By: Kathy Sadowski, MS in Aromatherapy, Registered Aromatherapist, LMT, Professional AIA and NAHA Member
Chamomile flower extracts have been used around the world as a folk remedy for skin conditions, anxiety, and insomnia. There are quite a variety of chamomile types and chemical variations. The two most common chamomile species used in aromatherapy are German chamomile and Roman chamomile.
While most of the scientific research conducted on chamomile has involved German chamomile, there have been some significant studies on Roman chamomile as well. Based on the chemical make up of the two chamomiles, my personal preference would lean towards using German chamomile aromatically to help with relaxation. I would choose Roman chamomile, high in ester content, for gentle topical use.
However, both chamomile varieties have shown to be calming aromatically in research. Further, both varieties have shown to benefit the skin in some scientific studies.
German Chamomile: Chamomilla recutita or Matricaria recutita
German chamomile is an annual daisy-like plant that grows up to two feet tall. Its essential oil is much higher than Roman chamomile in the sesquiterpene derivatives: alpha-bisabolol and chamazulene (1). These components give the essential oil is blue color and relaxing aromatic qualities. Farnesene is another sesquiterpene constituent found in German chamomile essential oil (1)
German Chamomile for Anxiety and Insomnia
German chamomile has an aroma that is heavy, herbaceous, and sweet, with a lingering hay-like note. Multiple scientific studies have shown German chamomile to help reduce anxiety and insomnia (2,3,4). In a small study with 50 patients having acute leukemia, administration of aromatherapy significantly improved mood (5). Given a choice of chamomile, lavender, or peppermint scent, the study results also showed the aromatherapy helped with appetite, sleep, and energy levels (5).
For a calming blend, especially when you are not feeling well, try combining chamomile, peppermint, and lavender essential oils. Add 1 drop of the blend per ounce of water to a cool mist diffuser. Enjoy in 20-minute increments. Follow the instructions on the diffuser, and avoid in close proximity to pets, small children. Also avoid around those who are allergic to plants in the Asteraceae family, such as ragweed.
Roman Chamomile: Anthemis nobilis or Chamaemelum nobile
Roman chamomile is an evergreen perennial that grows lower to the ground than German chamomile and prefers warmer climates. The plant is said to have an apple-like scent.
The essential oil has a clear color, or very subtle blue hue. It is far less blue in color than German chamomile, because it contains much smaller, trace amounts of chamazulene (6).
High in ester content, Roman chamomile is considered a gentle essential oil with anti-inflammatory and skin regenerative properties.
Roman Chamomile for the Skin
Multiple plants of the Asteraceae family have long been used as a folk remedy for skin ailments (7). A few studies have shown potential for Roman chamomile. An ointment containing an ethanol extract of the plant showed an in vitro antibacterial effect against skin microbes with increased wound healing (8). In a study of 101 patients with mouth ulcers, a preparation was made that contained Roman chamomile and Zataria multiflora, a thyme like plant. It showed to reduce pain and severity compared to the control preparation that included Myrthus communis (9). In another study, Roman chamomile of the manzana type more effectively reduced atopic excema than hydrocortisone cream (10). More research on the topical uses of Roman chamomile is needed.
To use Roman chamomile topically, dilute it in a carrier oil such as jojoba or sweet almond oil. Add 10 drops of the essential oil to 1 ounce of the carrier oil. Skin patch test before use in those with sensitive skin. Avoid use of chamomile essential oils if you are allergic to ragweed, or other plants in the Asteraceae family.
- Tisserand, R., & Young, R. (2014). Essential Oil Safety. Second Eddition. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
- Savage, K., Firth, J., Stough, C., & Sarris, J. (2018). GABA‐modulating phytomedicines for anxiety: A systematic review of preclinical and clinical evidence. Phytotherapy research, 32(1), 3-18. Link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.5940
- Hieu, T. H., Dibas, M., Surya Dila, K. A., Sherif, N. A., Hashmi, M. U., Mahmoud, M., … & Huy, N. T. (2019). Therapeutic efficacy and safety of chamomile for state anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, and sleep quality: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized trials and quasi‐randomized trials. Phytotherapy Research. Link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.6349
- Sarris, Jerome, et al. “Herbal medicine for depression, anxiety and insomnia: a review of psychopharmacology and clinical evidence.” European neuropsychopharmacology 21.12 (2011): 841-860. Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924977X1100071X
- Lisa Blackburn, M. S., Sara Achor, B. S. N., AD, B. A., Nicole Bauchmire, M. S., Danielle Dunnington, A. D., Klisovic, R. B., … & Tomlinson-Pinkham, K. (2017, July). The effect of aromatherapy on insomnia and other common symptoms among patients with acute leukemia. In Oncology nursing forum (Vol. 44, No. 4, p. E185). Oncology Nursing Society. Link: https://search.proquest.com/openview/6e4e590dd1285396a5f0ebd53a41a06d/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=37213
- Lis-Balchin, M. (2006). Aromatherapy Science. A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. Pharmaceutical Press.
- Carvalho Jr, A. R., Diniz, R. M., Suarez, M. A., Figueiredo, C. S., Zagmignan, A., Grisotto, M. A., … & da Silva, L. C. (2018). Use of some asteraceae plants for the treatment of wounds: from ethnopharmacological studies to scientific evidences. Frontiers in pharmacology, 9, 784. Link: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2018.00784/full
- Kazemian, H., Ghafourian, S., Sadeghifard, N., Houshmandfar, R., Badakhsh, B., Taji, A., … & Heidari, H. (2018). In vivo antibacterial and wound healing activities of Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Infectious Disorders-Drug Targets (Formerly Current Drug Targets-Infectious Disorders), 18(1), 41-45. Link: https://www.ingentaconnect.com/contentone/ben/iddt/2018/00000018/00000001/art00010
- Jafari, S., Amanlou, M., Borhan-mojabi, K., & Farsam, H. (2003). Comparartive study of Zataria multiflora and Anthemis nobelis extracts with Myrthus communis preparation in the treatment of recurrent aphthous stomatitis. DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 11(1), 23-7. Link: http://daru.tums.ac.ir/index.php/daru/article/view/163
- Patzelt-Wenczler, R., & Ponce-Pöschl, E. (2000). Proof of efficacy of Kamillosan (R) cream in atopic eczema. European journal of medical research, 5(4), 171-175. Link: https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/10799352
For more research about German and Roman chamomile please visit EarthtoKathy at:
The information at this page is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent disease. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. With medical conditions, consult a Doctor before using herbs and essential oils.