Chamomile has been used medicinally for thousands of years and is widely used in Europe. It is a popular treatment for numerous ailments, including sleep disorders, anxiety, digestion/intestinal conditions, skin infections/inflammation (including eczema), wound healing, infantile colic, teething pains, and diaper rash. In the United States, chamomile is best known as an ingredient in herbal tea preparations advertised for mild sedating effects.
German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) are the two major types of chamomile used for health conditions. They are believed to have similar effects on the body, although German chamomile may be slightly stronger. Most research has used German chamomile, which is more commonly used everywhere except for England, where Roman chamomile is more common.
Although chamomile is widely used, reliable research in humans to support its use for any condition is lacking. Despite its reputation as a gentle medicinal plant, there are many reports of allergic reactions in people after eating or coming into contact with chamomile preparations, including anaphylaxis, a life-threatening, whole body allergic reaction.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Chamomile has been traditionally used as aromatherapy to relieve anxiety. Early evidence suggests chamomile has benefits for anxiety. Further research is necessary to make firm conclusions.
Early research supports the use of chamomile to reduce blood vessel inflammation from chemotherapy injected into the vein. Further high quality research is necessary to form conclusions.
It is uncommon for chamomile to be used for the heart, and there is little research in this area. Early research shows unclear results for the use of chamomile in heart disease. Further study is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.
In early study, inhaling steam with chamomile extract has been reported to help with cold symptoms. Further research is needed to confirm these results.
In early research, chamomile, in herbal combination toothpastes and rinses, appears to be beneficial for tooth and gum health. Further research is needed to determine the effects of chamomile alone.
Early evidence suggests chamomile extract helps with symptoms of depression in people with an anxiety disorder. Further research is required to confirm these results.
Early study reports that chamomile with apple pectin may shorten the time children have diarrhea. Further research is needed before a strong conclusion can be made.
The German Commission E authorized the use of chamomile for skin diseases. Limited evidence suggests that chamomile may benefit eczema, an inflammatory skin condition. Further research is needed.
Chamomile is used traditionally for numerous stomach and intestinal disorders, including digestion disorders, "spasm" or colic, upset stomach, gas, ulcers, and irritation of the stomach and intestines. However, currently there is a lack of reliable human research available in any of these areas. Additional study is needed.
Early study shows that using chamomile baths and bladder washes with antibiotics is more efficacious than antibiotics alone for hemorrhagic cystitis, a condition of bladder irritation with bleeding. Additional research is necessary before a conclusion can be reached.
Early study reports that chamomile ointment may improve hemorrhoids, or painful swollen veins in the rectum. Further evidence is needed before a strong recommendation can be made.
Early research of chamomile used in combination with other herbs shows benefit in infantile colic or excessive crying. Additional research evaluating chamomile alone is needed.
In early research, chamomile mouthwash had unclear effects on mucositis caused by radiation therapy or chemotherapy for cancer. Further research is necessary.
Limited research suggests that massage using chamomile essential oil may improve anxiety and quality of life in people with cancer. Additional study is needed before a firm conclusion can be reached.
Chamomile preparations have been used on the skin to soothe inflammation. Limited evidence shows that chamomile may have some benefit for skin inflammation. Additional research is needed in this area.
Traditionally, chamomile preparations, such as tea and essential oil aromatherapy, have been used for its calming effects and to help with sleep. Research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Early research suggests that chamomile douches may help with vaginitis, or inflammation of the vagina, with few side effects. Because infection (including sexually transmitted diseases), poor hygiene, or nutritional deficiencies can cause vaginitis, people with vaginitis should seek medical attention. Better research is needed before a conclusion can be drawn on the use of chamomile for vaginitis.
Early evidence on the use of chamomile for wound healing is promising. Further research is needed to draw a conclusion.
Evidence shows that chamomile spray has similar effects to normal saline on post-operative sore throat and hoarseness. Further research is needed to draw firm conclusions.
* Key to grades
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use B: Good scientific evidence for this use C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work) F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)
Tradition / Theory
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Abortion inducing, abscesses (collection of pus under skin), acne, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, anti-tumor, aromatic, arthritis, asthma, back pain, bedsores, bile flow stimulant, bloating, blood purifier, blood thinner, bone loss, breast inflammation, cancer, canker sores, carpal tunnel syndrome, chicken pox, clear sinuses, conjunctivitis (pink eye), cosmetic, cough, croup (barking cough), delirium tremens (severe alcohol withdrawal), deodorant, diabetes, diaper rash, diaphoretic (fever), diuretic (increased urine flow), diverticulitis (disease of the intestines), dry skin, ear infections, eye disorders, fever, fistula (abnormal connection between organs or tissues), frostbite, gallstones, genital area infections, gout, gum inflammation, hair dye, hay fever, headaches, herpes virus, hives, hysteria, impetigo (skin infection), insect bites, kidney and bladder disorders, kidney disease, liver disorders, loss of appetite, low blood sugar, menopause, menstrual disorders, morphine withdrawal, motion sickness, muscle strength, nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, nerve pain, nervous stomach, nightmares, oral hygiene, painful menstruation, parasites/worms, peptic ulcers, perineal trauma (damage from childbirth), poison ivy, psoriasis (inflammatory skin condition), rash (heat), respiratory inflammation, rheumatism, Roehmheld's syndrome (stomach problems that result in heart problems), sciatica (back and leg pain), sea sickness, seizure disorder, self-esteem enhancement, sinus infection, skin aging, skin disorders (rosacea), skin infections, sunburn, sunstroke, teething pain, tics, toothache, tuberculosis, ulcers, uterine disorders, uterine stimulant, uterine tonic, viral infections, vomiting.
Chamomile is commercially available as a liquid extract, tablets, capsules, tea, and tincture. Chamomile is frequently consumed as tea: commonly 1-4 cups of chamomile tea is taken daily (from tea bags). Chamomile has also been used in baths, compresses, poultices, rinses, and semisolid preparations. Traditionally, in baths, 5grams per liter of water or 0.8 grams of alcoholic extract per liter of water has been used.
For the common cold, 13-39 milliliters of alcoholic chamomile extract (Kneipp Kamillen-Konzentrat®) added to 1000 milliliters water at 50°C was inhaled for 10 minutes.
For post-operative sore throat/hoarseness due to intubation, 3-10 puffs (111-370 milligrams) of chamomile (Kamillosan®M spray) was inhaled through the endotracheal tube once before intubation.
For anxiety and depression, one capsule (220 milligram chamomile extract) has been taken by mouth daily for the first week, then two capsules were given daily for the second week, and subsequently increased by one capsule daily each week if anxiety continued.
For mouth ulcers or irritation from cancer treatment, an oral rinse of 10-15 drops of Kamillosan® Liquidum in 100 milliliters of water has been used three times daily through chemotherapy or a cycle of radiation; also a chamomile mouthwash (100 milliliters of water with 30 drops of a concentrated chamomile) has been swished and then spit three times daily for 14 days.
For sleep or sedation, 270 milligrams chamomile high grade extract has been taken by mouth twice daily for 28 days.
For eczema, Kamillosan® cream (2% ethanolic extract of chamomile flowers) has been used on the skin 2-3 times daily for up to four weeks.
For skin inflammation, German chamomile compresses or a 50 milliliters tube of 10% chamomile hydro-alcoholic extract have been applied to the affected skin twice daily for up to 28 days.
For vaginitis, or inflammation of the vagina, a douche of 30 milliliters diluted chamomile in 500 milliliters of water twice daily for 15 days has been used.
For wound healing, Kamille Spitzner® has been applied to wounds for 14 days.
Children (younger that 18 years)
Traditionally, the recommended dose for children is one-half of the adult dose and infants should avoid taking more than one teaspoonful chamomile tea daily; toddlers should avoid more than 0.5 cup of tea daily; a 50-pound child avoid more than one cup of tea or one drop of chamomile extract by mouth daily.
For gut disorders or acute diarrhea, chamomile was taken.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in people allergic to chamomile or other members of its plant family and also members of the onion and celery plant families.
There are multiple reports of serious allergic reactions to chamomile taken by mouth or used as an enema, including anaphylaxis (a life-threatening whole body reaction), throat swelling, and shortness of breath. Inflammation of the skin has been frequently reported. Chamomile eyewash may cause allergic pinkeye.
Side Effects and Warnings
Chamomile is likely safe in preparations taken by mouth or when used on the skin in people without allergies to chamomile, its plant family, or members of the onion and celery plant families. Chamomile is likely safe as a mouthwash for up to 14 days and as a vaginal douche for up to 15 days.
Drowsiness or sedation may occur. Use caution if driving or operating heavy machinery.
Chamomile may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be altered in the blood, and alter the intended effects. People taking any medications should check the package insert and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
Chamomile may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs that alter blood pressure.
Chamomile may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
Use cautiously in individuals with asthma or abnormal heart rhythms.
Use cautiously in individuals taking medications by mouth.
Use cautiously in individuals taking calcium channel blockers, alcohol, antispasmodic agents, or agents that regulate heart rhythm.
Use cautiously during breastfeeding due to the lack of research in this area.
Avoid in individuals with heart disorders or in those taking agents that slow the heart.
Avoid in individuals with active bleeding, bleeding disorders, or in those taking agents that increase bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary. Avoid chamomile for at least 14 days before mouth or surgical procedures.
Avoid in people allergic to chamomile or other members of its plant family as well as onion and celery plant families.
Avoid during pregnancy, due to chamomile's possible menstruation and abortion stimulating effects.
Avoid in children younger than two years of age.
Avoid in individuals with nervous system disorders or in those taking nervous system depressants.
Avoid in individuals at risk for unusually shallow and slow breathing.
Avoid in individuals with hormone-sensitive conditions or in those taking hormonal agents.
Chamomile may cause allergic pinkeye, asthma, breathing difficulty, dizziness, estrogenic effects, eye problems, hives, increased heart rate, increased hippurate and glycine levels in urine, inflammation of the nose and throat, nervous system slowing, seizures, sensitivity to the sun, shortness of breath, skin inflammation and irritation, stomach discomfort, swollen eyelids, and vomiting.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Avoid during pregnancy, due to chamomile's possible menstruation and abortion stimulating effects. Use cautiously during breastfeeding due to the lack of research in this area.
Chamomile may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some drugs. Examples include benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan®) or diazepam (Valium®), barbiturates such as phenobarbital, narcotics such as codeine, some antidepressants, and alcohol. Caution is advised while driving or operating machinery.
Chamomile may increase the risk of bleeding when used with anticoagulants or antiplatelet drugs. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
Chamomile may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be altered in the blood and may cause altered effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. Patients using any medications should check the package insert and speak with a healthcare professional including a pharmacist about possible interactions.
Chamomile may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. People taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Chamomile may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking agents that alter blood pressure.
Chamomile may also interact with alcohol, agents for the skin, agents that alter heart rhythm, agents that increase urine flow, agents that reduce muscle spasms, agents used for stomach and intestinal conditions, antianxiety agents, antiasthmatics, antibiotics, antidepressants, antidiarrheals, antihistamines, anti-inflammatory agents, antimicrobials, antiulcer and gastric acid-reducing agents, calcium channel blockers, cardiac glycosides, cholesterol lowering agents, COX 2 inhibitors, depressants, disulfiram (Antabuse®), estrogens, hormonal agents, metronidazole (Flagyl®), nonsteroidal antiinflammatory agents (NSAIDs), selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs), and warfarin.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Chamomile may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some herbs or supplements. Caution is advised while driving or operating machinery.
Chamomile may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with other products that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
Chamomile may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may become altered in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements possibly have on the P450 system. Patients using any medications should check the package insert and speak with a healthcare professional including a pharmacist about possible interactions.
Chamomile may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
Chamomile may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking agents that alter blood pressure.
Chamomile may also interact with antianxiety herbs and supplements, antiasthmatics, antibacterials, antidepressants, antidiarrheals, antihistamines, anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements, antimicrobials, antioxidants, antiulcer and gastric acid-reducing herbs and supplements, cardiac glycosides, cholesterol lowering herbs and supplements, chronotropic herbs and supplements, COX inhibitors, depressants, herbs and supplements for the skin, herbs and supplements that alter heart rhythm, herbs and supplements that increase urine flow, herbs and supplements that reduce muscle spasms, herbs and supplements used for stomach and intestinal conditions, hormonal herbs and supplements, and phytoestrogens.
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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.