Roman Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile (syn. Anthemis nobills)
A perennial herb with a short, much branched creeping rhizome, low-growing, creeping or ascending hairy stems and alternate, finely divided (two or three times pinnate) leaves with in-rolled margins. The terminal solitary flower heads have conical, solid receptacles and either white, ligulate ray-florets and yellow, tubular disc-florets or, in the case of cultivated double forms, only ligulate florets (these are most in demand for medicinal purposes). The receptacle bears chaffy scales between the florets. Green bracts ring the flower heads with white papery tips. The fruit is a laterally flattened achene.
The flower heads are used medicinally. Their constituents include an essential oil with azulene that turns blue on distillation, bitter compounds, flavonoid glycosides and choline. They have anti-inflammatory. Antiseptic, antispasmodic, mild sedative, stomachic and diaphoretic properties. In herbal medicine an infusion is used for fever, dyspepsia, nausea, painful menstruation and insomnia. Used externally as a strong infusion Chamomile is also effective in treating ulcers, eczema and wounds. It has many cosmetic uses, a popular one being as a brightener of fair hair. Distillation of the fresh flowering stems yields the essential oil, which is used by the pharmaceutical industry.
Chamomile grows wild in southern parts of the British Isles where it has a local distribution in pastures and other grassy places on sandy soils. It was once widely cultivated for medicinal purposes and for lawns and is sometimes found elsewhere in Britain as a garden escape. It is now commercially grown on the Continent but only on a small scale in Britain. The flowers smell of apples and its generic name, Chamaemelurn, which is derived from the Greek word kharnairnelon, means 'earth apple'. The ancient Egyptians who dedicated the herb to their gods knew the medicinal properties of Chamomile. The plant remains a favourite herbal remedy, especially in the form of Chamomile tea.
Flowering time: June to September