Chamomile: The Herbal for Digestion, Irritability & Calm Mind
Chamomile is an herb with a long history of use for pain relief, fevers, digestive upsets and for states of irritability. There are two primary species that are used, German chamomile- matricaria recutita & Roman chamomile- anthemis nobilis. The main active constituent is an essential oil called azulene, which is quite remarkable a beautiful blueish color.
Chamomile is commonly made into a tea, which is quite delicious and can be very soothing in times of stress or illness. It is found used in folk traditions for various issues, and I fondly recall how my parents (who were doctors in Ukraine) used to give me a strong chamomile tea any time I had a fever or was in any way ill. It truly is a plant with numerous uses, but we shall focus on its wonderful benefits for mental health.
Traditional Uses of Chamomile:
Chamomile is very suited to conditions that bring about pain, whether that is the muscular pains that come from fever, the kind of bodily pain that comes from nervous tension, and all kinds of repetitive pains such as those brought on by cramps. It is often used for people that feel very sensitive to pain, have an overall low threshold to it and are very irritated by it.
Chamomile has a soothing quality to the pains that babies may experience when teething, stomach pains associated with stress or poor digestion, toothaches and earaches. It is one of the primary herbal remedies for fever that comes and goes, associated with mood fluctuations and difficulty being at ease. It has uses for stiff neck muscles, cramps, joint pains and skin irritations of all kinds.
Chamomile is very specific to mental states characterized by irritability, restlessness and constant anger that isn’t made better from releasing it. It is commonly used for kids and babies that are simply inconsolable, will whine and attention will only make it worse. Therefore, it is often said that chamomile is well suited for people who are “acting like babies” or when one feels very irritable without cause. In conditions where there is physical and mental tension that expresses itself as a dark mood, anger, and a short fuse.
This plant brings a certain sweetness to the mind and helps one overcome feelings of constant irritation towards others and the things in their environment. It is held to balance the emotional energies and bring about a soothing of irritability and restlessness that is often caused by stress. It is interesting to note that chamomile is specific to the liver, which in Chinese medicine is held to be the organ associated with anger when there is an imbalance.
If you find yourself in an irritable funk where you feel eager to pick quarrels with people, feel indecisive about what you want, and get angry very easily and lash out without meaning to; chamomile is one of the primary remedies. Because of its ability to soothe the stomach, it is also well suited for digestive problems associated with emotional upset. This is for the types that when they get stressed out or angry, they get an upset stomach. As with the other herbs in the nervine class, chamomile is also commonly used for anxiety, insomnia and general restlessness. It has much anti-inflammatory benefit which explains why it is so useful for pains and fever.
How to Prepare Chamomile
Chamomile flowers can be prepared in a variety of ways, from the commonly used tea infusion to a variety of less well-known methods. Chamomile can be used in a tincture form (liquid herbal extract), which does a good job of pulling out essential oils and a lot of the bitters within it as well as in baths, mouthwashes and compresses.
To make a bath out of chamomile simply put the chamomile flowers in a closed cloth bag and let them sit in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, then relax in those soothing waters to relax away muscle tensions and stress. Chamomile also comes in an essential oil form which can be put into a diffuser, or put into boiling water for steam inhalation. This is a method where you drape a towel over your head and breathe in the vapors that comes from the steam of hot water that has chamomile essential oil in it.
6-14 grams which is a approximately 2-4 heaping tablespoons of crushed flowers. Left steeping for at least 20 minutes and covered to prevent essential oils from evaporating away.
3 drops in warm water, bath or mixed into a carrier oil such as coconut to be applied to the skin.
A 2019 study of a 1500mg Chamomile extract on 179 people with either generalized anxiety disorder and/or depression for 8 weeks concluded that it “may produce clinically meaningful antidepressant effects in addition to its anxiolytic activity in subjects with GAD and comorbid depression.”
Another 2019 study which was a systematic review of a dozen randomized controlled trials looking at those with insomnia and anxiety, showed that it had a significant benefit on relieving anxiety and improving sleep quality.
Numerous other studies showed that chamomile had potential benefit for menopause, cortisol balance, anxiety/depression, nerve pain, blood sugar balance, and different kinds of pains. You can read into the amazing amount of studies on the wide variety of possible benefits of chamomile below.
TL:DR on Chamomile: Chamomile has an amazing range of uses making it among the few herbs that can really be called a cure all, and research seems to support this wide variety of uses! Chamomile is an excellent natural remedy for muscle pains, irritability, anxiety, depression, sleep, fevers and upset stomachs! Now it’s time for you to sip on some chamomile tea, unwind in comfortable clothes and see how the healing powers of chamomile can become part of your daily mental wellness routine.
Thanks for reading!
Bogdan Makartchuk, ND
Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine (NUNM)
Founder of The Herbal Remedy, an Herbal Medicine Store located in Sayville, New York (Long Island).
Host of the Herbal Hour Podcast: Available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and your favorite podcast player.
1) The Earthwise Herbal: A complete guide to New World Medicinal Plants Vol.1, Matthew Wood, North Atlantic books, 2008
2) The Energetics of Western Herbs Volume 2. Peter Holmes, Snow Lotus Press 1994