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- Chamomile for Your Health -

"In Europe, chamomile is highly esteemed as a medicinal herb.

Matricaria recutita is included in the pharmacopoeias of 26 countries. Writing on the plant in the Australian journal _Focus on Herbs_, Slovakian chamomile expert Ivan Salamon quoted a common folk saying of his country: 'An individual should always bow before the creative powers of the chamomile plant.' And 'As a popular remedy, it may be thought of as the European counterpart of ginseng,' Dr.

Varro Tyler wrote in _The New Honest Herbal_. Dr. Tyler tells us that the Germans describe it as alles zutraut - 'capable of anything.' "Are these statements just overenthusiasm, or is there meaning behind the folklore? Indeed, German chamomile, and to a lesser extent, Roman chamomile, is among the best-researched medicinal herbs now used in Europe. There it is used in a wide variety of ways and in dozens of products: compresses, rinses, or gargles are used externally for the treatment of inflammations and irritations of the skin, mouth, gums, and respiratory tract, and for hemorrhoids. A chamomile bath - a pound of flowers to 20 gallons of water - is also used.

(Alternatively, alcohol extracts of the flowers are available in Europe - a much more convenient way to take a chamomile bath!) "Internally, a tea made from 2 to 3 grams of the herb to a cup of water is used to relieve spasms and inflammations of the intestinal tract, as well as for peptic ulcers. (Remember that there are about 28 grams in an ounce, so this is a very mild tea.) A mild tea is also used as a sleeping aid, particularly for children. These medicinal uses, cited in a monograph developed by the European Scientific Cooperative for Phytomedicine, are backed by intensive research of recent years as well as many centuries of common use." "Over the last decade, the popular press and even medical literature in the United States have reported that drinking chamomile tea may cause severe allergic reactions. The basis for this, according to Dr. Tyler, is 50 allergic reactions resulting from 'chamomiles' reported between 1887 and 1982. Of these, only five were attributed to German chamomile. I think this says more about its safety than it does any potential harm; nonetheless, persons who experience allergic reactions to ragweed or other members of the aster family are warned that they should use chamomile with caution.

"German chamomile has highly variable chemistry. To date, more than 120 chemical components have been identified from its clear blue essential oil. For many years, chamazulene was thought to be the primary active component, but scientists now believe that any antiinflammatory, antispasmodic, antimicrobial, and mildly sedative effect is due to one called bisabolol. Since the late 1970s and 1980s, European plant breeders, producers, chemists, and pharmacologists have been working on programs to improve the plant.

Today, they recognize four basic chemical types of German chamomile, which has led to the production of higher-quality chamomile with more stable, predictable constituents and higher levels of active components. Crop improvement programs are continuing in both eastern and western Europe."

Excerpted from Steven Foster's "Chamomile" article in "The Herb Companion." Dec. 1992/Jan. 1993, Vol. 5, No. 2. Pp. 67-68. Posted by Cathy Harned.

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