. It can cause allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis in rare cases.
2. Surgery and Dental Work: Due to its potential blood-thinning properties, chamomile should be discontinued at least two weeks before scheduled surgery or dental procedures.
3. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: While chamomile is widely used, there is insufficient reliable information about the safety of taking chamomile during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Caution is advised.
4. Children: The safety of chamomile in young children, especially in medicinal amounts, is not well established.

Side Effects and Interactions:

1. Drowsiness: Chamomile may cause drowsiness; hence, it should not be taken before driving or operating heavy machinery.
2. Interactions with Medications: Chamomile contains coumarin, a natural blood thinner, which may interact with blood-thinning medications like warfarin. It is advisable to consult a healthcare provider before combining chamomile with any medication.
3. Other Side Effects: Although rare, chamomile can cause nausea, dizziness, and vomiting in large doses.

Special Precautions:

1. Topical Use: When used as a bath additive, chamomile is contraindicated in cases of open wounds, large skin injuries, acute skin diseases, and high fever.
2. Internal Use of Chamomile Oil: Chamomile oil should not be taken internally.


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