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Cozy Up to Chamomile

 

Chamomile, a member of the daisy family, is native to Europe and western Asia. German chamomile is the most commonly used. The dried and fresh flowers are used medicinally.

Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)
Chamomile has been used for centuries in Europe as a medicinal plant, mostly for gastrointestinal complaints. This practice continues today.

Active constituents
The flowers of chamomile contain 1–2% volatile oils including alpha-bisabolol, alpha-bisabolol oxides A & B, and matricin (usually converted to chamazulene). Other active constituents include the flavonoids apigenin, luteolin, and quercetin. These active ingredients contribute to chamomile's anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and smooth-muscle relaxing action, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract.

Topical applications of chamomile have been shown to be moderately effective in the treatment of eczema. One double-blind trial found it to be about 60% as effective as 0.25% hydrocortisone cream. Topical use of chamomile ointment was also found to successfully treat mild stasis ulcers bed sores in elderly bedridden patients.

How much is usually taken?
Chamomile is often taken three to four times daily between meals as a tea. Common alternatives are to use 2–3 grams of the herb in tablet or capsule form or 4–6 ml of tincture three times per day between meals. Standardized extracts containing 1% apigenin and 0.5% volatile oils may also be used. One to two capsules containing 300–400 mg of extract may be taken three times daily. Topical creams or ointments can be applied to the affected area three to four times daily.

Are there any side effects or interactions?
Though rare, allergic reactions to chamomile have been reported. These reactions have included bronchial constriction with internal use and allergic skin reactions with topical use. While reports of such side effects are uncommon, people with allergies to plants of the Asteraceae family (ragweed, aster, and chrysanthemums), as well as mugwort pollen should avoid using chamomile. Chamomile is usually considered to be safe during pregnancy or breast-feeding. However, there is one case report in which a pregnant woman who took chamomile as an enema had an allergic reaction that led to the death of her newborn.

 


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