May 23 2022

Medicinal uses of Chamomile(Matricaria recutita)


Manzanilla alemana(<em>Matricaria Recutita</em>)

Chamomile or German chamomile is an annual plant of the family Asteraceae, native to the Balkan Peninsula, from where it spread throughout the world, mainly Europe and temperate Asia. It has adapted to temperate zones of the globe, because it is a plant resistant to sun, cold, nutrient-poor soils and other adverse soil conditions.

The plant has a stem of circular section, about 45-50 cm. tall, with alternate leaves, presenting at the end a chapter with 20 floral elements of radial arrangement with white ligule and yellow disk with a faint fragrance.


Scientific names of Matricaria Recutita include:

Chamomilla officinalis, Chamomilla recutita, Chrysanthemum chamomilla, Matricaria chamomilla and Matricaria suaveolens.

Common names of this plant include chamomile, camomile, german chamomile,hungarian chamomile, wild chamomile and scented mayweed.


The plant contains less than 1% essential oil, although may have quite higher proportion in the flowers (2%) . In the essential oil of Matricaria recutita have been characterized at least 40 components, representing 92% of the essential oil [1]. This oil contains up to 50% of alpha-bisabolol (0.1-44.2%), and its derivatives, as bisaboloxides A (3.1-56.0%), B (3.9-27.2%) and C and bisabonoloxide A (0.5-24.8%) , azulenes, such as chamazulene (0.7-15.3%), and matricin guiazulene), flavonoids (apigenin and luteolin and their glycosides and quercetin plus patuletin), coumarins (dioxicumarine, herniarine, umbelliferone) spiroether and polysaccharides[2][3][4][5][6][7]. The aerial parts of chamomile synthesized precursors of 7-methoxycoumarin, a substance with anticoagulant properties[8].

Bisabolol is a substance extracted from the plant with anti-inflammatory properties, but it has also reported observations of contact dermatitis due to this agent[9]. According to some experts, the major component of chamomile recutita is apigenin-7-O-glucoside and alfa bisabolol terpenoids, its oxides and azulene, including chamazulene[10][11][12].

Chamazulene is a natural profen with anti-inflammatory properties, as it is an inhibitor of COX but not COX-1 and is a byproduct of the degradation of proazulenic sesquiterpene lactone e.g. matricin and related compounds [13].

In essential oil of Matricaria recutita were isolated precocenes and piperitone [14], substances which inhibit the production of trichothecenes by the fusarium. In essential oil of the plant has been isolated beta-farnesene, a substance which attracts predators of aphids[15].

Have been identified 11 bioactive phenolic compounds (coumarins: herniarin, umbelliferone; phenylpropanoids: chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid; flavones: apigenin, apigenin-7-O-glucoside, luteolin, luteolin-7-O-glucoside; flavonols: quercetin, rutin and flavanone: naringenin)[16].

Traditional uses     

For centuries. Matricaria chamomilla's been used in traditional folk medicine to treat a wide range of ailments, including various gastrointestinal disorders such as dyspepsia syndrome, gastritis and gastroduodenal ulcers[17].

Folk medicine attributes to chamomile properties sedative, anticonvulsant, carminative, antispasmodic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic[18]. In general, this plant has been employed as anti-inflammatory and intestinal antispasmodic. Locally, it has been used in inflammation of the skin and mucous membranes, especially of the anogenital area and skin infections (German Commission E).

Dried flowers are widely used to provide sedative and antispasmodic effects[19]. Infusion of flowers are also used for the relief of coughs and colds, as well as to promote gastric and biliary secretion. Also the stem of this plant is used in the preparation of infusions. The decoction or infusion of chamomile is used for cosmetic purposes (to lighten the hair).

Matricaria chamomilla is one of the most popular plants in the preparation of teas and tisanes for medicinal purposes[10]. Its use is widespread in Latin America[20]. In Germany it is the most consumed medicinal plant, representing nearly a quarter of all botanical resources used.This amount is remarkable by the large consumption of herbal remedies in this country[21]. Other authors confirm this popular acceptance in other parts of the world, including Turkey[22], Serbia[23] and Guatemala[24].

Prevention should be taken with commercial preparations of doubtful origin. A study of adulterants in commercial preparations of chamomile in Brazil shows that 63% of samples contained contaminants, insects or fragmentation of flowers was bad, as a result of excessive handling or poor care. Only half of the samples contain essential oils, while only 20% of these contain phenolic compounds and plant flavonoids[25].

Clinical studies     

57 outpatients were included in a placebo controlled trial, double blind, lasting 8 weeks. It was to analyze the possible role of german chamomile in generalized anxiety syndrome, assessing the patients with the Hamilton Anxiety Rating (HAM-A) and other indicators of less importance. It was observed higher reduction in the group of patients treated with chamomile, statistically significant , and also a favorable change in secondary indicators, compared to placebo. The authors conclude that chamomile has a valuable but modest effect on anxiety in patients with generalized anxiety syndrome[26].

An open trial including three patients with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder suggests a potential usefulness of chamomile in this syndrome[27]. It has been reported a case of healing of mucositis due to methotrexate treated successfully with wild chamomile rinses[28].

A controlled clinical trial, double-blind, placebo-controlled seems to conclude that in functional dyspepsia combined treatment of four plants, including chamomile flowers, was superior to placebo. However, because the study included other substances in addition to chamomile, it is risky to extrapolate conclusions[29]. Another similar study, with a commercial product containing Chamomile and Angelica Sinensis, seems to offer better results than placebo in treating hot flashes and other manifestations of menopause[30], although more studies would be needed to reach generalizable conclusions.

It has been reported a study in several digestive conditions with acceptable results (chronic gastritis, chronic cholecystitis) by use of a commercial preparation containing various medicinal plants[31]. Such studies do not allow to draw conclusions with respect to a particular plant, as indicated above.

Adverse reactions and interactions     

Adverse reactions

There have been published reports of adverse reactions to chamomile, both as infusion or tisane, and also if applied topically[10]. However, an observational study conducted in Germany suggests that the set of adverse reactions to Asteraceae is probably low or very low[21]. In a total of 7000 prescriptions were recorded only eleven mild adverse reactions(RR=0.13 ;CI 95% : 0.07-0.23)[21].

Among most common reaction with this plant are allergies. Have been described several cases of allergic reactions to chamomile [32] [33], as urticaria and contact dermatitis [34] [35]. Within this class of adverse reactions have been reported cases of occupational type and cross-reactions with various Asteraceae and other botanical families [36] [37] [38]. Have also been published cases of eyelid edema and conjunctivitis by topical application (eye wash) of chamomile tea[39].

There have been published only a few cases of generalized allergic reaction to German chamomile. An article refers to a case of severe anaphylactic reaction in a 38 year old male with generalized urticaria, angioedema, and severe dyspnea an hour after drinking a chamomile tea. The patient had positive skin tests, together with provocation tests and RAST also positive [40]. It has been published also another case of severe anaphylactic reaction in a atopic child 8 years old, due to an infusion of chamomile[41].

It is customary in some countries to give chamomile infusions to infants suffering from intestinal colic. However, one study found that more than 7% of samples of this plant is contaminated with Clostridium botulinum spores, although the proportion in the packaged plant in tea bags is less. Although there have been no cases of botulism in infants caused by chamomile, is a matter to be considered[42].


Interaction between iron absorption and polyphenols contained in some infusions can significantly inhibit the absorption of ferrous iron. For chamomile, monomeric flavonoids can inhibit up about 50% of iron intake[43].

Matricaria chamomilla is composed in part by coumarin derivatives, so there is a risk of potentiation of the anticoagulant effect when taken in conjunction with this class of drugs. A patient aged 70 year old was admitted to the hospital with multiple internal bleeding while receiving oral anticoagulants and took both teas and chamomile body lotion to relieve symptoms of a catarrhal infection[44].

An in vitro study has shown that various components of Matricaria recutita can inhibit CYP450. Three components of the essential oil, chamazulene, cis-and trans-espiroeter inhibit CYP3A4 and to a lesser extent CYP2C9 and CYP2D6 isoenzymes. In the latter case, only alfabisabolol and chamazulene significantly can inhibit this last[45][46].

Experimental studies     

Antitumor effect

Bisaboloxide A incubated with thymocytes increases the number of dead or damaged cells, many of which can be seen in the initial phase of apoptosis, provided that the concentration of that substance be not greater than 10 microM[47].

The exposure of normal cells to methanol extract of chamomile causes a minimal effect on cell growth, being possible to observe a decrease in cell viability in various cancer cell lines (apoptosis). The main component of the extract, apigenin-7-O-glucoside, inhibited cell growth but to a lesser degree than its predecessor, apigenin [11][48]. It seems that the substance with the stronger effect on apoptosis is geraniol, that probably would be dose and time-dependent[49].

Immunomodulatory effect

The treatment by intraperitoneal injection of camomile extract increased the leukocyte counts in peripheral blood and the bone marrow cellularity. For the authors of the study, the plant would have an immunomodulatory effect on experimental animals[50].

Oral or parenteral administration of chamomile heteropolysaccharide to experimental animal appears to normalize the immune response after immersion or cooling[51].

Chamomile stimulates rosette formation of T lymphocytes in immunodeficient patients[52].

Effect on wound

Experimental studies have recorded significant differences between the groups of animals treated with chamomile and controls with regard to percentage of wound healing by topical treatment with the plant[53][54][55]. In another experimental model, animals treated topically with chamomile showed a more rapid and complete healing compared with corticosteroids[56].

Antibacterial effect

Among herb extracts showing stronger inhibitory activity on Campylobacter jejuni is Matricaria recutita[57].

Chamomile essential oil shows a certain parasite, ovicidal and repellent effect against lice and flies Egyptian water buffalo[58].

A study in vitro revealed that some strains of staph and as many of candida albicans from external ear exudates were sensitive to chamomile[59].

Other experimental study suggests that essential oil of chamomile would act against herpes simplex type 1 virus disrupting its adsorption differently to acyclovir, still very active even against strains acyclovir-resistant[60]. Chamomile, also would produce a growth inhibition of poliovirus, which would be reversible[61][62]. Chamomile also seems to have a virucidal effect against herpes simplex type 2 virus, dose-dependent , presenting a very high selectivity index against it[63].

The extract of matricaria flowers through olive oil inhibits production of urease by the Helicobacter pylori [64]. SHowever, another study places the chamomile in the lower active substances group against helicobacter since the methanolic extract of chamomile's flowers shows a minimum inhibitory concentration of 100 micg/mL[17].

The decoction of chamomile (to 10% concentration) offers a 100% effectiveness in an experimental study on otoacariasis in pets caused by Psoroptes cuniculi[65].

Neuroprotective effect

The methanol extract of Matricaria recutita L. has shown a potent neuroprotective effect against overall cerebral damage caused by oxidative stress induced by ischemia-reperfusion in rats[66].

The morphine withdrawal syndrome and weight loss is significantly inhibited by the chronic coadministration of chamomile extract together with morphine. The administration of a single injection of chamomile before testing with naloxone in morphine-dependent animals suppresses withdrawal manifestations. These results suggest that the camomile extract inhibits the development of morphine dependence and withdrawal expression[67].

Apigenin has a specific ability to displace radioligand central locus of benzodiazepine joint. Apigenin reduces GABA in a dose-dependent manner. Available data suggest that apigenin reduces latency in picrotoxin-induced seizures and, administered by injection, reduced locomotor activity without showing muscle relaxant or anticonvulsant anxiolytic effect[19][68].

Hydro-methanolic extract of chamomile has shown to increase the latency period of picrotoxin-induced seizures in laboratory animals, as well as decrease the number and duration of the crisis and delay the death of experimental animals[18].

Apigenin inhibits binding of flunitrazepam to benzodiazepine receptors and have an anxiolytic effect in mice without evidence of muscle relaxation and sedation or anticonvulsant effect[69].

Efecto antidiabético

Matricaria recutita seems to have a significant antihyperglycemic effect in rats with streptozotocin-induced diabetes as well as a protective effect on beta cells of the pancreas[70]. In a glucose tolerance test, the administration of esculetin (50 mg / kg) completely abolishes the hyperglycemia after 15 and 30 minutes, while chamomile extract (500 mg/kg) and quercetin (50 mg/kg) were less effective. However, the prolonged administration of the latter to streptozotocin diabetic mouse completely prevent the rise of glucose levels. However, the prolonged administration of the latter to streptozotocin diabetic mouse completely prevent the rise of glucose levels. In the authors' opinion, both chamomile extract and some of its components (umbelliferone, esculetin, luteolin and quercetin) could prevent the complications of diabetes mellitus if administered continuously[71].

Psychiatric effects

Results of a pilot study suggest that chamomile may help to experimental animal to recover in stressful situations [72]. Matricaria recutita also shows experimentally a significant inhibition of the activity of glutamic acid decarboxylase, which plays an important role in gammaamino butyric acid metabolism[73].

Chamomile also has a mild sedative and anxiolytic effect in experimental animals[74].


Alpha Bisabolol, a sesquiterpene alcohol present in chamomile, has shows experimentally to have an antimutagenic effect on certain strains of Salmonella typhimurium. The results seem to suggest that this effect could be due to an inhibitory effect on the metabolic activation of some promutagen agent[75].

Genotoxicity tests for chamomile Matricaria show no effect in drosophila melanogaster[76]. This effect is attributed to phenolic content and its ability to capture acid radicals. Some data suggest that the plant would have more of one antigenotoxic effect.The essential oil of Matricaria Recutita inhibit the changes induced by daunorubicin and methyl methanesulfonate in mouse bone marrow[77].

Antiallergic effect

Continued ingestion of chamomile flowers have an antipruritic effect in the experimental animal treated with a compound named 48/80, a substance that causes itching and scratching[78]. Oral administration of chamomile extract also has a remarkable antipruritic effect in experimental animals[79].

Sasmolytic effect

Spasmolytic effect of chamomile, shown in experimental models, is due to a mechanism not well established[80].

Gastrointestinal effects

Chamomile's extract produces an antiulcer effect, dose dependent, which is associated with a reduction of the acid flow, increased mucin production, increase in the release of prostaglandin E2 and reduction of leukotriene. The effect is due, at least in part, to its content of flavonoids and free radical scavenging properties[81].

Alpha-bisabolol, a sesquiterpene alcohol with a pleasant aroma, seems to also have a gastroprotective effect against injuries caused by alcohol and indomethacin. At oral doses of 50 and 100 mg/kg markedly attenuated gastric lesions induced by alcohol in 87% and 96% of cases, respectively. Such protection would not be reversible by the administration of these substances[82][83][84].

Matricaria recutita extract shows moderate anti-peristaltic activity in rats, equal or superior to that of loperamide (30-57%), which would support the popular use in Mexico as antidiarrheal[85].

Flavonoids of chamomile (20-80 mg/kg) stimulate bile flow in laboratory animal in a dose-dependent manner, increasing biliary secretion of cholesterol and reducing the lipid content in the liver of rats that live more[86].

Other effects

A preliminary study appreciates the chamomile extract as sunscreen agent [87]. Other experimental research shows that chamazulene has properties as antioxidant and free radical scavenger[88].

As other plants containing flavonoids, chamomile also has a cytotoxic effect in vitro[89].

Several experiments on animal models show the anti-inflammatory effect of chamomile [90] [91]. It has also been experimentally demonstrated an uterotonic effect[92].


Although studies in experimental models (animal or in vitro) show anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, hypolipidemic, anxiolytic and spasmolytic effects, studies in humans are very limited and virtually there is not sufficient number of large clinical trials with good methodological rigor. By this reason is lacking enough scientifical evidence on its therapeutic effects beyond the suspicion of possible benefits, yet unproven[10][93].


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Page updated: December 5, 2008.


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