Chamomile, or chamomile, has been used for its numerous beneficial effects since ancient Egypt. It is a perennial herb that grows over large areas of Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia, and was later introduced to North America and Australia. Its best known effect is as a soporific and it is commonly taken as a tea at bedtime because of this. It should be avoided by people with thin blood or who are taking blood thinning medications because it contains coumarin.
Chamomile contains glycine, which is known to have a soothing effect on the nerves and this effect is used to promote drowsiness at bedtime. It is usually taken as an herbal tea that should be steeped covered for 10 to 15 minutes so that the volatile oils do not evaporate. These soporific effects may decrease over time if the tea is taken regularly.
Chamomile helps improve digestion on all counts with regular, long term use. It contains a chemical called alpha-bisabolol or A-bisobol that can help speed the healing of ulcers. Chamazulene is another chemical in chamomile that reduces swelling and has antimicrobial properties to help control bacteria. It also contains quercitin and tannins that help toughen the digestive system by pulling the protein cells tighter together, thus strengthening the blood vessels and stomach lining. It is soothing to the nerves, which can help prevent the stomach from being agitated; contains an antispasmodic that can help with cramps; and may stimulate the producton of digestive juices because of certain bitter elements. It has also been used as a folk remedy for children with colic because of its calming effect on the nerves and the beneficial effects on the digestive system.
Chamomile contains chamazulene in addition to other chemicals, which has been shown to help reduce swelling. It has been used to treat migraines, arthritis, rheumatic diseases and allergies, except for ragweed allergies. Chamomile is related to ragweed and may cause an allergic reaction in people suffering from this allergy.
The antibacterial and antimicrobial effects of chamomile are due in part to the chemical azulene, as well as others. This is useful for a variety of reasons and makes the tea useful as a compress, although drinking the tea is more common. The report "A metabonomic strategy for the detection of the metabolic effects of chamomile (Matricaria recutita L.) ingestion" by Dr. Elaine Holmes et al at the Imperial College London (2005) found evidence of antibacterial activity in the urine when chamomile tea was taken five times a day for two weeks.
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