Common Scents: All About Chamomile
Welcome to our series, Common Scents! Common scents is a series of articles exploring the history of commonly used essential oils and how they became so popular in modern day soap and cosmetic crafting.
In this edition of Common Scents, we will explore the healing history behind chamomile. One of the world’s oldest known herbs used for medicinal purposes, chamomile has become very popular in soap and cosmetics as well. Commonly confused with the prevalent daisy flower, chamomile typically has a compact yellow center and small, white petals.
What’s in a name?
The name chamomile has its origins in the Greek word khamaimēlon, which means earth apple; it was given this name because its flowers smell like an apple. Later, the Greek form evolved into the late Latin term chamomilla, which later evolved to the French term camomille, which is the closest to the modern form that we use today.
History and Chamomile
Chamomile has a long history in ancient and modern medicine. It has long been valued for its alleged healing properties, as well as it’s pleasant fragrance. From the ancient Egyptians to modern day aromatherapists, Chamomile has earned the respect of many believers in natural medicine.
Ancient Egyptians valued chamomile and it’s purported healing properties so much that they dedicated the herb to Ra, the Egyptian god of the sun and worshipped by many Egyptians as the creator god. Chamomile was given such a high value because it was believed to cure malaria; it was also reported to be used in the mummification process because it was said to repel insects. Egyptian noblewomen used crushed chamomile on their skin because of it’s appealing fragrance.
Chamomile was also revered by the Romans; like the ancient Egyptians, they too dedicated chamomile to their gods, and used it in their baths. Roman physicians used chamomile to prevent and treat headaches, liver and kidney inflammation, among other medicinal uses. Chamomile was also used to flavor drinks, and was used commonly in incense.
Greek physician Dioscorides also reported healing properties in chamomile. He recommended its use to heal intestinal, nervous and liver disorders, and also prescribed it for “women’s ailments” and kidney stones. Greeks were believed to have made garlands of chamomile to wear, not only for the sweet fragrance but because they also believed chamomile to be spiritually calming.
In the Middle Ages, chamomile became more widely regarded as a medicinal herb rather than a luxury herb for fragrances and baths. Chamomile was commonly believed to treat asthma, colic, nervous disorders, skin diseases, inflammation, and many more prevalent ailments of that time period. Vikings also believed that chamomile would lighten their hair, and used it frequently in shampoos to brighten their blonde hair and give it more shine.
Chamomile is still widely considered as a healing herb. Those who practice natural medicine and aromatherapy have an abundance of respect for its purported health benefits. Commonplace modern uses include treatment of:
-Colds, specifically chest colds
-Psoriasis and eczema
Although chamomile is reported as having a multitude of healing properties, it does have some reported side effects, too. A reported side effect of chamomile can include uterine contractions; for this reason, pregnant women are advised not to use it. Some have also claimed that those who are allergic to ragweed may suffer a similar allergic reaction to chamomile, as they are from the same plant family.
It is important to note: these observations and claims are made by those who have used chamomile; the FDA has not approved chamomile in a medical capacity, and we are providing this information for strictly educational and entertainment purposes.
Chamomile in Soap and Cosmetics
Because of it’s soothing properties, chamomile has become very popular in modern soap and cosmetics. Bath tea, tinctures, bar soap and lotion; chamomile can be used in each and every one! Today’s chamomile, when sold in essential oil form, typically comes in two varieties; German Chamomile and Roman Chamomile. What’s the difference?
German Chamomile: Also known as Hungarian or Blue Chamomile (due to the oil’s dark blue color) is native to Europe and Asia. It is also grown in Hungary, Egypt, France, South America, and the United States. German Chamomile contains a higher concentration of azulene, which makes it a preferred oil for anti-inflammatory purposes.
Roman Chamomile: Also known as Noble, Common, English, or True Chamomile, Roman Chamomile is native to Europe, East Africa, and the Middle East. It is also grown in the United States, South America, England, Belgium, and France. Roman Chamomile is said to have anti-rheumatic qualities.
Chamomile has a long history of promoting well-being of the body and mind. Whether you choose German or Roman chamomile, you are sure to find that is light, pleasant smell will make a great addition to any fragrance or essential oil blends you are currently using. There are many ways to incorporate chamomile into your products that will be a big hit with your customers, and attract new ones too!