Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Roman Chamomile - The Gentle Giant

I find it a rare household that doesn't have a stash of chamomile somewhere in the kitchen. In my family, this gentle herb tea is a catch-all remedy offered for any number of ailments: cold, flu, stomach upset, sore throat – even sleeplessness. Chamomile infusion is so mild and soothing, it is even recommended for small children and babies, helping calm little tummies and sooth teething pains. What a contrast to its essential oil and hydrosol counterparts – both so potent that they come with cautions about dosage!  For the hydrosol (by far the milder of the two), a maximum of 10% is recommended in any solution to be used on the face. In concentrated form, chamomile is indeed a powerful, effective (and surprisingly pricey) ingredient.

The Earth Apple
The Roman Chamomile name (INCI: Chamaemelum Nobile, also Anthemis Nobilis) comes from Greek and means Earth Apple. A fitting name for the scent, that does indeed have a strong resemblance to crisp apple mixed with fresh, floral notes. My first sniff of the essential oil took me completely by surprise. It was appetizing and potent – nothing like the mild tea I know so well. The hydrosol was equally surprising, having a mere suggestion of earthiness to the scent, though relatively similar to the essential oil.

On and Under the Skin

For skin care, chamomile is particulary useful for inflammations (like sunburn), excellent for dry skin, and useful for battling conditions such as dermatitis and excema. Going deeper, chamomile helps to stimulate circulation and detoxify the blood of toxins such as uric acid. By its very nature, chamomile is a tonic that helps tone and firm the skin. It's effective in skin tonics, creams, shampoo, body & face oils, and as a soothing aftershave. I am quite enamored with the way it mixes with Neroli (Orange Blossom) and have done several products with this combination.

Reparative Hand Salve
The Blue Chamomile
Although it is from the same family, the 'other' chamomile available in essential oil form is German Chamomile (INCI: Matricaria Chamomilla). The properties of both chamomile's overlap some and can in many instances be interchanged. In contrast to the sweet, floral scent and deep yellow color of Roman chamomile, German chamomile has an almost medicinal-like scent and deep blue color (due to its content of azulene). This also gives it additional antiinflammatory properties, making it ideal for skin conditions such as excema and dermatitis. I have added it to several versions of my Reparative Hand Salve with success.

Cautions
Although a cup of chamomile tea can be soothing while pregnant, it is recommended to refrain from using German Chamomile essential oil during the first trimester of pregnancy.

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