Chamomile (Matricaria recutita, Chamaemelum nobile)
Parts Used: Flowers, fresh or dried
Actions: antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, relaxing nervine, carminative, stomachic, antiemetic, vulnerary, diaphoretic, mild antimicrobial, aromatic, bitter tonic
Energetics: bitter, pungent, neutral-to-cool, slightly dry
Indications: Digestive Conditions -Gastrointestinal discomfort, flatulence, dyspepsia, loss of appetite, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, gastritis, diarrhea. Nervous Conditions – chamomile is useful for all kinds of anxiety, restlessness, thunderphobia, alone or in formula. Topical– Inflammatory skin conditions, cuts, hot spots, pruritic irritation (compress or ointment), eye strain (eyewash) irritation of the gums and mouth, gingivitis.
Chamomile is a wonderful polycrest, in other words an herb that provides a wide rage of medicinal actions, with applications ranging from calming anxious puppies and dogs, to reducing skin inflammation skin via water infusions and salve, to easing gastric inflammation related to food intolerance, leaky gut and more. Chamomile, both German and Roman, is “probably the most widely used relaxing nervine herb in the Western world, safe for use in all types of anxiety and stress-related disorders”. (David Hoffman, Medical Herbalism) And this action is what first comes to mind for most people when they consider this herb – a relaxing nervine, a pleasant, apple-scented tea (unless you infuse a long time, and then it becomes quite bitter) and perhaps a relaxing herb to use with anxious dogs. It is of course, all of those things, but chamomile is so much more. I use chamomile (both German and Roman) in tea, long-steeped water infusion, oils/salves, honeys, tincture and glycerites – it is a safe and extremely useful herb with multiple uses. Chamomile is also a fabulous source of antioxidants, especially the important flavonoid apigenin, which has well researched anti-neoplastic action. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17143534 I include powdered chamomile in many protocols both for active cancer and to help prevent their development.
I love the essential oil in all salves I’ll use for itch and stings in the summertime; and as an anti-inflammatory rinse for skin rash in dogs it is superb. Many owners who have dogs with upper digestive system disorders (such as reflux) reach for highly demulcent herbs like slippery elm or marshmallow, when in fact chamomile infusion offers the potent anti-inflammatory action they need either with, or in place of all that demulcency. In Veterinary Herbal Medicine, Susan Wynn and Barbara Fougeres mention chamomile as a possible preventive for bloat, I assume used as a regular antispasmodic tonic( infusion). They also mention possible applications with stomatitis in cats and general oral/gum inflammation in dogs . (The coumarin content *may* make chamomile less useful in cats for chronic conditions, but this was based on high dose injections, and there is limited information available on that study… regular small dose usage is likely safe for cats) ) I found a marked improvement in my (human!) partner’s sinusitis when I included chamomile in both his tincture formula and steams. When we look at a herb’s range of actions, we can see how useful it may be in various ways, not just the one way that it may be wellknown for. The list of actions chamomile provides tells us it can be useful in the GI tract, with all kinds of issues related to the nervous system, for inflammation on the skin and even to help clear catarrh (mucus) from the lungs and sinuses. Make an herbal honey with dried chamomile flowers and good local honey, and you will have a lovely concoction that can soothe mild inflammation in the skin (and tastes wonderful in tea!)
Contraindications/Interaction -allergy to plants in the Asteraceae family, test a small patch before using internally or on inflamed skin
Dosage: there’s a large range here, for both infusion and tincture – I don’t mind using alcohol based tincture short term as long sa the dog has a healthy liver, but for longterm use I prefer glcyerite or even capsules. Dosage for infusion is 5 -30 grams per cup of boiling water, steeped 30 minutes (covered) and administered at 1/4 – 1/2 cup per 10 pounds of bodyweight, depending on the issue and how well it is accepted. (Steeped more than 30 minutes the bitter aspect really starts to emerge and may make the preparation less palatable to dogs). Tincture dosage is 0.5 to 1.5 mls per 10 lbs bodyweight, TID (three times daily, for both infusion and tincture).
This short monograph just scratches the surface of what Chamomile can do, and how to use it, there will be much greater detail in my book and ebooklets. I’d leave you with this: commercial teabags are not the way to go if you want to extract chamomile’s benefits, I recommend purchasing from an ethical and trusted supplier such as Mountainrose herbs in the USA, Baldwin’s in the UK, and Harmonic Arts in Canada (links below). Test your dog with small amounts of chamomile first, before administering a large amount or using as skin rinse/compress.Lastly, if harvesting chamomile, please make sure you can distinguish it from similar plants. I saw at least 20 images today claiming to be chamomile that were actually Ox-eye daisy ( a nice herb for many uses, but not the same as chamomile) two that depicted an aster of some type and one that showed feverfew (usually pretty easy to tell apart, via the leaves). Never pick or ingest a wild plant unless you have a 100% ID. If starting out, I recommend making a purchase, and starting with a low end of the dose and building.
Another wonderful, safe and effective herb to know.
Above, German Chamomile, Matricaria recutita
Above, Ox-eye Daisy,Leucanthumum vulgare
Mountainrose Herbs: https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/
Harmonic Arts: https://harmonicarts.ca/
Baldwin & CO. (UK): https://www.baldwins.co.uk/