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Chamomile as a cure for insomnia

Chamomile is a common name used for several daisy-like plants, of which the two most well known are German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis).

Chamomile has long had an important role in European herbal medicine and has a long history of being used as a natural insomnia relief and as a cure for mild anxiety. The most common way of using the herb was to make an infusion of the flowers that was consumed before the patient went to bed at night. People who were rich enough to afford it usually added some honey to the infusion. The species of choice for most herbalist was the German chamomile largely due to the fact that it was more widely available, the oposit was however true in the United Kingdom where herbalist prefered the Roman chamomile flower that was more common on the Brittish islands. Today, both varieties are used by herbalists treating insomnia the German variant is however generally considered stronger and more potent that the Roman chamomile.

For logistic reasons it is easier to find dried chamomile in health stores but if you have your own chamomile supply you can use fresh ones as well. It is also possible to purchase ready-made herbal tea bags, liquid extract, capsules and tablets.

This flower is adaptable and can grow in most conditions but do best in sandy well drained dirt in a sunny part of the garden. They prefer a soild in which the pH value is neutral to slight alkaline, ie pH.0-7.5 (neutral to slightly alkaline). Plant the plants at least 15-30 centimetres from each other to give each of them enough space to flourish. Chamomile plants benefit from having nutrients added to their soil every now and again but can if forced to live in low nutrient soils.

Modern science have found chamomile rich in the essential oil terpene bisabolol, and you will also find coumarin, chamazulene and various flavonoids in this plant, e.g. luteolin, quercetin, apigenin and patuletin. Bisabolol is a naturally occurring alcohol also known as levomenol. It takes the form of a colourless viscous oil. Solving it in water is almost impossible, while solving it in ethanol is easy, so aroma therapy products based on bisabolol from chamomile normally contain ethanol.

Coumarin has been used in perfumes since the 19th century and is also the ancestor of some anticoagulants used today, including warfarin. It is mildly toxic to humans but is only dangerous in high doses. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment recommends not exceeding 0.1mg coumarin per kg body weight and day. What this tell you is that if you way 0 kg you can consume 8 mg each day without having any risks associated with the intake. Coumarin is on the other hand highly toxic for rodents so be careful if you have a pet rat.

Before using chamomile as an insomnia cure you should be aware that this plant has a mild laxative effect. It is also possible to be allergic to chamomile and react with skin rashes, shortness of breath, throat swelling, and anaphylaxis. If you are allergic to related plants in the daisy family your risk of being allergic to chamomile as well is fairly high. Shrysanthemums, ragweed, marigolds and daisies are all example of plants that can help indicated if you are allergic to chamomile or not. Chamomille should not be used if you take certain medications, e.g. warfarin, so always tell your health care provider if you use or plan to use chamomile. You should not use Chamomile if you are pregnant or nursing as the effects of chamomile usage are quit unknown.

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