Monday, June 11, 2007
The Soothing Chamomiles
There are two kinds of chamomile commonly used in aromatic treatment. German chamomile, matricaria recutita pictured above - and Roman Chamomile, anthemis nobilis. The flowers look almost identical, but you can tell the oils apart as they are different. As you can see, they belong to the Daisy family Asteraceae, whose bright-faced flowers like bellis perennis dot English lawns and are ruthlessly eradicated by lawn purists; or dandelions, which are even tougher to get rid of.
Both Chamomiles are cooling and soothing. They calm and induce sleep. They help with pain in the nerves and muscles. They are supportive to the liver, encouraging its detoxification function and regulating the Qi. Both relax the diaphragm and the abdomen, helping with shallow, anxious breaths and nervous cramps. Both ease the frustration held in the solar plexus when we have fixed expectations which are difficult for the unpredictable world to fulfill.
German Chamomile is a thick blue colour, pungent and viscous. It is rich in Azulene, a monoterpene chemical which only turns blue in the distillation process and bisabolol, an anti-inflammatory agent. Its smell is sweet and earthy with a bitter tone. I reach for German Chamomile in creams and gels to heal the skin: to cool red eruptive rashes, or inflamed edges of wounds and grazes (not on the open wound itself, it would sting!). It has both sedated my toothache - and my anxiety in the dentist chair from having two wisdom teeth out this year - and aided in swift healing after. German Chamomile helped to cool the inflammation of the lining of my lung after my bad bout with the viral flu. It eased the pain of the torn muscles in my ribs from the coughing!
Roman Chamomile is lighter, more appley, still with a bittersweet bite. I use this with children, to sooth their nights, calm their tummies, wash their stings, stop the itching for chicken pox, in their ears for ear infections. As for the rest of us, massage into tense muscles, apply to the abdomen for pms and period pains, stress and insomnia. Lovely in the bath after prolonged exposure to relatives during the holiday season.
The chamomiles blend well with lavender and geranium, also jasmine and rose. For a first aid blend, mix with helichrysum (for bruises) and ravensara (anti-infectious).
These are two oils I always carry with me in my tool box.