Family Name: Compositae
Chapter from “Backyard Medicine chest”
Notes from Eclectic Physician’s
Also known as German Chamomile
Parts Used: Flowers
Remember This: Our lady of the Guts
Reasonable Uses: poor digestion, sluggish digestion, acid reflux, acid indigestion, ulcers, constipation, irritable bowel, diarrhea, vomiting, digestive flu, food poisoning, nausea, and motion sickness.
History and Traditional Uses
The sunny chamomile flower has been used for at least three thousand years to settle upset digestive tracts. Native to Europe, the plant had spread well into Asia and Africa before the Bible was written. One of the most ancient plants still in active use, Chamomile got top ratings from herbalists that lived in days gone by.
Scientific Back Up
It counteracts irritation. It soothes troubled tummies. It protects against ulcers. It eases muscle spasms. Time and time again, its action against bacterial and fungal infections has been shown in the laboratory. Science reveals that chamomile works on many, many different levels to bring a badly behaving digestive tract back into line.
The herb contains a complex collage of chemicals that work individually and collectively on the innards. A-bisabolol, speeds the mending of torn tissue to heal any ulcerations. Chamazulene shrinks the swollen stomach tissue that press on nerve endings causing pain. Azulene, kills staphylococcus and streptococcus infections, preventing or curtailing bouts of food poisoning. Chamomile contains a chemical kaleidoscope all with a positive action on the digestive tract.
Herbalists Use it To…
Stamp out nervous stomachache
Chamomile acts as mild sedatives to the mind, which is often at the root of digestive upset. If nervousness is taking its toll on your digestive tract, chamomile will calm your mind and your stomach. Two for the price of one!
Give sea sickness the slip
Because of its popularity, you may be able to find a chamomile tea bag during a bumpy flight or cruise (or take one along. This is a good thing because the sea and surf makes many people loose their supper. Those inclined to sea sickness find relief with a dose of chamomile tea while on the open seas.
Unwind a twisted bowel
Research reveals chamomile soothes the nerves at the root of the IBS problem. IBS patients will tell you their condition worsens when they are stressed out. Chamomile, a very calming herbal medicine, relieves stress symptoms including IBS. It can be used during bouts of either diarrhea or constipation.
Break the wind
Chamomile relieves flatulence or gas by increasing the rate at which food moves through the gut. Food, sitting still, ferments and produces gas. To reduce flatulence, chamomile should be taken after every meal.
Dead end digestive dramas
When food poisoning or a digestive flu strikes, strike back with chamomile. It contains a host of chemicals which kill the microcritters at the root of the digestive upset. Beyond this, it helps to heal any damage the digestive bug may have caused while inhabiting your innards.
Heal digestive ulcers
Chamomile has several anti-ulcer compounds and when used regularly, ulcers heal and stay healed. Herbalist reccomend taking at least six cups of chamomile tea, everyday for months on end. Even Dire cases have been cleared with this simple and cheap treatment.
Dosage and Duration
The key to using chamomile is using a lot of it and using it regularly. If you can make tea several times a day, chamomile from the grocery store will suffice. If you are unlikely to make the tea, use chamomile tincture. You can carry a bottle of this around with you. To improve a digestive condition, one must take at least three doses per day.
The chamomile tea bags available at the grocery store work just fine.
Poor digestive function will lead to health problems in the long term. Do what you can to improve your digestive health.
People with allergies to ragweed, asters, and chrysanthemums could be allergic to chamomile. Have a test cup and wait for twenty four hours to see if you react to it.
Peppermint(Mentha piperita), Marshmallow(Althea officinalis), Slipper Elm(Ulnus fulva)
Chapter from “Backyard Medicine Chest”
Chamomile General Gastro-intestinal Strengthener
Mother of the Gut.
“In the treatment of children indications for chamomilla are frequently seen. In the colicky condition which frequently afflicts infants during the first few day of their existence ten drops of this remedy added to five teaspoons of warm, sweetened water, constitutes an efficient prescription , and the medicine, if freely given, soon removes the little one’s suffering.”
Modern Materia Medica. 1903
Forget the little one, when I my stomach is acting up and I am acting colicky, It’s the daddy that needs his suffering removed!
In the last century chamomile was the drug of choice when it came to stomach problems and it was considered so safe even newborns were given it. A baby with colic is a miserable sight, just about as miserable as an adult doubled over in gut pain. Good news, relief is in sight.
Hym Zeylstra, director of the School of Phytotherapy , calls chamomile, mother of the gut. With the annual budget for stomach medications in America hitting the multibillion range it appears the world needs one. The head of the foremost school of herbal medicine in the world insists its powers to improve the overall health of the stomach are unequalled by any other plant in the backyard medicine cabinet or in the world. If you are suffering from chronic stomach disorders chances are you have a weak digestive tract. We need to counter weakness with power, and that just what chamomile has to offer the person who finds himself in stomach pain on a regular basis. Herbalists discovered long ago that any problem from the mouth to the anus is made better with the regular use of chamomile tea. People on the chronic digestive complaint team need to take note and make use of this plant.
Chamomile, Matricaria recuitita, is a member of the daisy family indigenous to Europe . Amongst non-professionals there is bit of confusion around “chamomile” as there are two plants dubbed chamomile. There is Roman chamomile and there is German chamomile, two entirely different plants with different medicinal actions. In the case of confused plant identities you always want to work with the Latin names for the plants. The two chamomile are Anthemis nobilis(Roman chamomile) and Matricaria recuitita(German chamomile). We are interested in Matricaria recuitita as this chamomile is the plant known as “the mother of the gut”. (Anthemis nobilis could be called mother of the hair as it primary use is in shampoos and cosmetics). Though the point could be made that bad hair is the source of many a stomach ache we will take a more direct approach and stick to matricaria for our digestive woes.
Chamomile is a lace leafed plant that springs from seed in the spring, sets flowers in the summers, and dies in the fall; its an annual plant meaning it lives for one year. We grow the plant for its flower heads which we collect just as the flower petals have folded back. At this time the medicinal chemicals contained in the flowers are at their highest amount. The plant grows wild from North Africa to Germany and west into Russia . In a sunny location the plant will itself from year to year, plant it once and you are guaranteed to have a life time supply.
Nothing but the best for the consumer and matricaria is certainly just that. The plant has stood the test of time and a quick perusal through herbal medicine will show that since antiquity chamomile has been used to take a broken down heap of a GIT and turn it into a sleek machine of food absorption. From biblical times forward, Europeans have collected the flowers of the plant to be used as a stomach strengthener. There is something to be said for plants that have a long history of use, the consumer is a smart bird and he or she simply does not purchase products that dont work. People have collected matricaria from the wild and bought it from the herb seller for over two thousand years. To get specific the range of digestive ills treated with chamomile would include ulcers, poor digestion, upset stomach, nausea, gas, constipation, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, gas, indeed whatever stomach affliction a person might have.
In case you don’t believe me, Gerard, a sixteenth century herbalist said this of it,” The decoction of chamomile made in wine and drunke, is good against coldnesse in the stomacke, soure belchings, voideth winde…” The coldnesse of the stomach is Gerards way of saying a stomach that just isn’t right, and his recommendation is the mother of the gut.
Chamomile is just one member of the daisy family used in herbal medicine; others include inula, calendula, echinacea, aster, jerusalem artichoke, milk thistle, and blessed thistle. Like all these medicinal daisies , the chamomile plant produces special oils which are thought to be responsible for the medicinal action. In clinical trials these essential oils have been proven to act as anti-inflamatories, anti-spasmodics, anti-microbials, and anti-ulceratives.
As you already know Matricaria is called “Mother of the Gut”, what you are about to see is how it goes about healing a worn out digestive tract. Medicinal plants such as this one contain a complex series of chemicals that work individually on the body and collectively to do what the plant is known to do. Modern medical science is always trying to find “the chemical” that makes a plant effective, but in reality it is the combined workings of all the chemicals that does the trick.
Matricaria is famous for its use in the case of a painful stomach especially when things have deteriorated to the point of ulcers. Your stomach hurts like hell, your drink a cup of chamomile tea and poof, like magic it stops hurting. When your stomach hurts chances are the tissues in the stomach are irritated, just like when you have an abrasion on your arm. When yo have an abrasion in your stomach its called an ulcer. Interestingly enough, chamomile works on irritated stomach tissue on two levels. One chemical contained in the plant is A-bisobol, which acts as an anti-ulcerative by speeding the mending of the ripped up tissues. (I said abrased tissue not braised, though it may be more appropriate in the case of a stomach abuser!) Secondly chamazulene, also found in chamomile flowers acts as an anti-inflammatory. The problem with stomach linings is they are filled with nerve endings, and if the lining is irritated and swollen, they apply pressure onto the nerve endings. As the nerves get pressed, you feel pain. Chamazulene has the ability to shrink these tissues, relieving the pressure on the nerves. One chemical heals the tissue, thus ending the source of inflammation, and another treats the inflammation itself.
These are just two of the chemicals found in chamomile!
More than one bout of nausea and throwing up has been caused by some nasty bacteria having made its way into the Gut, and even in this case Matricaria is of use. The anti-microbial action of chamomile is remarkable strong, one ingredient, azulene, can kill both staphylococcus and streptococcus infections. A weakened digestive tract is more likely to be unable to fight off bacteria and people with digestive weakness are much more susceptible to food poisoning and intestinal flus. A daily cup of chamomile tea might help knock out any nasty little critter that has crept into the gut. Being generally strengthening to the stomach chamomile can shore up the stomach so it will be able to fight off bacteria in the future.
A delicate stomach can be in some cases caused by delicate capillaries(small blood vessels) which line the entire digestive tract. One ingredient contained in the flower heads, quercimeritin, has the ability to reduce the fragility of the capillaries, toughen them up if you will. Tannins are also contained which have been used in tanning leathers, hence the name, for centuries. Tannins do essentially the same thing to your stomach as they do to the back side of a cow, toughen up the skin. They do this by precipitating the proteins, in simpler terms, pulling the cells tighter together. The actions of the flavonoid quercimeritin and the tannins work together to toughen up what might be an overly sensitive gastrointestinal tract.
As we have already discovered, one of the leading causes of GIT problems come from a nervous source. Not only does chamomile improve the health of the tissue lining the tract, but it also has the ability to sooth over active nerves that may be at the root of the problem. Chamomile is called a relaxing nervine in herbalist circles as it gently relaxes the nervous system. An overly active nervous system can cause acid overproduction which leads to acid indigestion and tensing which leads to cramps. The mildly sedating effects of chamomile will settle the nerves thereby settling the stomach. Many a nervous stomach has been cured by a cup of chamomile tea before and after a meal.
Last but not least chamomile contains bitter elements that stimulate the production of stomach juices needed in the breakdown of food particles. People with poor production of bile lack the chemicals needed to digest the food they eat. The result, as any person missing their gall bladder will tell you, is chronic stomach aches. The food sits in the stomach too long and this causes discomfort. With the increased production of food break down juices digestion occurs more rapidly and food doesn’t sit in the gut as long. Yet again we see chamomile’s universal applicability in stomach problems.
Though we have picked apart a few of the chemical constituents of chamomile this isn’t the end of the story. There may be hundreds of chemicals in the plant that result in the disappearance of stomach problems when people use chamomile. What practitioners around the globe know is that if a person suffers from digestive problems chamomile will make them better. Because of this all purpose action on the stomach the back yard needs to be filled with chamomile-it will represent the base for all the backyard medicine cabinet digestive treatments. When there is stomach trouble in the house always start with chamomile tea.
The part we will be using is the flower head and the petals. It is an easy plan to grow, you may want to plant some seeds next spring. Obviously the time to collect the flowers is when they are in bloom, but as with most herbs there is the right moment to harvest and this is true of chamomile. The medicinal elements are at their highest concentration just as the petals have fallen from full mast to drooping down off the flower head. When you look at your flowers you will notice at first the petals are held almost parallel with the flower head. As the days pass they start to droop and this is when you want to collect them. And indeed this is when they are collected commercially.
If you have chronic stomach problems its a good idea to take once cup of tea just before eating your meals, which should be three per day and one cup before bed. In this case you are talking about a lot of chamomile and you may have to buy some to supplement that which you grow in your garden. Chamomile is readily available at most health food shops and in todays changing world, at the grocery. Many a business person suffers from stomach complaints[ in England irritable bowel syndrome is dubbed “managers syndrome.” If you travel a lot and cant imagine dragging chamomile with you on the road, there is an alternative.
Tincture. You can either buy or make an alcohol based solution that contains the essential elements of chamomile. The upshot of tincture is you can carry a small bottle with you and add a few drops to a glass of water before meals. If you turn to the back of the book under ” Tinctures” you will find how to make a tincture and how to use it.
For the occasional stomach upset make chamomile tea per the earlier description and have as many cups as you can get down the old hatch. Usually two or three cups will result in your stomach feeling fit as a fiddle. The herb is completely safe and mild so you can have as much as you like. Even the American Food and Drug administration agrees its perfectly safe. If you have a case of deep fried nerves chamomile will take care of these whether they come with or without a stomach ache!
Getting your supply
1. Herb can be bought from the nature food store.
2. Grow it in your back yard:
Chamomile is readily grown in the garden and makes a nice addition to any garden. The problem with it is the seed you purchase at the store doesn’t germinate easily or readily when coming out of a packet. If you want to grow it yourself order plants from a mail order herb nursery and plant it in a sunny location. Being an annual plant it has to be planted each year, if you let the plant hold onto a few flower heads until they are ripe it will happily reseed itself. The best thing to do is wait until the seed is about to fall apart and break up the flower head in your hand and sprinkle the seed on the ground and work the dust into the ground. The seeds are readily air born and if you let nature takes it course you will find chamomile all over the yard and never in the spot you want it in. When planted from really fresh seed germination is effected easily, its just from the older seed people run into problems.
Notes from the Eclectic Physicians
1883: Scudder (tonic)
(The flowers of Matricaria Chamomilla – Europe )
Preparations -Infusion of Chamomile. Tincture of Chamomile.
Dose – Of the infusion, half an ounce; of the tincture, from the fraction of a drop to half a drachm.
Therapeutic Action -German Chamomile is a tonic, stomachic, diaphoretic, emetic, antispasmodic and anthelmintic, being very analagous to the anthemis nobilis in its medical and physical properties. It is mildly tonic, and very useful in debilitated states of the digestive organs, when a stomachic and corroborant are indicated.
The warm infusion answers a very good purpose as a disphoretic in colds, and also in the incipient stages of febrile and inflammatory attacks. For this purpose it should be administered freely.
Our Homoeopathic neighbors calim that it relieves irritation of the intestinal canal, and employ it in cholera infantum and in diarrhoea. My experience does not sustain this claim.
1898: Felter and Lloyd: MATRICARIA (U.S.P.) – MATRICARIA
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage -Matricaria is usually listed as having properties similar to anthemis, but of less activity. It has, however, come to be preferred over the latter by Eclectic practitioners, and is now an imortant remedy with us, particularly in affections of young children. It has two particular specific fields of action – one upon the nervous system, subduing nervous irritability, and the other upon the gastro-intestinal tract, relieving irritation. Upon the nervous system its action is most pronounced, affecting both the sensory and motor nerves. It is peculiarly adapted to the nervous manifestations of dentition, and in other affections where there seems to be a morbid susceptibility to pain. Ear-ache, rheumatic and neuralgic pains, abdominal neuroses, etc., are relieved by it when the nervous apprehension is all out of proportion to the actual amount of pain experienced. A matricaria patient is restless, irritable, discontented, and impatient, and, if a child, is only appeased when continually carried. In pregnancy, it relieves nervous twitching, cough, false pains, etc., accompanied by great unrest. It should be borne in mind, however, that it is not the gross dose of matricaria that will overcome these morbid, nervous phenomena, but the small, or almost minute dose. It is one of those agents, and we have many, that exert their peculiar effects only in small doses, yet can be used without harm in large doses, but without the peculiar benefit derived from the smaller amounts. It relieves the erethism producing hysteria – a little slowly, perhaps, but its effects are lasting – and for the conditions that threaten infantile convulsions, during dentition, it is one of the most certain of drugs. After the spasms have supervened, it is not equal to gelsemium or lobelia.
While it has been said that it has two specific fields of action – upon the mental an dnervous, and upon the digestive tract – it must be remembered that the nervous manifestations calling for matricaria, are nearly always present in the disorders of the latter, while, on the other hand, the nervous phenomena may occur without any disturbance of the latter. Hence the references to the nervous symptoms of stomach and bowel disorders, given as specifically calling for the drug. In the summer diarrhoea of irritation (not of atony), it becomes an important remedy. The condition will probably not be without call for other specifics, but the indications for matricaria will be district. There is marked irritability, the child is peevish and fretful, the stools extremely fetid, and may excoriate around the anus more or less. In appearance they vary – may be watery and green, or slimy, perhaps in yellow and white lumps, or it may be of indigested curds of milk, imbedded in a green mucus – an appearance aptly compared by Prof. Bloyer to “chopped eggs and greens”. In subacute inflammation and in congestion of the liver, small doses of matricaria are very efficient when the bowels are costive, the urine voided with difficulty, the child fretful and peevish, and the right hypochondrium tender. If fever is present, aconite may be associated with it. It corrects the skin eruptions and rashes due to these disorders. Alone, or associated with phytolacca, it relieves soreness and swelling of the breasts in infants, and is useful in suppression of the lacteal secretion. It is a remedy for flatulent colic with distension.
Either small or large doses of matricaria (specific or infusion) are of value in amenorrhoea, with sense of weight and heaviness in the womb, and bloating of the abdomen, accompanied with sudden nervous explosions of irascibility. The infusion, given tot he extent o fproducing free diaphoresis, relieves dysmenorrhoea, with labor-like pains, and tends to prevent the formation of clots.
Various painful conditions, due to contracting colds, are relieved by matricaria infusion associated with aconite. Among these may be mentioned carache, rheumatism, catarrhal affections of the bowels, ears, nose, and eyes. Locally, it has been used as a wash for leucorrhoea, mammary abscess, ulcerating budo, and catarrhal conjunctivitis.
For topical application and internal administration, an infusion (3ss to water Oj) may be used. For its gross action, it may be given freely, but for specific purposes, teaspoonful doses of an infusion of half the above strength will give the best results. Specific matricaria is given in doses of a fraction of a drop to 30 drops.
Specific Indications and Uses – Nervous irritability, with peevishness, fretfulness, discontent, and impatience; sudden fits of temper during the catamenial period; muscular twitching; morbid sensitiveness to pain; head sweats easily; alvine discharges, fetid, greenish and watery, and of green mucus with curds of milk, or of yellow and white flocculi, associated with flatulence, colic, and excoriation of the anal outlet; a remedy particularly fitted for the disorders of dentition, and to correct the condition threatening to end in dentition convulsions.
1919: Ellingwood: MATRICARIA – MATRICARIA CHAMOMILLA
Synonym – German Chamomile.
While this remedy very closely resembles Anthemis Nobilis or Roman chamomile, there are several distinguishing features in their actions. At the same time these are not sharp. All that has been said of Anthemis Nobilis can be said of this preparation.
Therapy – Matricaria is conspicuously a child’s remedy, but not distinctly so. A few drops in half of a glass of water, given every few minutes in dram doses, will quiet extreme restlessness and irritability. The general soothing effect is satisfactory. It especially controls certain forms of colic. Peevish children and those who are continuously fetting, or crying out and who demand constant care are benefited by this remedy. It influences the membranes of the gastro-intestinal tract. It is advisable when the patient has contracted a cold, or when there is general chilliness; when the symptoms of la grippe in children are present, especially where there is disturbed condition of the digestion, inducing diarrhoea, sour eructations or acid vomiting and colicky pains.
The Homeopathists advise it where there are greenish flocculent particles in the loose watery feces of a patient with diarrhoea. The movements are slimy or yellowish, with an offensive odor, and are acrid, and produce excoriation of the external parts. With these patients there are often muscular twitchings and in inclination to spasm. The remedy has a sedative influence in these, but must not always be depended upon for its active antispasmodic effect. It may be given during dentition, and being continued the irritability can be quite satisfactorily controlled. It is often necessary to give more active anodyne remedies.