What is Chamomile?
Chamomile is one of the most widely available and commonly used medicinal plants of our time. Perhaps its this ubiquity that’s given it a rather underhyped reputation for a superpower herb that supports multiple uses and benefits for both body and mind.
Records show that chamomile has been used for over five thousand years - since the times of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome ! In fact the name chamomile originates from the Greek ‘khamaimēlon’ which literally translated means earth apple. This makes sense considering the flowers scent can resemble crisp apples.
Today there are a varying species of medicinal chamomile in use, belonging to the Astraceae family. The most common of which are Roman chamomile (Chamamemelum nobile) and German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) - also known as ‘true chamomile’ or ‘blue chamomile’.
What makes German Chamomile so unique ?
The flower of German chamomile is most likely what you think of when you imagine a chamomile flower. It can be identified in the wild by tiny white petals that circle a yellow center that look a lot like the classic daisy flower and can be found in Europe, North Africa, parts of Asia and the US.
Although the chamomile varieties do have similar benefits and can sometimes be used interchangeably to remedy the same ailments, German chamomile has a unique blend of beneficial active ingredients, and is particularly high in the bio-active constituent chamazulene.
There really are a multitude of reasons and ways to use chamomile, both topically and internally. I’ve listed my go-to top five recommendations below.
Top five benefits and uses1. Healing properties can support acne and inflammation prone skin
Chamazulene is the ingredient that gives the freshly extracted essential oil an instantly recognizable deep rich blue color, hence the namesake ‘blue chamomile.’ This rare volatile oil is obtained from the flower heads via a steam distillation process and is high in flavanoids that help calm inflammation, reduce redness and promote tissue regeneration.
German chamomile benefits for skin are numerous! The essential oil is both antimicrobial and antibacterial helping to clear bad bacteria, while its anti-inflammatory nature helps to soothe irritation, reduce swelling and heal broken or scarred skin making it one of the best essential oils for acne.
Another reason why this essential oil is so special is its deep healing action. One of the key studies on chamomile essential oil benefits, demonstrated that the flavonoids and other constituents have the ability penetrate below the skin's surface to the deeper layers.
At Apoterra, we understand blue chamomile essential oils skin healing power. Its unique combination of calming, regenerative and bacteria-fighting properties make it a perfect oil for acne and inflammation prone skin. Find German Chamomile essential oil in our two best selling Clarify facial oils.
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2. Sensitive skin and irritation can be soothed by cooling chamomile
Using a whole flower oil infusion, hydrosol or compress is a great way to access the cooling and soothing properties when you are in need of a gentle application to treat sensitive conditions such as dermatitis.
- Whole flower preparations help to heal and preserve cell structure while antibacterial and antiseptic properties help fight infections in the skin.
The constituent αlpha-bisabolol is credited for chamomile’s ability to promote healing and stimulate cell turnover. A powerful anti-aging compound, it offers the benefits of antioxidants, which protect against damaging free radicals.
- Hydrosols are produced by distilling fresh flowers and other parts of the plant. These aromatic waters have similar properties to essential oils but are much less concentrated making them ideal for sensitive conditions that need tender care.
- The ancient tradition of botanical oil infusions are yet another gentle but effective way to work with German chamomile. Whole flowers are steeped in a carrier oil over a period of time drawing out their therapeutic compounds and then strained for use.
Apoterra's Night Regenerative Balm, Night Clarifying Oil, Rose Nourishing Serum, and Herbal Serum all contain a nourishing chamomile flower jojoba oil infusion.
Certified organic powdered whole chamomile flowers are included in the purifying mask which is great for soothing aggravated skin alongside deep cleansing action.
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3. Keeping digestive health in check is a vital element for maintaining healthy hydrated and glowing skin!
When taken internally German chamomile can also support several non-topical solutions for maintaining healthy skin. What I particularly love about chamomile is that its anti-inflammatory properties have the dual benefit of working with both the gastrointestinal tract and nervous systems.
Our anti-inflammatory friend chamazulene comes back in to play when talking about the gut. Infact one of German chamomiles best known actions is as a ‘carminative’ which means taken after a heavy meal it can relieve that full and bloated feeling and ease stomach pains and gas. Incorporated as part of your regular routine, it can aid a generally sluggish digestion.
The link between the health of our gastrointestinal system, skin and overall feeling of well-being is now well documented. A study on to the gut biome as a major regulator of the skin has also shown that gut inflammation can impair the protective function of the epidermal barrier. Stress and anxiety can also cause shifts in the gut microbiome population. With 90 percent of our serotonin being produced in our gut (a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate our mood, appetite and sleep patterns) it’s no wonder its now commonly referred to as the second brain! Simply put, digestive health is a crucial component to consider for overall wellness.
4. Helps reduce stress and promote restful sleep
As you can see the health benefits of chamomile are truly multi-functional. German chamomile flowers contain a unique blend of muscle-relaxing calcium, stress-busting magnesium and abundant levels of the bio flavonoid apigenin. A simple tea infusion can also bring an immediate sense of balance to the body and tame a stressed mind.
A study on apigenin by neurosurgeon and medical reporter Dr Sanjay Gupta M.D. highlights it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and antiviral benefits as well as and its ability to lower the stress hormone cortisol. Apigenin is commonly found in a variety of fruit and vegetables, but chamomile is one of the highest sources available.
Additional studies demonstrate chamomiles ability to reduce stress, depression and insomnia. Researchers have found significant reduced symptoms over time for chamomile vs placebos in participants suffering from anxiety and depression. Sleep regulates both oxygen and cortisol in the body, both of which can have a major impact on skin health.
Creating a cozy bedtime ritual with chamomile; be it a tea, warm infused milk and honey or bath can be a self-loving way to allow yourself to wind down from the day and prepare yourself to have a great night’s beauty sleep.
5. Creating an herbal steam is another great way to access chamomiles calming and hydrating nature both internally and externally
Apoterra uses certified organic German chamomile within the herbal detoxifying steam. Using this facial steam will not only add a beautiful floral ritual into your routine it also helps to open pores, facilitating the release of impurities, while simultaneously nourishing and hydrating the skin.
I also love to add a drop of essential oil in steaming water and inhale the steam when I have a cold or some throat, as it can provide immediate relief from congestion and that hot and inflamed feeling. For a full cold remedy steaming guide, here !
Safe use of chamomile
Chamomile is generally considered a very safe herb, however its not suitable for people with an allergy to ragweed. If you are pregnant, nursing or have any other specific health concerns it’s always best to check with your health care provider before adding herbal products or essential oils into your routine.
Bridie Woodward is a herbalist and creative producer living and working on the east end of long island.