Chamomile or camomile (// KAM-ə-meel or // KAM-ə-myl) is the common name for several daisy-like plants of the family Asteraceae that are commonly used to make a herb infusion that can help to induce sleep. Because chamomile has been known to cause uterine contractions that can invoke miscarriage, the U.S. National Institutes of Health recommends that pregnant and nursing mothers not consume Roman chamomile (also known as Chamaemelum nobile). People who are allergic to ragweed (also in the daisy family) may also be allergic to chamomile, due to cross-reactivity. However, there is still some debate as to whether people with reported allergies to chamomile were actually exposed to chamomile and not a plant of similar appearance.
The word "chamomile" derives, via French and Latin, from Greek χαμαίμηλον (khamaimēlon), i.e. "earth apple", from χαμαί (khamai) "on the ground" and μῆλον (mēlon) "apple". The more common British spelling "camomile," is the older in English, while the spelling "chamomile" more accurately corresponds to the ultimate Latin and Greek source. The spelling camomile more accurately corresponds to the more immediate derivation from French.
Some commonly-used species include:
- Matricaria chamomilla (also known as Matricaria recutita), German chamomile or wild chamomile, the most commonly-used species
- Chamaemelum nobile, Roman, English or garden chamomile, also frequently used
A number of other species' common names include the word "chamomile". This does not mean they are used in the same manner as the species used in the herbal tea known as "chamomile." Plants including the common name "chamomile," of the family Asteraceae, are:
- Anthemis arvensis, corn, scentless or field chamomile
- Anthemis cotula, stinking chamomile
- Cladanthus mixtus, Moroccan chamomile
- Cota tinctoria, dyer's, golden, oxeye, or yellow chamomile
- Eriocephalus punctulatus, Cape chamomile
- Matricaria discoidea, wild chamomile or pineapple weed
- Tripleurospermum inodorum, wild, scentless or false chamomile
Medical use and pharmacology
Major chemical compounds present within chamomile include apigenin and alpha-bisabolol. Other compounds in chamomile include: sesquiterpenes, terpenoids, flavonoids, coumarins such as herniarin and umbelliferone, phenylpropanoids such as chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid, flavones such as apigenin and luteolin, flavanols such as quercetin and rutin, and polyacetylenes.
Apigenin has demonstrated chemopreventive effects against cancer cells in the laboratory, while alpha-bisabolol has been shown to have antiseptic properties, anti-inflammatory properties, and reduces pepsin secretion without altering secretion of stomach acid. Chemical compounds present within chamomile bind to GABA receptors, modulate monoamine neurotransmission, and have neuroendocrine effects. Umbelliferone is fungistatic. Coumarin compounds in chamomile such as herniarin and umbelliferone may have blood-thinning properties, and apigenin and other compounds may interact with medications causing drug-drug interactions.
Chamomile has been used for inflammation associated with hemorrhoids when topically applied. There is Level B evidence that chamomile possesses anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties and could be used to treat stress and insomnia. In 2009, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania concluded the first controlled clinical trial of chamomile extract for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The results suggest chamomile may have modest anxiolytic activity in patients with mild to moderate GAD, although the results have not since been replicated. Chemical components of chamomile extract have demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antihyperglycemic, antigenotoxic, and anticancer properties when examined in vitro and in animal studies.
The chamomile plant is known to be susceptible to many fungi, insects, and viruses. Fungi such as Albugo tragopogonis (white rust), Cylindrosporium matricariae, Erysiphe cichoracearum (powdery mildew), and Sphaerotheca macularis (powdery mildew) are known pathogens of the chamomile plant. Aphids have been observed feeding on chamomile plants and the moth Autographa chryson causes defoliation.
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