German chamomile essential oil is distilled from the flowers of Matricaria recutita and often grown and distilled for its essential oil in Hungary as well as other parts of Eastern Europe, North America and Australia. Native to temperate parts of Eurasia, M. recutita best expresses itself when grown in this type of terroir (see chemistry section). As most plants classified in the Asteraceae family, this annual plant is happy to spread its medicine by readily re-seeding itself.
Matricaria comes from the Latin “matrix,” meaning “womb.” If you take a bi-section of the flower you will find the inside is hollow. Sometimes called the “plant’s physician,” chamomile is known to help plants growing around it just as we may call upon it to help us. And so, it has been used for centuries amongst many cultures and civilizations for the several almost too-good-to-be-true actions it has in and on the body and mind1.
German chamomile offers a botanical gift of soothing comfort. The oil is nurturing but not over-bearing: a direct expression of its versatile use amongst all ages. Its gentle nature offers support for many upsets and opens channels for communication. I find it creates space for direct expression. By supporting the solar plexus it helps digest experiences and nurture self-worth and personal power.
Core Aromatherapy applications for German Chamomile essential oil:
This essential oil shines when it comes to inflammatory conditions of the mind and body. The plant is cooling, calming and bitter-this is reflected in the oil-when things are red, angry and raw, German chamomile may be a gentle, valuable ally.
|Digestive||Cramping, swollen gums, stress-upset, hemorrhoids|
|Immune||Anti-allergic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic|
|Integumentary||Inflamed skin conditions, burns, broken capillaries, wound healing|
|Musculoskeletal||Spasm, cramps, tension, carpal tunnel, swollen joints, bursitis|
|Nervous/Psyche/Emotion||Nervousness, irritability, headaches, anger, agitation, hyperactivity, drama, moody, sedative|
|Reproductive||Cramps, PMS, cracked nipples, postpartum anxiety, all phases of a woman's life and cycle|
|Respiratory||Upper respiratory tract, anti-allergic, anti-septic|
Chemistry Highlights: German chamomile essential oil is rich in oxides (α-bisabolol oxide A and B) and the sesquiterpene alcohol, (-)-α-bisabolol.
Why is Matricaria blue? A chemical reaction, hydrolysis, occurs during steam or hydro distillation which converts the matricin found in Matricaria recutita to chamazulene (which is blue). For comparative purpose, a CO2 extraction of Matricaria will produce a murky, brown substance (i.e., will not be a deep blue color) as the plant material did not undergo hydrolysis.
Let’s Talk About Chemotypes. There are at least 4 known chemotypes of German chamomile, mainly depending on where the plant is grown and its genotype. The differences are mainly expressed in the varying amounts of bisabolol oxide A, bisabolol oixide B, α-bisabolol and chamazulene present in the essential oil. α-bisabolol is considered to be a core anti-inflammatory constituent and only German chamomile grown in temperate Europe expresses α-bisabolol rich oils.
Is German Chamomile Essential Oil Safe?
Yes, overall this oil is generally regarded as safe with the following considerations.
- Despite reports of skin reactions and dermatitis from topical use of chamomile, the likelihood of chamomile preparations causing a contact allergy is low. However, persons with known sensitivities to other members of the Asteraceae/Compositae family (such as ragweed, daisies, and chrysanthemums) should spot test chamomile or chamomile products or avoid topical application overall.
- An expensive oil2, chamomile may be adulterated with synthetics or naturally occurring bisabolol and azulenes3. These additives may cause sensitivity (e.g., nasal/respiratory and/or skin) in some users.
Blending with German Chamomile Essential Oil:
The unmistakable aroma of the oil is soft, quiet and deeply penetrating. It presents a bouquet of herbaceous hay and grass, layered with sweet, fruity apples. There is a faint note of wet dirt-reminiscent of soft dew in the early morning sun. Journeying with this plant brings calming delight. It is slightly playful but keeps you grounded enough on this earthly plane to see the truth and speak honestly.
German chamomile essential oil blends well with: the other chamomiles (Anthemis nobilis/Chamaemelum nobile, Eriocephalus punctulatus), Rose (Rosa x damascena), Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum), Clary sage (Salvia sclarea), Geranium (Pelargonium ssp.), Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin), Ginger (Zingiber officinale), Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides) and friends in the Citrus family such as Mandarin and Lemon (C. reticulata & C. limon).
Creating Wellness Products with German Chamomile
Roller Ball for Allergies
Do you have issues with allergies? Consider making the following synergy to help manage runny, itchy, sneezy situations instead of reaching for an OTC anti-histamine. The 3 essential oils in this blend work together to provide anti-histamine and mucolytic action. Take note that all three botanicals are from the Asteraceae family.
What you need:
- Fixed oil of your choice (the one pictured has jojoba)
- A roller ball applicator
- 16 drops of Inula (Inula graveolens)
- 4 drops of German chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
- 2 drops of Blue tansy (Tanacetum annuum)
How to make: Combine the essential oils into the glass roller ball, affix the cap and swirl around to mix the oils. Remove the cap and add the fixed oil up to the “shoulders” of the bottle. Insert the roller ball into the bottle; use the heel of your palm to ensure the dispenser is fully inserted. Screw on the cap and label the bottle appropriately.
How to use: I like to use this behind my ears and on my jawline to help ease allergy symptoms. Liberally roll the oils onto these areas and use your wrists to massage the oils into your skin. Apply as needed.
Happy Baby Teething Oil
I have had the pleasure of helping several parents bring comfort to their teething children with this gentle teething oil. Also consider using it on the body to bring relief to itchy-scratchy skin. This simple recipe proves how the tiniest amount of essential oil delivers results for myriad issues.
What you need:
- Organic, food-grade fixed oil of your choice (I often use fractionated coconut oil or sunflower)
- One ounce bottle with cap (or use a dropper bottle)
- 3 drops of German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) essential oil
Note: you could consider putting this into a roller bottle too, to easily apply on a little one’s gums or even externally on the jawline.
How to make: Add the fixed oil up to the “shoulders” of the 1 ounce bottle. Next, add 3 drops of German chamomile essential oil to the bottle. Affix the cap and label appropriately. Shake the bottle to disperse the beautiful blue volatile oil into the fixed oil.
How to use: With clean hands, apply 1-2 drops of the teething oil to one of your fingertips. Massage the oil onto tender little gums with your finger. Use as needed during flare-ups.
A Delicious, Digestive Tisane
German chamomile is a reliable and gentle digestive aid. It is an aromatic bitter-which is one reason it excels at dispelling gas, stimulating the production of bile and assisting with all-round digestion. Sip on a soothing cup of chamomile flower infused water after eating to get things moving. As Hildegard von Bingen noted, German chamomile “…has a pleasant juice and is like a gentle ointment for painful intestines.”
What you need to make two cups:
- Pot with lid or kettle
- Two of your favorite tea cups or mugs
- 16 ounces of water
- 4 tsp of German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) flowers
- Optional: consider adding 1-2 tsp of another digestive aromatic such as ginger, peppermint, lemon or lemon balm.
How to make: Bring 16 ounces of water to a near-boil and remove from the heat. Do not add the flowers to boiling water as this will “burn off the” volatile oils and make for a rather bitter brew. The ideal temperature would be something you could comfortably put your finger in without yelling “ouch!” Add the chamomile flowers to the water then cover and let them steep for no more than 10 minutes (longer would be more bitter and stronger in action). Strain out the flowers as you decant the brew into the cups. Enjoy sipping this as a warm or cool tisane.
Plants are more than willing to express themselves. If we get out of our own way, are quiet and pay attention to them, we can be humbled and learn a vast amount of information through observation and thoughtful use. Thank you for taking the time to read this post and spending time with German chamomile and me.
1 I like how David Hoffman summed up German chamomile in his book “Medical Herbalism”: “A comprehensive list of medicinal uses for chamomile would be very long.” Its actions range across nervous tension, the digestive tract (e.g., teething, dyspepsia, gastric ulcers), to conjunctivitis, inflamed skin, migraines, insomnia and more!
2This oil should be expensive as the yield is so low. According to Holmes, 1 kg is obtained from 300-500kg of the fresh herb
3Essential Oil Safety, 2nd edition, pg. 243.
Written by: Amy Anthony
(Aromatic Studies Instructor)
Amy Anthony B.A, is a certified Aromatherapist with a private practice in Manhattan, NY. Her focus is on customized aromatherapy and education: she consults with clients and teaches workshops at the NYIOA and around the NY metro area. Amy also enjoys formulating and devising delivery methods that encourage the safe, practical use of aromatherapy—like fizzing bath balls, shower bars and sleep mists.
Amy has been a gardener since the age of 5 and has continually found ways to connect with plants since moving to NYC in 1999. Her knowledge of plants brings a holistic, plant-based approach to her teaching and practice of aromatherapy. Amy is also a certified master composter, has volunteered at Saint George’s Common Table since 2012 and is a trained doula. More can be found about her aromatherapy practice at http://nycaroma.com.