Chamomile "German" (Matricaria recutita)
There are two basic types of chamomiles: German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Most research has been conducted on German chamomile, and this article will focus on that species.
Matricaria chamomilla (chamomile) was described in ancient medical writings and was an important medicinal herb in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Matricaria chamomilla is a well-known medicinal plant species from the Asteraceae family often referred to as the “star among medicinal species.” Nowadays it is a highly favored and much used medicinal plant in folk and traditional medicine. Its multitherapeutic, cosmetic, and nutritional values have been established through years of traditional and scientific use and research.
Chamomile has a long history of use in traditional medicine to treat muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, insomnia, ulcers, wounds, stomach disorders, rheumatic pain, hay fever, and hemorrhoids. Today, chamomile is promoted for sleeplessness, anxiety, and gastrointestinal conditions such as upset stomach, gas, and diarrhea. It is also used topically for skin conditions and mouth sores resulting from cancer treatment.
M. chamomilla belongs to a major group of cultivated medicinal
plants. It contains a large group of therapeutically interesting
and active compound classes. Sesquiterpenes, flavonoids,
coumarins, and polyacetylenes are considered the most important
such as herniarin and umbelliferone (coumarin), chlorogenic
acid and caffeic acid (phenylpropanoids), apigenin, apigenin-
7-O-glucoside, luteolin and luteolin-7-O-glucoside (avones),
quercetin and rutin (avonols), and naringenin (avanone) are
found in chamomile extract
It contains a large group of therapeutically interesting
and active compound classes. Sesquiterpenes, flavonoids,
coumarins, and polyacetylenes are considered the most important
constituents [Figure 1] of the chamomile drug.
German chamomile flowers contain 0.24- to 2.0-percent volatile oil that is blue. The two key constituents, (-)-alpha-bisabolol and chamazulene, account for 50-65 percent of total volatile oil content. Other components of the oil include (-)-alpha-bisabolol oxide A and B, (-)-alpha-bisabolone oxide A, spiroethers (cis- and trans- enyndicycloether), sesquiterpenes (anthecotulid), cadinene, farnesene, furfural, spathulenol, and proazulene (matricarin and matricin). Chamazulene is formed from matricin during steam distillation of the oil. Yield varies depending on the origin and age of the flowers. European Pharmacopoeia recommends chamomile contain no less than 4 mL/kg of blue essential oil. Chamomile also contains up to eight-percent flavone glycosides (apigenin 7- glycoside and its 6’-acetylated derivative) and flavonols (luteolin glucosides, quercetin glycosides, and isohamnetin); up to 10-percent mucilage polysaccharides; up to 0.3-percent choline; and approximately 0.1-percent coumarins (umbelliferone and its methyl ether, herniarin). The tannin level in chamomile is less than one percent.
In vitro and animal studies indicate that chamomile extracts have anti-inflammatory, anti-hyperglycemic, antigenotoxic, and anticancer properties. Clinical data suggest modest benefits with oral chamomile in chronic insomnia and for moderate cyclic mastalgia. Chamomile tea had positive effects on glycemic control in patients with diabetes. Several studies have reported that chamomile extracts are effective against mild-to-moderate and moderate-to-severe generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Chamomile may also affect a substantial reduction in depressive symptoms in subjects with comorbid GAD plus depression and improve biological markers of stress in people with chronic anxiety. In other controlled trials, application of a chamomile compress was effective and superior to hydrocortisone ointment in facilitating healing of peristomal skin lesions following colostomy, and a chamomile oleogel affected pain relief in patients who had migraine without aura.
In an animal study, chamomile extract showed some protective effects against radiation‐induced intestinal mucositis. A chamomile mouthwash reduced 5-fluorouracil-induced mucositis in hamsters, but data from human studies are conflicting. Preliminary findings suggest some benefit of a chamomile gel in preventing acute radiation dermatitis.
The anti-inflammatory activity of chamomile involves the release of LPS-induced prostaglandin E(2) in RAW 264.7 macrophages via inhibition of COX-2 enzyme activity. Methanol extracts of chamomile exert anti-allergic effects by inhibiting histamine release from mast cells. Neuroprotective activity has occurred via decreased lipid peroxidation and increased superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione, and total thiol levels.
Topical chamomile reduced the tissue levels of IL-1β and TNF-α in hamsters with oral mucositis. In another study, a chamomile extract provided gastroprotection against ethanol-induced ulceration by increasing glutathione levels. In an animal model of radiation‐induced intestinal mucositis, apoptotic effects from chamomile occurred via increases in cytosolic cytochrome c, caspase‐3, and depletion of mitochondrial B‐cell lymphoma‐2/ Bax ratio.
Apigenin, a flavone component of chamomile, interacts with GABA(A)-benzodiazepine receptors in vitro and inhibits locomotor behavior in rats. It also affected alternative splicing of key mRNAs by inhibiting dimerization of hnRNPA2, a factor associated with many cellular malignancies and in mRNA metabolism and splicing. Apigenin also has chemopreventive effects. Bisabololoxide A, another constituent, had additive inhibitory effects in some instances when used with 5-fluorouracil against leukemic cells.
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