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"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul."
Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
There are three main types of chamomile oil used in aromatherapy. These are Roman chamomile, German chamomile and Moroccan chamomile. It is important to know the difference between the different types of essential oils.
Ancient Use of Roman and German Chamomile
Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is one of the oldest known herbs. It was used as far back as ancient Egyptian times. It has also been used widely throughout the Mediterranean region for centuries. Fragments of chamomile plant have been found in excavations of Egyptian tombs. The Greek Hippocrates is reported to have used chamomile as a remedy for fevers. Chamomile also has the ability to protect any plants in its vicinity from infections.
German chamomile (Matricaria recutica) also has a long history of medicinal use in Europe. It maintains a lot of the same qualities of Roman chamomile; the only difference is, due to its dissimilar chemical make-up, German chamomile has greater anti-inflammatory properties. It is used a lot in skin care.
New History of Moroccan Chamomile
Moroccan chamomile (Ormenis multicaulis) does not have a long history of use and is a relatively 'new' essential oil. Moroccan chamomile is an abundant, wild plant; its Latin name 'multicaulis' means many-stemmed.
The Difference Between the Chamomile Oils
Roman chamomile is the most common and most used chamomile essential oil in aromatherapy, as it is the most versatile of the three chamomile oils. Roman chamomile is a small herb, with daisy-like flowers, and an apple- like aroma. It is high in the chemical component of esters, which means it is a gentle oil to use, with little known hazards.
German chamomile is often confused with Roman chamomile but its dissimilar chemical make-up results in different uses in aromatherapy. German chamomile is a small herb with daisy-like flowers that are smaller than those of Roman chamomile; it has a 'herby' aroma. Its main chemical components are oxides and sesquiterpenes; it is the sesquiterpenes element (an alcohol) which makes it an excellent essential oil for skin care.
Moroccan chamomile is probably the least known chamomile oil. It is only a distant botanical relative of Roman and German chamomile. Moroccan chamomile is sometimes mistaken for Roman chamomile as it is very similar in appearance, although it has a balsamic aroma. Moroccan chamomile essential oil is primarily composed of the chemical component of alcohol. As it is a relatively 'new' aromatherapy oil, there is not a lot of research available as yet on its full effects in aromatherapy use.
Chamomile Oil Use in Aromatherapy
Roman chamomile essential oil is useful in the treatment of toothache, back pain, depression, insomnia, menstrual problems, skin care, insect bites, babies' teething, headaches and stress. It is analgesic, antiseptic, carminative, bactericidal, a tonic and a nerve sedative. Roman chamomile essential oil is well known for its calming and balancing effects on the body's systems.
German chamomile essential oil is used to treat arthritis, skin irritation, headaches, indigestion, depression, anxiety, menstrual problems and digestive problems. It is anti-inflammatory, calming, digestive and a nerve sedative. German chamomile essential oils is very similar in its properties to Roman chamomile essential oil, despite a different chemical make-up.
Moroccan chamomile essential oil is useful for treatment of depression, insomnia, headaches, eczema, painful periods and the menopause. It is a good tonic, an aphrodisiac, a decongestant, antiseptic, bactericidal and a general tonic. Moroccan chamomile is not technically a 'true' chamomile oil as both chemically and olfactorily, it is quite different from Roman and German chamomile essential oils.
Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils London: Element
Caddy, Rosemary 1997 Essential Oils in Colour: Caddy Classic Profiles England: Amberwood
This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as The Chamomile Essential Oils
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