Roman Chamomile (chamaemelum nobile) is one of the oldest known herbs used both by the ancient Egyptians and throughout the Mediterranean region. Fragments of the plant have been found in the excavations of Egyptian tombs. Hippocrates, a well known Greek figure, used it as a remedy for fevers. It also has the ability to protect any plants in its vicinity from infections.
German Chamomile (matricaria recutica) has a long history of medicinal use in Europe. It maintains a lot of the same qualities which Roman Chamomile does; the only difference is, due to its dissimilar chemical make-up, it has greater anti-inflammatory properties. It is excellent in the use of skin care.
Moroccan Chamomile (ormenis multicaulis) does not have a long history of usage and is a relatively ‘new’ essential oil. The plant grows quite abundantly in the wild; its Latin name ‘multicaulis’ means many-stemmed. Its essential oil is less blue than Roman Chamomile, the color for which Roman Chamomile is known.
Distinguishing the Different Chamomile Oils
Roman Chamomile is the most common and most used essential oil in aromatherapy, as it is the most versatile of the three Chamomile oils. The plant is a small herb with daisy-like flowers. It has an apple- like aroma. It is high in the chemical components of esters making it an oil which is gentle to use and generally free of hazards.
German Chamomile is often confused with Roman Chamomile but its dissimilar chemical make-up results in different uses in aromatherapy. The plant is a small herb with daisy-like flowers which are smaller than those of Roman Chamomile; its aroma is herby. 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 the lesser known Chamomile Oil and is only a distant botanical relative of Roman and German Chamomile. The plant can be mistaken for Roman Chamomile as it is very similar in appearance although it has a balsamic aroma. Its main essential oil chemical component are alcohols. 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.
Uses 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. Its actions include being an analgesic, antiseptic, carminative, bactericidal, a tonic and a nerve sedative. It is well known for its calming and balancing effects on the body’s systems.
German Chamomile essential oil is useful in the treatment of arthritis, skin irritation, headaches, indigestion, depression, anxiety, menstrual problems and digestive problems. Its actions include being anti-inflammatory, calming, digestive and as a nerve sedative. It is very similar in its properties to Roman Chamomile, despite a different chemical make-up.
Moroccan Chamomile essential oil is useful for treatment of depression, insomnia, headaches, eczema, painful periods and the menopause. Its actions include being a good tonic, an aphrodisiac, a decongestant, antiseptic, bactericidal and a general tonic. It 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