Matricaria recutita , Photo: Michael Lahanas
Matricaria recutita L.
* Species Plantarum 2:891. 1753
Matricaria recutita or German chamomile, also spelled camomile, is an annual plant of the composite family Asteraceae. Synonyms are: Chamomilla chamomilla, Chamomilla recutita (correct name according to the Flora Europaea), Matricaria chamomilla, and Matricaria suaveolens.
It usually grows near populated areas all over Europe and temperate Asia. It is widely introduced in temperate North America and Australia. As the seeds need open soil to survive, it often grows near roads, around landfills and in cultivated fields as a weed.
Other names include wild chamomile, Hungarian chamomile, pineapple weed (referring to the shape of the inflorescences), and scented mayweed, by contrast with the Scentless mayweed Matricaria perforata. Chamomile blue refers to chamazulene, the purified deep blue volatile component of the essential oil derived from steam distillation rather than the plant itself. Hungarian chamomile has a reputation among herbalists of being incorrectly prepared due to drying at a temperature above the boiling point of the volatile components of the plant.
The word chamomile comes from Greek χαμαίμηλον (chamaimēlon), "earth-apple", from χαμαί (chamai), "on the ground" + μήλον (mēlon), "apple", so called because of the apple-like scent of the plant. (Note: The "ch-" spelling is used especially in science and pharmacology.)
The branched stem is erect and smooth and grows to a height of 15–60 cm. The long and narrow leaves are bipinnate or tripinnate.
The flowers are borne in paniculate capitula. The white ray florets are furnished with a ligule, while the disc florets are yellow. The hollow receptacle is swollen and lacks scales. This property distinguished German Chamomile from, Corn Chamomile (Anthemis arvensis), which has a receptacle with scales. The flowers have a strong, aromatic smell, and bloom in early to mid summer.
German chamomile is used medicinally to treat sore stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, and as a gentle sleep aid. It is also used as a mild laxative and is anti-inflammatory and anti-bactericidal. It can be taken as a herbal tea, two teaspoons of dried flower per cup of tea, which should be steeped for ten to fifteen minutes while covered to avoid evaporation of the volatile oils. The marc should be pressed because of the formation of a new active principle inside the cells, which can then be released by rupturing the cell walls, though this substance only forms very close to boiling point. For a sore stomach, some recommend taking a cup every morning without food for two to three months. It is also used as a mouthwash against oral mucositis. It has acaricidal properties against certain mites, such as Psoroptes cuniculi. One of the active ingredients of the essential oil from German chamomile is the terpene bisabolol. Other active ingredients include farnesene, chamazulene, flavonoids (including apigenin, quercetin, patuletin and luteolin) and coumarin.
A 2006 review of the medical literature reported a number of beneficial effects for chamomile in in vitro and animal tests, but added that more human clinical trials are needed before firm conclusions can be drawn. Research with animals suggests antispasmodic, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory and some antimutagenic and cholesterol-lowering effects for chamomile. Chamomile has sped healing time of wounds in animals. It also showed some benefit in an animal model of diabetes. In vitro chamomile has demonstrated moderate antimicrobial and antioxidant properties and significant antiplatelet activity, as well as preliminary results against cancer. Essential oil of chamomile was shown to be a promising antiviral agent against herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) in vitro. Potential risks include interference with warfarin and infant botulism in very young children.
Chamomile is also used cosmetically, primarily to make a rinse for blonde hair, and as a yellow dye for fabrics.
Tolerance can develop to the sedative action of chamomile if taken habitually.
Chamomile is sometimes known as "the plant doctor", because it is thought to help the growth and health of many other plants, especially ones that produce essential oils. It is thought to increase production of those oils, making certain herbs, like mints (spearmint, sage, oregano) and basil stronger in scent and flavor.
Chamomile tea is also thought to be useful to suppress fungal growth, for example, misting it over seedlings may prevent damping off.
Chamomile is frequently an invasive species in agricultural fields. Farmers often must control chamomile's spread to maintain productivity of their fields.
Possible side effects
Chamomile is a relative of ragweed and can cause allergy symptoms and can cross-react with ragweed pollen in individuals with ragweed allergies. It also contains coumarin and thus care should be taken to avoid potential drug interactions, e.g. with blood thinners.
While extremely rare, very large doses of Chamomile may cause nausea and vomiting. Even more rarely, rashes may occur. A type-IV allergic reaction with severe anaphylaxis has been reported in a 38-year old man who drank chamomile tea.
Conditions for growing and reproduction
Soil Type: German chamomile will tolerate many soils, but prefers a sandy, well-drained soil with a pH of 7.0-7.5 and lots of sun.
Cultivation: Space plants 15–30 cm apart. Chamomile does not require large amounts of fertilizer but depending on soil tests, small amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium should be applied before planting.
The amounts of major nutrients that German chamomile needs for growing and reproduction are:
* C = Carbon 430,000 ppm (43%)
1. ^ "Matricaria recutita". Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=MARE6. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
* Graedon, Joe; Theresa Graedon (2001). The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies. St. Martin's Griffin. pp. 283. ISBN 978-0312267643.
* Reader's Digest Association (1999). The Healing Power of Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs. Reader's Digest. pp. 259. ISBN 978-0762101320.
Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License