German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a popular herb used in veterinary herbal medicine to treat various health issues in animals.
Its therapeutic properties can benefit pets and livestock alike, offering relief from a range of ailments.
Common uses of German Chamomile in veterinary herbal medicine
German Chamomile contains several compounds with anti-inflammatory properties, such as chamazulene and bisabolol. These compounds can help reduce inflammation in animals suffering from conditions like arthritis, skin irritations, and other inflammatory issues.
2. Wound healing
The herb’s antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties make it an excellent choice for treating minor wounds, abrasions, and skin irritations. Applying a chamomile-infused salve or compress can promote faster healing and reduce the risk of infection.
3. Gastrointestinal support
German Chamomile has been used to alleviate gastrointestinal issues in animals, such as flatulences, mild colic, diarrhea, and indigestion. Its antispasmodic and carminative properties can help relax the smooth muscle lining of the digestive tract and expel gas, providing relief from discomfort.
4. Anxiety and stress relief
The mild sedative properties of German Chamomile make it worthwhile for calming anxious or stressed animals. It can be used to soothe pets during thunderstorms, fireworks, or other stressful events, as well as to help them adjust to new environments.
5. Immune system support
The antioxidant effects of German Chamomile can contribute to its immunomodulatory properties. German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) contains various compounds, such as flavonoids (e.g., apigenin and quercetin) and phenolic acids (e.g., caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid), which exhibit antioxidant properties. These compounds can help neutralize free radicals, reducing oxidative stress in the body, and thus support a healthy immune system.
In addition to its antioxidant effects, German Chamomile has other properties that can positively impact the immune system. For instance, some of the compounds found in chamomile have been shown to exhibit anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which can aid the immune system in fighting off infections and maintaining overall health.
Chamomile contains polysaccharides, which have been suggested to contribute to its immunomodulatory effects. Polysaccharides can interact with immune cells, such as macrophages and lymphocytes, and help regulate their activity. By modulating the immune response, chamomile can support the body’s ability to adapt to various stressors and maintain a balanced and healthy immune system.
In summary, the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and immunomodulatory properties of German Chamomile can all contribute to its positive effects on the immune system.
6. Allergy relief
The antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties of German Chamomile can help alleviate allergy symptoms in animals, such as itching, redness, and swelling.
When using German Chamomile in veterinary herbal medicine, it is essential to consult with a qualified herbal veterinarian to ensure proper dosing and administration. This will help prevent potential adverse reactions or interactions with other medications the animal may be taking.
In general, Matricaria recutita can be administered as a tea, tincture, capsule, or topical application, depending on the specific ailment being treated.
Can Pets (and Humans) be Allergic to Chamomile?
The herb is a member of the Asteraceae plant family, and some humans and animals can be allergic to German Chamomile; the symptoms may vary depending on the animal’s species, individual sensitivities, and the method of exposure. Common symptoms of an allergic reaction to German Chamomile include:
1. Skin reactions: These may manifest as redness, itching, swelling, or hives in the area where the chamomile was applied or came into contact with the animal’s skin. In some cases, the reaction may spread beyond the initial contact area.
2. Respiratory symptoms: In animals with a severe allergy, respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, sneezing, or difficulty breathing may occur. This is more likely if the animal inhales chamomile pollen or if the allergy is severe.
3. Gastrointestinal symptoms: If an animal ingests chamomile and is allergic to it, gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal discomfort may be observed.
To treat an allergic reaction to German Chamomile in animals, follow these steps:
Remove the allergen: Discontinue any use of German Chamomile and remove any remaining traces from the animal’s environment or skin.
Bathe the animal: If the allergic reaction is localized to the skin, gently bathe the affected area with mild soap and cool water to remove any remaining chamomile and soothe irritation.
Consult a veterinarian: If symptoms are severe or persistent, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. They may recommend administering antihistamines, corticosteroids, or other medications to help alleviate the symptoms and manage the allergic reaction.
Supportive care: Ensure the animal stays hydrated and comfortable during the recovery process. Monitor the animal closely and provide any additional care as recommended by the veterinarian.
Allergy testing and prevention: If the animal has a confirmed allergy to German Chamomile, avoid using it in the future, and consider allergy testing to identify any other potential allergens. Consult with your veterinarian or a veterinary herbalist to find alternative treatments for the animal’s condition that do not contain German Chamomile or other potential allergens.
Remember that it is essential to consult with a veterinarian to determine the appropriate course of action for treating an allergic reaction in your pet. They can provide guidance on the proper treatment and help monitor its progress during recovery.
While German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) has a long history of use in traditional herbal medicine for both, humans and animals, there are limited scientific and clinical studies specifically focused on its use in veterinary herbal medicine.
However, there are studies on the various properties of chamomile that can be applied to animals, as well as anecdotal evidence from veterinary practitioners and herbalists.
Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
A study published by Rodríguez-Landa et al 2022, investigates the pharmacological effects of chrysin, a flavonoid found in plants like Passiflora coerulea and Matricaria chamomilla. It highlights chrysin’s diverse properties, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects.
The research suggests that chrysin’s anxiolytic and antidepressant-like effects occur mainly through its interaction with neurotransmitter systems, particularly GABAergic and serotonergic, and the activation of neurotrophic factors. These findings indicate that chrysin could potentially serve as a novel therapy for anxiety and depression disorders. (1)
Another study by Albahri et al published in 2023 reviews various medicinal plants known for their wound-healing properties, including Aloe vera, Calendula officinalis, and Matricaria recutita. These natural phytomedicines have been effectively used for wound treatment and infection prevention, offering potential alternatives to conventional wound care methods. (2)
A systematic review by Savage et al 2017, assesses the current literature on anxiolytic phytomedicines and their potential interaction with the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system, an inhibitory neurotransmitter targeted in anxiety treatments.
The researchers identified ten plant-based medicines, including chamomile, which have shown GABA-modulating activity in preclinical animal trials and human clinical trials. These phytomedicines demonstrated anxiolytic effects comparable to existing pharmaceutical treatments, with better safety and tolerability profiles, suggesting their potential as alternative or adjunctive treatment options for anxiety disorders. (3)
These studies, along with others on the pharmacological properties of chamomile, provide some scientific evidence supporting its use in veterinary medicine. However, more research, particularly clinical trials involving animals, is needed to establish conclusive evidence for the safety and efficacy of German Chamomile in veterinary medicine.
German Chamomile is often used by veterinary herbalists and holistic veterinarians based on anecdotal evidence, traditional use, and extrapolation from human studies. Practitioners often report positive outcomes when using chamomile to treat various conditions in animals, such as inflammation, skin irritations, gastrointestinal issues, and anxiety.
Effective Biologically Active Compounds
German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) contains a variety of biologically active compounds that contribute to its therapeutic properties. Some of the most effective compounds in German Chamomile include:
This volatile oil compound is responsible for the characteristic blue color of chamomile essential oil. It exhibits strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making it beneficial for treating inflammatory conditions and promoting healing.
This compound is a primary component of the essential oil of German Chamomile. It has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, which contribute to its efficacy in treating skin irritations, wounds, and infections.
A flavonoid found in chamomile, apigenin exhibits anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties. It also has mild sedative effects, which can help alleviate anxiety and promote relaxation.
Another flavonoid found in chamomile, quercetin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antihistamine properties. It can help alleviate allergy symptoms and reduce inflammation in various conditions.
These compounds have antispasmodic and mild sedative properties, which can help relax the smooth muscles of the digestive tract and relieve gastrointestinal discomfort.
A sesquiterpene lactone found in chamomile, matricin is believed to contribute to the herb’s anti-inflammatory effects. When heated or exposed to steam distillation, matricin is converted into chamazulene.
German Chamomile contains various phenolic acids, such as caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, and rosmarinic acid. These compounds have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may contribute to the overall therapeutic effects of the herb.
These carbohydrate molecules are thought to contribute to the immunomodulatory effects of German Chamomile, helping to support and regulate the immune system.
These compounds, along with others found in German Chamomile, work together to create a synergistic effect, enhancing the herb’s overall therapeutic potential. This is why the whole plant extract or essential oil is preferably used in herbal medicine, as it allows for the full range of beneficial compounds to be utilized.
What causes the Blue Colour of Chamomile Essential Oil?
The blue color of German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) essential oil is primarily due to the presence of a compound called chamazulene.
Chamazulene is a sesquiterpene that possesses strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, contributing to the therapeutic benefits of the essential oil.
Chamazulene is not present in fresh chamomile flowers but is formed during the steam distillation process used to extract the essential oil. The precursor to chamazulene, a compound called matricin, is present in the plant material. When the chamomile flowers are subjected to steam distillation, the heat and steam cause a chemical reaction, converting matricin into chamazulene.
The unique azulene structure of chamazulene is responsible for its vivid blue color. This color may range from deep blue to lighter shades, depending on the concentration of chamazulene in the essential oil and the specific extraction process used. The color can also be influenced by other components in the oil, such as flavonoids and polyphenols.
Keep in mind that not all chamomile essential oils are blue: Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) essential oil, for example, is typically pale yellow to light green in color because it contains a lower concentration of chamazulene compared to German Chamomile essential oil.
The blue color of German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) essential oil, which comes from the chamazulene content, can potentially stain certain materials. The staining ability depends on several factors, such as the concentration of the oil, the type of material it comes into contact with, and the duration of exposure.
The risk of staining is generally low when the essential oil is diluted in a carrier oil or used in low concentrations. However, undiluted essential oil or highly concentrated blends might cause staining, especially on porous materials, light-colored fabrics, plastics, or surfaces that can absorb the oil.
To minimize the risk of staining, always dilute the German Chamomile essential oil in a carrier oil (such as almond, jojoba, or coconut oil) before applying it to the skin or using it on fabrics or surfaces.
Test the diluted essential oil on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure that it does not cause staining or discoloration. If you accidentally spill the undiluted essential oil on a surface or fabric, clean it up promptly with a damp cloth.
(1) Rodríguez-Landa, J.F., German-Ponciano, L.J., Puga-Olguín, A. and Olmos-Vázquez, O.J. (2022). Pharmacological, Neurochemical, and Behavioral Mechanisms Underlying the Anxiolytic- and Antidepressant-like Effects of Flavonoid Chrysin. Molecules, 27(11), p.3551. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27113551.
(2) Albahri, G., Badran, A., Hijazi, A., Daou, A., Baydoun, E., Nasser, M. and Merah, O. (2023). The Therapeutic Wound Healing Bioactivities of Various Medicinal Plants. Life, 13(2), p.317. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/life13020317.
(3) Savage, K., Firth, J., Stough, C. and Sarris, J. (2017). GABA-modulating phytomedicines for anxiety: A systematic review of preclinical and clinical evidence. Phytotherapy Research, 32(1), pp.3–18. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5940.