Family: Asteraceae (Compositae)
ROMAN CHAMOMILE (Chamaemelum nobile [L ] All.)
GERMAN CHAMOMILE (Matricaria recutita L.)
Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984.
Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature
on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate
Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.
Roman chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile (L.) All., and German
chamomile, Matricaria recutita, are two different
species of plant commonly known as the same herb.
Formerly classified as Anthemis nobilis L. and called English
or Russian chamomile, Roman chamomile is a creeping, herbaceous
perennial native to western Europe and North Africa. Reaching
a height of about 0.3 meters, the aromatic plant is characterized
by downy stems and yellow-disc, white-ray flowers that
appear in late spring or early July. Roman chamomile is cultivated
in Europe, especially in Belgium, France, and England.
German chamomile, Matricaria recutita L., is also known
as matricaria, wild chamomile, Hungarian chamomile, and sweet
false chamomile. This many-branched, erect-growing annual,
formerly classified as Matricaria chamomilla L., reaches
a height of about 0.3 meter and has yellow disc white ray flowers.
Cultivated in Germany, Hungary, Russia, and several other European
countries, German chamomile is native to Europe and western Asia
and naturalized in North America.
The reported life zone for the chamomiles is 7 to 26 degrees centigrade
with an annual precipitation of 0.4 to 1.4 meters and a soil pH
of 6.5 to 8.0 (Roman) or 4.8 to 8.3 (German) (4.1-31). Seeded
or transplanted into the field for cultivation, Roman chamomile
requires full sun but will grow in most soils having good drainage.
Cultivated from seed, German chamomile grows in poor, clay soils.
With Roman chamomile, the flower heads are hand picked and dried
at the height of bloom about five times each growing season. The
short, two-month growing season of German chamonile allows it
to be interplanted with other biennial herbs or planted as an
early or late crop.
The essential oil of Roman chamomile consists chiefly of chamazulene,
angelic acid, tiglic acid, and several sesquiterpene lactones
(1.4-34, 14.1-10). Other constituents of Roman chamomile
include anthemic acid, athesterol, anthemene, resin and tannin
(14.1-35). The essential oil of German chamomile contains
chamazulene, -bisabolol, -bisabololaxides A and B, spathulenol
cis-En-yn-dicycloether and farnesene (1.7-121, 2.3-74).
Other constituents of German chamomile include a volatile oil,
anthemic acid, antheminidine, tannin, matricarin, and apigenin
Dried flowers from Roman and German chamomile are employed in
herbal teas. Flower heads of Roman chamomile have been used in
the manufacture of herb beers (11.1-49). The essential oils
are used as agents in alcoholic beverages, confections, desserts,
perfumes, and cosmetics. Roman chamomile is often grown as a ground
cover or as an ornamental in flower gardens.
As medicinal plants, the chamomiles have been traditionally considered
to be antispasmodics, carminatives, diaphoretics, emmenagogues,
sedatives, and stomachics. The plants have been used as bitters,
tonics, insect repellents, and as a folk remedies against asthma,
colic, fevers, inflammations, and cancer (14.1-13). German
chamomile has been used to induce sleep and as an anthelmintic.
Roman chamomile is a pharmaceutical aromatic bitter, and chamazulene,
obtained from German chamomile, is a pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory
and antipyretic agent (14.1-35). Extracts of Roman chamomile
have shown antitumor activity and extracts of German chamomile
are reported to have antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal
properties (1.4-34, 1.8-13, 7.2-19). Chamomile
in tea may cause toxic reactions in individuals sensitive to ragweed
or allergens (11.1-96). The chamomiles can also cause contact
Roman and German chamomile are generally recognized as safe for
human consumption as natural seasonings/flavorings and as plant
extracts/essential oils from the flowers (21 CFR sections 182.10,
For further information, see:
Mann, C. and E.J. Staba. 1986. The Chemistry, Pharmacology,
and Commercial Formulations of Chamomile. In: L.E. Craker and
J.E. Simon (eds). Herbs, Spices, and Medicinal Plants. Recent
Advances in Botany, Horticulture, and Pharmacology. Food Products
Press Vol. 1: 235-280.
[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in
full in the original reference].
Last modified 6-Dec-1997