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Chamomile ( Matricaria chamomilla) - Uses, Benefits for Health & Wellness

Chamomile

Chamomile, a functional herb, is an immunity booster. It helps in fighting cancer, promotes good sleep, controls blood sugar level, relieves mentrual pain.
Binomial Name Matricaria Chamomilla
Family Asteraceae
Order Asterales
Higher Classification Mayweed
Genus Anthemis

Matricaria Chamomilla, commonly known as chamomile or camomile is an annual plant belonging to the Asteraceae family. Its name is derived from the Greek word ‘chamaimelon’ which means ‘ground apple’ because of its smell. Known for its healing properties in reducing stress, Chamomile is the national flower of Russia. The flowers are borne in paniculate flower heads(capitula) and are white or yellow in color. They bloom early to midsummer and have a strong and aromatic fragrance. It has a branched, smooth and erect stem, which grows to a height of 15-60 cm. Matricaria Chamomilla is native to many European countries. It is found in populated areas all over Europe and Temperate Asia. It has been introduced widely in temperate North America, South America, and Australia. This plant often grows near roads, around landfills, and in cultivated fields as a weed, because the seeds require open soil to survive.

The history of Matricaria Chamomilla dates back to ancient Egypt where chamomile tea was prescribed as a cold remedy. Often called the ‘ague’, the Egyptians used its essence as the vital ingredient in embalming oil for preserving deceased pharaohs. The crushed flowers were used for rubbing on the skin for aesthetic benefits. The Romans also had been using chamomile to flavor drinks, in incense, and for medicinal usage.

This plant is used in many industries including medicinal, cosmetics, agricultural, and also as an ornamental plant. It is mainly used as a tea or medicine. Chamomile tea is a herbal infusion made from dried chamomile flowers and hot water. In herbal medicine, Chamomile is used for a sore stomach, irritable bowel syndrome and as an aid for better sleep. It is anti-inflammatory, bactericidal and also used as a mild laxative. Chamomile is popularly used in aromatherapy. Its practitioners consider it to be a stress reliever and promoter of good sleep.

In the agricultural world, chamomile is recognized as the ‘plant doctor’. It is thought to help the health and growth of many other plants, especially the ones producing essential oils. It increases the production of those oils, making certain herbs, like mints (spearmint, sage, oregano) and basil taste stronger in scent and flavor. Tea made from chamomile flowers is used as a fungal growth suppressant. For example, spraying it over seedlings can prevent damping off.

Constituents:

The main constituents of chamomile flowers are polyphenol compounds, which includes apigenin, quercetin, patuletin, and luteolin. The components of essential oil extracted from the chamomile flowers are terpenoids. Chamomile has many vaporous oils among them; proazulenes, farnesine, bisabolol, anthemal, spiroether, pinene, and angelic acid. It also contains alpha bisabolol, sesquiterpine lactones, matricin, apigenin,flavonoids (apigenin, quercetin, patuletin, and luteolin), cyanogenic glycosides, coumarins, bitter glycosides, valerianic acids and tannins. Chamomile is one of the most used types of complementary and alternative medicines(CAM) for the treatment of insomnia. Its active ingredients are chamazulene, apigenin, and bisabolol. A benzodiazepine-like compound in the flower head of chamomile may be the cause of its sedative effects. Chamomile is under advanced research for its potential anti-anxiety properties.

Benefits:

Promoter of Good Sleep

Chamomile is famously known for its calming properties and is used as a gentle sleep aid. Chamomile tea is often consumed before bedtime and has proven to help you relax and sleep better. It contains apigenin which is an antioxidant that binds to certain receptors in your brain. It promotes sleepiness and reduces the chronic inability to sleep.

Improves Digestion

A proper breakdown of food is very essential for your overall health. Chamomile has been traditionally used to treat a lot of digestive problems such as sore stomach, irritable bowel syndrome(IBS), gaseous stomach, diarrhea and bloating. It acts as a diuretic and flushes out the toxins from the body which helps in reducing bloating and overall digestion. Its anti-inflammatory properties help in reducing stomach cramps in the inner lining of the stomach, thus helping release unnecessary gas and improves bowel movements.

Diabetes and Blood Sugar Control

Your Pancreas is one of the vital organs as it produces insulin, the hormone that removes sugar from your blood. The anti-inflammatory properties may help prevent damage to the cells of the pancreas, which occurs when your blood sugar levels are highly elevated. Its powerful organic chemicals help to control the massive spikes and drop in blood sugar. It is a subtle tool to fight diabetes and maintain steady blood sugar levels.

Fight Against Cancer

The antioxidants found in chamomile are associated with a lower occurrence of certain types of cancers. Chamomile tea may target cancer cells or even prevent them from developing in the first place. The antioxidant apigenin in chamomile has been proven to fight cancer cells, especially those of digestive tract, skin, prostate, breast, and uterus.

Relieves Menstrual Pain

A 2010 study found that drinking chamomile tea for a month-long can help ease menstrual pain. The women involved in the study also reported less anxiety and distress during their periods. Chamomile tea has antispasmodic properties. It acts as a relaxant to the uterus, thus decreasing the production of prostaglandins which are substances like hormones causing inflammation and pain.

Heart Health

Cholesterol and blood pressure levels are important risk markers for heart diseases. Flavones, a class of antioxidants, found abundantly  helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels keeping your heart healthier. Drinking chamomile tea regularly reduces the risk of various cardiovascular diseases.

Prevention of Osteoporosis

Chamomile extracts stimulate the activity of the cells which build bones called osteoblasts. It may promote bone density and help prevent osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is most common in menopausal women which may be due to the estrogen effects. A 2004 study showed that chamomile tea might have anti-estrogenic effects preventing bone loss.

Skin Benefits

Sipping into some chamomile tea may do wonders for your skin. Reports claim that applying chamomile induced cosmetics such as lotions, bath products or eye creams may help in moisturizing and reducing skin inflammation. A 1987 study showed that applying chamomile extract directly to a wound promoted healing. Chamomile tea is full of rich antioxidants which helps boost your skin quality. It acts as a natural skin bleach and brightens your complexion. It also accelerates cell and tissue regeneration, thus by slowing down the aging process.

Immunity Booster

Chamomile acts as your immunity booster by fighting off bacteria and infections. Its antibacterial properties help fight the common cold, flu, sinus issues and congestion. Inhaling steam with the extracts may relieve some of the common cold symptoms. The phenolic compounds found in chamomile tea strengthens your immune system and keeps infections at bay.