Chamomile Oil: History, Benefits, and More

Chamomile Oil: History, Benefits, and More

Chamomile Oil: History, Benefits, and More

Chamomile oil is the mom-friend of essential oils.

Just like a mother, chamomile reduces anxiety, soothes multiple types of pain, lulls to sleep, and even puts in the time to help children reduce bed-wetting. 

And, like a mother, chamomile is trusted. Chamomile oil may be one of the best researched essential oils in existence, boasting pages and pages worth of high-quality, placebo-controlled clinical trials. And that is to say nothing of how widely chamomile is trusted as a health-boosting tea. 

Chamomile even takes care of other plants! This apple-scented flowering plant has been called the “plant’s physician” for its ability to help keep its plant neighbors healthy. It’s like the plant kingdom’s version of  “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.

Chamomile even seems to do its job visually—bringing joy with its cheery white and yellow blossoms in the spring and soothing calmness with its uniquely blue oil. 

So, what's the story behind this wonderful essential oil? How long has it been regarded as a mood-lifter, analgesic, and cosmetic? What precautions should be taken in using chamomile essential oil? 

History of Chamomile 

The medicinal use of chamomile goes back at least as far as ancient Egypt. There, it was associated with the god of the sun, Ra, used for embalming, and also as a fever-reducer, cosmetic ingredient, and sunstroke treatment. It would go on to feature in both classical Greek and Middle Eastern herbal medicine and eventually it was even regarded as sacred by the Saxons of northern Europe. 

Some confusion ensued when “chamomile” became the name for many different and unrelated, white-and-yellow daisy-like flowers in Europe. And so today we have Roman Chamomile from the genus Chamaemelum  and German Chamomile from the genus Matricaria. 



Chamomile Essential Oil Uses

The existing body of phytomedicine research into the health effects of chamomile has studied chamomile oil, chamomile extracts, and chamomile tea. 

The good news for oil research is that some useful chemical constituents are likely to be more plentiful in an essential oil than they would be in an extract or tea. The bad news is that the distillation process may also leave some helpful chemical constituents behind. 

We will list the studies on tea and extracts on this page as possible contributors to our understanding of chamomile oils’ benefits. However, the standard for certainty will always be repeated, human clinical trials with standard-meeting chamomile oil. 


Key for Chamomile Studies: 


*=German Chamomile      **=Roman Chamomile          ***=Unidentified Chamomile

Mental & Emotional Benefits

Can chamomile oil reduce anxiety?

Likely. Not only is chamomile tea famous for its relaxing effects, but chamomile extract and chamomile oil have both been clinically tested for anxiolytic effects in either chronic (*Amsterdam 2009) or acute (***Baskran 2019, ***Zamanifar 2020, ***Shinohara 2019, ***Khalesi 2019) contexts. If you’re wanting a natural support for your anxiety, chamomile may be one of your best options.

 

Can chamomile oil reduce depression symptoms?

Possibly. A number of randomized, controlled trials (*Keefe 2016, *Amsterdam 2012, *Amsterdam 2020, *Tucker 2010) and human studies (*Amsterdam 2012, ***Keefe 2017) with chamomile extract have shown positive effects. And even one animal study (**Kong 2017) with chamomile oil. 


While there isn’t enough evidence yet for chamomile to replace prescribed depression medication, it shows potential as a complementary therapy. 

Physical Benefits

Can chamomile oil improve sleep quality?

Possibly. Both chamomile tea (***Chang 2015) and chamomile extract have been tested in randomized controlled trials for sleep-improving benefits (***Adib-Hajbaghery 2017). Does this benefit transfer over to the oil? We’ll just have to wait for more evidence. 

Can chamomile oil reduce pain?

Likely. Chamomile, in various forms, has been tested in clinical trials as an analgesic for migraines (*Zargaran 2018), C-sections (***Zardosht 2020, ***Najafi 2017), mastalgia (*Saghafi 2018), and knee osteoarthritis (*Shoara 2015). 

More research needs to be done before it can be called an all-purpose analgesic, but it seems likely that chamomile oil could help take the edge off some types of pain. 

Can chamomile oil support wound healing?

Possibly. Animal studies have found chamomile extracts useful in healing burns (*Jarrahi 2008) and incision wounds (*Nakay 2007), and still other studies have explored the anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties (*Tresch 2019, **Kazemian 2018, **Bail 2007, ***Bhaskaran 2010, ***Srivastava 2009, *Wu 2010) of chamomile extract or chamomile oil, which may be helpful in wound-healing contexts.

Does chamomile oil have benefits for skin? 

Maybe. Apart from the aforementioned antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial studies (*Tresch 2019, **Kazemian 2018, **Bail 2007), chamomile oil has successfully reduced atopic dermatitis in an animal study (*Lee 2010). 

Can chamomile oil support digestion?

Possibly. This is one of the most widely claimed benefits of chamomile in folk medicine, but the evidence is rather limited:

  • A Randomized Controlled trial in which chamomile oil helped patients regain bowel health more quickly after C-section surgery (***Khadem 2018).
  • An animal study in which chamomile oil exhibited anti-ulcer activity (***Albayati 2012)
  • An animal study in which chamomile extract showed antidiarrheal and antioxidant activity (*Sebai 2014).
  • An animal study in which chamomile extract showed antioxidant activity and promise in controlling gastrointestinal helminthiasis (*Hajaji 2019). 
  • An in vitro study in which chamomile oil showed relaxant effects on smooth muscles (**Sandor 2018).
  • An in vitro study in which chamomile oil showed anthelmintic effects. (**Ferreira 2018).

Can chamomile oil help ease carpal tunnel syndrome?

While chamomile can’t resolve the underlying causes of carpal tunnel syndrome, there is a little evidence to suggest that it can be useful in addressing the symptoms. Two randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials (***Hashempur 2016, *Hashempur 2015) with chamomile oil show promise for this benefit, which isn’t definitive proof, but it is a good start. 

What else can chamomile oil do?

Chamomile, in one form or another, has also been tested in at least one high-quality study for benefits in: 

Is chamomile oil safe for dogs?

Chamomile oil is often said to be safe for dogs when it is used externally and diluted properly. But, as with any essential oil, it is best to talk with your veterinarian first. 

Manufacturing Chamomile Oil

As with appearance and medicinal benefits, there are some common factors in growing Roman chamomile  and German chamomile. They both require little maintenance, only a shallow soil covering to get started, not much fertilizer, and they both do a good job of reseeding themselves. They both do well in either full sun or partial shade and tend to be drought-tolerant. 

Because both plants start with such shallow roots, however, care needs to be taken when watering the seedlings. The seedlings need moist soil to start with, but aggressive watering methods may uproot them. Many growers prefer to start their chamomile seedlings in a more tightly-controlled indoor environment before planting them outside. Still, others just prefer to use cuttings. 

As for the differences, Roman Chamomile tends to grow as a perennial, creeping ground cover, sprawling up to 12 inches, with larger flowers and feathery leaves. As a ground cover, roman chamomile is popular in gardens, growing around stone walkways, walls, and the other plants. 

German chamomile, on the other hand, is an annual plant that grows about twice as high and produces flowers more prolifically than the Roman variety. Its height makes it less ideal for a groundcover, yet easier for blossom harvesting. 

The consensus among chamomile gardeners is that the best time to harvest chamomile flowers is in the morning after the dew has dried but before the heat of the day has really set in. Large-scale chamomile harvesting is often done with machines designed to cut off the flower heads with as little stalk attached as possible. 

The oil is most commonly extracted through hydrodistillation although a number of other methods are also used. 

Chamomile Varieties


Botanical Name

Common name

Matriarca 

chamomila

German chamomile

Hungarian chamomile (kamilla)

Wild chamomile

Blue chamomile

Scented mayweed

Chamaemelum nobile or Anthemis nobilis

Roman chamomile

English chamomile

garden chamomile

ground apple

low chamomile

mother's daisy

whig plant

 

Cautions

Any essential oil can be dangerous if used incorrectly. 

The four rules that apply to just about every essential oil are: 

  1. ALWAYS dilute according to your distributor’s instructions.
  2. ALWAYS apply a patch test before using any new essential oil.
  3. And make sure to ONLY apply your essential oil according to the doses and routes (aromatherapy, topical application, etc) approved by your distributor.
  4. Check with your doctor before mixing any essential oil with any serious health conditions (including pregnancy), concerns, or medications.

Some sources caution against mixing the use of chamomile oil with a number of specific medications: 

  • Cyclosporine
  • Barbituates
  • Antihypertensives
  • Bloodthinners
  • Drowsiness-inducing medications
  • Hormone-therapies
  • anti-seizure drugs
  • medications dismantled by the liver
  • antidepressants

If you have an allergy for ragweed, chrysanthemums, daisies, or marigolds, or concerns with hypoglycemia, approach chamomile oil with caution. 

Conclusion

We all need a comforting, supportive influence in our lives—and while chamomile oil could never replace the unique work done by mothers—it's nice to have an extra mom-friend around.

As herbal medicine goes forward, we will continue to rely on and love chamomile for its dependability, nurturing disposition, and wonderful apple scent.



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