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Ingredient Showcase: Chamomile, the Best Herb for Soothing Skin Irritations

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Do you enjoy a little chamomile tea before bedtime? If so, you’re not alone, as this herb has a long reputation for encouraging a restful sleep. The benefits of chamomile go way beyond helping you snooze, however. In fact, this herb is as soothing for the skin as it is for the spirit.

This daisy-looking flower helps soothe, calm, and heal irritated skin.

A Little Bit About the Ingredient Itself

Chamomile is a common name for several daisy-like plants in the family Asteraceae. It grows to about three feet tall and blooms in June and July with small fragrant yellow and white flowers. It’s easy to grow and you may see it in fields and gardens, as well as along roadsides and other drier areas.

Chamomile herbal tea is made from the flowers, and has long been used to cure many ailments. The name is said to mean “earth apple.”

Health Benefits

Historically, chamomile was used to soothe digestive ailments, bring down a fever, calm nervous complaints, ease asthma, and treat skin diseases. More recent scientific studies have indicated that chamomile has benefits in many areas:

  • Anti-cancer: A study in 2007 found that chamomile extract helped inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Another 2007 study using chamomile extract found that “apigenin,” which is common in chamomile, had anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties. A 2011 study found that “bisabolol,” which comes from German chamomile, inhibited the growth of leukemia cells.
  • Stomach upset: Because of its antispasmodic properties, chamomile can help calm and soothe stomach and intestinal cramps, even those caused by PMS. It’s also said to help relieve excessive gas and bloating, as well as irritable bowel syndrome and nausea.
  • Anxiety: Perhaps the most popular use for chamomile in the U.S., the herb has been found in one study to treat anxiety. Animal studies have also found that low doses may relieve anxiety. The herb has a mild sedative that reportedly suppresses the central nervous system and relaxes muscles.
  • Mouth sores: So far we’re missing large-scale studies, but when used as a mouthwash, chamomile may help prevent mouth sores from radiation and chemotherapy.
  • Boost immune system: A 2005 study found that after people drank five cups of chamomile tea daily for two weeks, they showed signs of a stronger immune system, which the researchers said could explain why the tea helps the body fight off colds and infections.

Benefits to the Skin

Researchers are excited not only about chamomile’s health benefits, but it’s potential in skin care. Many active ingredients in chamomile are powerful, including the flavonoids apigenin, luteolin, and quercetin, and the volatile oils including alpha-bisabolol and matricin. These constituents all contribute to chamomiles anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and antioxidant properties. Overall? Chamomile is calming, soothing, and healing.

  • Eczema: Animal and human studies have found that chamomile cream helps relieve symptoms of eczema. In Europe, the cream is used to soothe irritated skin in general, with beneficial effects against psoriasis and flaky skin problems.
  • Skin irritations: Applied topically, chamomile oil was useful in calming the inflammation associated with hemorrhoids. It’s also known to calm red, dry, and irritated skin, as well as rashes, bedsores, sunburn, and ulcers.
  • Anti-aging: Like most herbs and natural extracts, chamomile has antioxidants that help protect the skin from free radical damage and suppress the visible signs of aging.
  • Baby and fragile skin care: Because chamomile is so soothing, it’s appropriate for using on fragile skin, skin battered by medications or medical treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, or even on baby’s skin.
  • Anti-itching: One double-blind trial found that chamomile, when applied topically, was about 60 percent as effective as hydrocortisone cream. Whether you have bug bites, rashes, eczema, or other skin irritations, if you’re itching, chamomile can help.
  • Wound healing: Like other herbs, chamomile is a natural antiseptic and has antimicrobial properties, which means it will protect skin from infection, speeding up healing. The fact that chamomile was found to boost the immune system may also partly explain it’s wound-healing abilities.

Try It!

In any product, chamomile can impart soothing, calming, and healing effects. Its antiseptic effects make it a good addition in cleansers, and its antioxidant effects are perfect in anti-aging formulas. Wherever you find it, you can be sure that chamomile will help your skin to emerge calmer and healthier than before.

 Do you use chamomile for its health benefits as well as its skin benefits? Do you drink chamomile tea?

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Photo courtesy Mateusz Dutkiewicz via Flickr.com.

Srivastava JK, et al., “Antiproliferative and apoptotic effects of chamomile extract in various human cancer cells,” J Agric Food Chem 2007 Nov 14;55(23):9470-8, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17939735.

Patel D., et al., “Apigenin and cancer chemoprevention: progress, potential and promise (review),” Int J Oncol 2007 Jan;30(1):233-45, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17143534.

Ogata-Ikeda I, et al., “Cytotoxic action of bisabololoxide A of German chamomile on human leukemia K562 cells in combination with 5-fluorouracil,” Phytomedicine 2011 Mar 15;18(5):362-5, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20863677.

American Chemical Society (2005, January 4). Chamomile Tea: New Evidence Supports Health Benefits. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 10, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2005/01/050104112140.htm.

University of Maryland Medical Center, “German Chamomile,” http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/german-chamomile-000232.htm.

eVitamins, “What is Chamomile?” http://www.evitamins.com/encyclopedia/assets/nutritional-supplement/chamomile/how-it-works.

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One Response to “Ingredient Showcase: Chamomile, the Best Herb for Soothing Skin Irritations”

  • Andromeda says:

    Hi Annmarie,

    I’ve been experimenting with making my own skincare products and the most recent was beeswax lip balm. I used glass jars for containers but was’nt quite happy with the bacteria I would introduce every time I used it. So I wanted to know if I should use the plastic sticks and make peace with that, or do you know of an alternative?



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