May 8, 2010 Christie Bailey
Chamomile flowers are used to prepare tea.  - Paraiala Marcel
Chamomile flowers are used to prepare tea. - Paraiala Marcel
Chamomile is a popular home remedy for indigestion and insomnia. Learn more about this gentle tea and why it is a preferred herbal remedy for children.
Chamomile herb, a popular natural remedy for insomnia and indigestion, has beautiful white-and-yellow flowers and a sweet, apple-like scent. In fact, chamomile's name comes from the Greek "ground-apple" (Grieve, 1971). These flowers are popularly used to make a tea that can either be drunk as a beverage or for its medicinal properties. Though an effective home remedy for stomach complaints, sleep problems, sore eyes, and other issues, it is very gentle – so gentle, in fact, that it is lauded by herbalists as a remedy for children's ailments (Kloss, 1988; Gladstar, 2001).

German Chamomile and Roman Chamomile

Chamomile herb is actually two separate species of plant that belong in two different genuses.
Roman chamomile has two Latin names, though they both refer to the same plant: Anthemis nobilis and Chamaemelum nobile. It is also known as "true chamomile." It is a perennial, low-growing, highly aromatic plant with small white-and-yellow flowers.
German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is also known as "wild chamomile." It is an annual plant that is very similar to Roman chamomile; it is low-growing, aromatic, and contains similar white-and-yellow flowers. This is the most popular variety of chamomile used in the United States.
The leaves of the chamomile plant are rarely used medicinally; for both medicinal and non-medicinal preparations, it is the flowers that are used. These contain a beautiful blue essential oil with anti-inflammatory and antipyretic (fever-reducing) properties. Chamomile also contains a substance known as coumarin; although not an anticoagulant, coumarin is a precursor molecule that can be transformed into an anticoagulant by certain fungi and pharmaceutical companies.

Chamomile Uses

Both varieties of chamomile have very similar properties, making them interchangeable. Both have nerve- and stomach-soothing effects, as well as the ability to decrease pain and inflammation. Likewise, both are considered a stellar children's remedy for colic, stomach disorders, restlessness, fever, and swelling. Chamomile uses include:
  • increase appetite
  • tame indigestion
  • nerve-soothing sedative
  • pain reliever
  • antispasmodic
  • diuretic (increases urine output)
  • decrease fever
In addition to drinking chamomile tea for the above indications, a fomentation (warm compress) using chamomile tea can be applied topically to ease skin irritations, swelling, inflammation, and sore muscles. The tea can also be used as a wash for sore eyes, though be careful of the temperature.

Preparation and Usage of Chamomile Tea

Though packaged chamomile tea bags are widely available in supermarkets and natural health stores, herbalists advise using dried flower heads in the preparation of chamomile tea (Grieve,1971; Ulbricht & Basch, 2005; Libster, 2002). These can be purchased on-line or at some natural health stores. Since the dried flowers are loose and not pre-packaged in tea bags, they will need to be placed in a tea infuser (such as a mesh ball or a muslin bag) before being added to water.
According to Libster (2002), one-half to one teaspoon of chamomile flowers should be added to one cup of boiling water and steeped for no more than two minutes. This can be drunk three or four times a day.
For use with children, Gladstar (2001) recommends sweetening the tea with honey. (However, honey should not be given to infants under one year of age.)

Chamomile Tea Side Effects and Warnings

Though chamomile is gentle and has no recorded side effects, it may still cause allergic reaction in those who are sensitive to it. Be mindful, especially when administering to children for the first time.
According to Ulbricht and Basch (2005), chamomile may theoretically increase bleeding in people taking medications or herbs with blood-thinning properties, including warfarin (Coumadin) and gingko biloba.
Since chamomile is reported to have a sedating
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