Roman Chamomile Charmaemelum nobile


Chamomile, Roman and German

We study Chamaemelum nobile or Roman chamomile and Matricaria recutita or German chamomile. Do not confuse chamomile with pineapple weed, which has no white petals.

Note that Chamaemelum nobile is the new binomial for Anthemis nobilis, Roman chamomile.Matricaria recutita is the new binomial for Matricaria chamomilla, which is German chamomile.

There are a number of species of chamomile, both naturalized and cultivated in North America, New Zealand, and Australia. Chamaemelum nobile is generally found cultivated but is naturalized in North America, Tasmania, and South Australia. Anthemis cotula or stinking mayweed is found distributed throughout New Zealand, Southern Australia, Tasmania, New South Wales, and Queensland. Anthemis arvensis or Corn Chamomile is found in New Zealand, Tasmania, and New South Wales. Matricaria inodora or scentless chamomile is found in New Zealand and parts of New South Wales. Matricaria recutita or German Chamomile is generally found cultivated.

Chamaemelum nobile, Chamaemelum cotula, and Matricaria recutita are all medicinally important.

Latin Name

Chamaemelum nobile and Matricaria recutita

Taxonomic Notes

Family: Asteraceae (formerly Compositae)

Common Names

English chamomile, chamomile, Roman chamomile, chamomilla, and German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)

Identifying Characteristics




Roman: Low growing, perennial with hairy stems. Creeps and trails to form a ground cover. German: Erect annual with round stems 1 ½-3-ft high, branched.


Roman: Fine, feathery, and thread-like. German: Divided, thread-like, with few leaves.


Roman: Single or double daisy-like. Yellow center and white florets on a single, long erect stalk. Single flowers are considered more powerful medicinally. German: Daisy-like, similar to Roman but with a hollow conical center an inch across. All chamomiles have a tiny scale between each two florets. It is very minute and must be carefully looked for. It is the one factor that differentiatesChamaemelum species from Matricaria, and the shape of the scales helps to distinguish between Chamaemelum nobile and other Chamaemelum species. In Chamaemelum nobile, these scales are short and blunt.


Roman: Jointed fibrous root. German: Fibrous.


Roman: Pleasant, aromatic. German: Bitter, stronger than Roman.


Roman: Apple scent. German: Strong odor, similar to Roman Chamomile but less aromatic.


Parts Used

The fresh and dried flowers, whole herb, and essential oil. The double cultivated variety of Chamaemelum nobile is the official remedy, although the single variety was originally preferred.


Collect the flowers of both species when the flowers are fully developed but not past their best. Handle with care as they bruise very easily. Spread on mesh-covered racks in the shade to dry.


Roman chamomile is a perennial herb and prefers a sunny site with any good garden soil. The wild single variety requires a drier sandier soil than the cultivated double flowered variety. Propagate from seeds or runners. Rooted pieces ensure you will have either the double or the single variety. Seeds often produce mostly the single. Roman chamomile is used extensively as a ground cover and lawn. German chamomile, an annual, can be propagated from seed. Sow thinly where they are to grow. Thin when the seedlings are about 2½-in high to about 5-in apart. It will flower in about eight weeks and can be harvested until the plant dies. Remember to leave some flowers to set seed for next year's crop.

Active Constituents

Roman chamomile contains a volatile oil, a bitter principle called anthemic acid, tannic acid, an unnamed glucose, and chamazulene, which is responsible for its anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory actions. Chamazulene is formed during steam distillation from a natural precursor, matricin. The origin and age of the flowers are the main determinants of chamazulene yield. It also contains tryptophan, an amino acid, also found in milk, which induces sleepiness.

German chamomile contains variable amounts of volatile oil. The oil contains chamazulene that occurs in yarrow and wormwood and, as mentioned, is responsible for the anti-inflammatory actions. It is also a pain reliever, wound healer, antispasmodic and antimicrobial. The precursor to chamazulene, matricin, is reported to be more effective anti-inflammatory than chamazulene.[1]

The oil contains a perfume element called farnesene which is found in hops and apple skins, plus two other substances, sesquiterpenes, a-bisabolol and a cyclic ester called transen-yn-dicycloether, both of which exhibit anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antimicrobial influences in laboratory experiments with rats.[2] a-bisabolol showed anti-ulcerogenic activity in rats, particularly ulcers induced by indomethacin, stress, or ethanol.[3]

The plant also contains various flavonoids: Apigenin, apiin (found in parsley and celery) and rutin, part of the bioflavonoid complex that strengthens fragile capillaries and is beneficial to the whole circulatory system and heart.

Other constituents include: A glycoside called luteolin, a coumarin called umbelliferone that exhibits antifungal and antibacterial properties,[4] plant acids, azulene, fatty acids, amino acids, choline (which also occurs in dandelion), and variable amounts of the minerals calcium and potassium.

Therapeutic Action

Roman chamomile: Anodyne, anti-allergic, anti-emetic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, aromatic, bitter tonic, diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, emmenagogue, hypoglycemic, sedative, and stomachic.

German chamomile: Anodyne, anthelmintic, anti-allergic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, anti-ulcer, antiviral, calmative, carminative, diuretic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, stomachic, and tonic, Vulnerary.

Medicinal Uses

Both Roman and German chamomile have similar medicinal properties. German chamomile tends to be somewhat bitter, so Roman is often preferred.

Roman chamomile: Abscesses, colic, conjunctivitis, cramps, diarrhea, dysmenorrhea, dyspepsia, fevers, fluid retention, hair rinse, headache, heartburn, hyperglycemia, indigestion, inflammation (external or internal), loss of appetite, menstrual troubles, migraines, nausea, nervousness, scalp disorders, swellings, teething, ulcers, vomiting, and wounds.

German chamomile: Abscesses, abdominal pain, arthritis, bad temper (in children), boils, colic, conjunctivitis, cramps, cystitis, dilated veins, earache, fevers, hemorrhoids, insomnia, mastitis, menstrual troubles, nervousness, painful joints, rheumatism, stomach troubles, teething, toothache and travel sickness, and ulcers.

German: The anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory activity is most likely due to the azulene components that inhibit histamine release.[5]

Chamomile is renowned for its soothing effect on frayed nerves and it is an excellent mild sedative for restless babies and children.

It promotes sweating and will rapidly stimulate the flow of blood to the skin. As an emmenagogue, the cold infusion will relieve congestion in the uterus and stimulate menstruation.

It was used by traditional Moroccan society for high blood sugar. A recent study showed that an aqueous extract of Chamaemelum nobile was effective in reducing blood sugar levels in diabetic rats. [6]

A study in Nov. 2004 showed that German chamomile might be helpful for age-related bone loss by acting as a natural selective estrogen receptor modulator. Aqueous extracts of this herb may be a natural way to support long-term bone health, especially in postmenopausal women. [7]

Culinary Uses

Chamomile is an ideal tea herb. The flowers are also attractive for decorating salads, fruit salads, punches, or cakes.

Precautions and Contraindications

German: Classed as safe for use when used appropriately, although minor side effects have been recorded.[8] Clients with sensitivity to asteraceae/compositae family should avoid it. It may also exacerbate symptoms in clients who are particularly susceptible, such as asthmatics. The coumarin constituent may interfere with anticoagulant therapy if used in excessive doses. [9] Newall, Anderson, and Phillipson[10] recommend avoiding excessive use during pregnancy and lactation due to reputed effects on the menstrual cycle and uterotonic activity. They also state it is not recommended for teething babies but do not give a reference for this statement. Traditionally both chamomiles have been used for teething babies.

Roman: Large doses of Chamaemelum nobile have been reported to cause vomiting and stomach irritation and the herb can cause skin reactions and other allergic reactions in people who have sensitivity to ragweed pollen. The sesquiterpene lactones may be the primary allergen, although sensitization occurs only rarely with the widely used German chamomile. [11] Excessive use during pregnancy and lactation should be avoided due to reputed abortifacient actions, its ability to affect the menstrual cycle, and the potential allergic effects. The coumarin constituent may interfere with anticoagulant therapy if used in excessive doses. [12]

The Natural Standards Database (which you can access through the library, through the databases page) states:

In a study of 588 pregnant Australian women, 36% of the women had taken herbal supplements during their current pregnancy, and 11% took chamomile[13].

There have been no formal studies on the effects of chamomile on pregnant women. However, due to its theoretical properties as a uterine stimulant, abortifacient, and emmenagogue, most experts agree that excess ingestion of chamomile should be avoided during pregnancy. Roman chamomile has a class 2b safety rating from the American Herbal Products Association, advising against its use during pregnancy, because of its potential abortifacient effects when taken at high doses due to its action on uterine smooth muscle and tendency to induce menstruation.


Fluid extract, fomentation, infusion, essential oil, and tincture


Three to four times a day

Fluid Extract: ½-t to 1-t

Fomentation: As necessary

Infusion: 1-T to 4-T

Essential oil: ½-drop to 3-drops (no more than 10 drops per day)

Tincture: ½-t to 1-t


Chamomile flowers should never be boiled as the volatile oil, which contains much of the active constituents, will evaporate. An infusion should always be covered and allowed to steep for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Abscesses, Boils, Conjunctivitis, External Inflammation, Scalp disorders, Ulcers, and Wounds

Use chamomile flower infusion as a hot fomentation or wash. The addition of catnip, mullein, and cayenne will enhance the action. The flowers can also be applied as a poultice.

Arthritis, Cramps, Cystitis, Fluid Retention, Gout, Insomnia, Menstrual Troubles, and Nervousness

Use the infusion, fluid extract, essential oil, or tincture.

Colic in Babies, Restlessness, and Teething

Use ½-t to 1-t of the cooled infusion.


Use the tincture

Fevers, Indigestion, and Headache

Use the hot infusion with the addition of ginger root.

Chamomile infusion is a soothing addition to the bath water and hand and foot baths containing chamomile infusion are soothing for minor aches and pains.


Irritability Ease Formula

1-oz chamomile Matricaria recutita (German) or Chamaemelum nobile (Roman)

1-oz valerian Valeriana officinalis

1-oz peppermint Mentha piperita

½-oz licorice Glycyrrhiza glabra

½-oz lavender Lavandula angustifolia

Mix the dried or fresh herbs and prepare as infusion, using 2-t of the herb blend in 1-cup of boiling water. Use 2-T to 4-T before meals. Store in the refrigerator for no more than eight hours.

Tummy Support Formula

1-oz yarrow Achillea millefolium

1-oz chamomile Matricaria recutita (German) or Chamaemelum nobile (Roman)

½-oz lemon balm Melissa officinalis

½-oz peppermint Mentha piperita

Mix herbs and prepare as an infusion. Use 2-T to 4-T as necessary.

Chamomile Poultice

1-oz chamomile flowers Matricaria recutita (German) or Chamaemelum nobile (Roman)

Boiling water to moisten

Linen or muslin bag

Fill a linen or muslin bag (large enough to cover the area) with chamomile flowers. Pour boiling water over this until thoroughly moistened. Place the bag in a towel and wring out excess water. Apply as soon as possible. This poultice is excellent for the ailments listed above under administration, plus neuralgia, and aches and pains.

Notes and References

[1] Mann C, Staba EJ. The Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Commercial Formulations of Chamomile. In Herbs, Spices, and Medicinal Plants: Recent Advances in Botany, Horticulture, and Pharmacology. Vol 1 Craker LE, Simon JE, Editors. Arizona: Oryx Press 1986: 235-80. Jakovlev V et al. Pharmacological investigations with compounds of chamomile VI Investigations on the Antiphlogistic effects of chamazulene and matricine. Planta Med 1984; 50: 359.

[2] Herbal Medicines, A Guide for Health Care Professionals, Newall et al, 1996: 69

[3] Mann C, Staba EJ. The Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Commercial Formulations of Chamomile. In Herbs, Spices, and Medicinal Plants: Recent Advances in Botany, Horticulture, and Pharmacology. Vol 1. Craker LE, Simon JE, Editors. Arizona: Oryx Press 1986: 235-80.

[4] Herbal Medicines, A Guide for Health Care Professionals, Newall et al, 1996: 69

[5] Herbal Medicines, A Guide for Health Care Professionals, Newall et al, 1996: 69

[6] Potent hypoglycemic activity of the aqueous extract of Chamaemelum nobile in normal and streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2005 Mar;67(3):189-95.

[7] Greek plant extracts exhibit selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM)-like properties. J Agric Food Chem. 2004 Nov 17;52(23):6956-61.

[8] American Herbal Products Association, Botanical Safety Handbook, 1997:74

[9] Herbal Medicines, A Guide for Health Care Professionals, Newall et al, 1996: 70

[10] Herbal Medicines, A Guide for Health Care Professionals, Newall et al, 1996: 70

[11] Contact sensitization from Compositae-containing herbal remedies and cosmetics. Contact Dermatitis. 2002 Oct;47(4):189-98

[12] Herbal Medicines, A Guide for Health Care Professionals, Newall et al, 1996: 70

[13] Forster DA, Denning A, Wills G, Bolger M, McCarthy E. Herbal medicine use during pregnancy in a group of Australian women. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2006 Jun 19;6:21. Access full text through at

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