82 Pharmacognosy Reviews | January-June 2011 | Vol 5 | Issue 9
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.): An overview
Ompal Singh, Zakia Khanam1, Neelam Misra, Manoj Kumar Srivastava
Department of Biochemistry, Bundelkhand University, Jhansi- 284 128; 1Department of Chemistry, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh - 202 002,
Submitted: 01-06-2010 Revised: ????? Published: ???????
REVIEW ARTICLEPHCOG REV.
Address for correspondence:
Mr. Ompal Singh,
Chemical Research Unit, Department of Research in Unani
Medicine, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh - 202 002, India.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) is a well-known medicinal plant species from the Asteraceae family often referred to
as the “star among medicinal species.” Nowadays it is a highly favored and much used medicinal plant in folk and traditional
medicine. Its multitherapeutic, cosmetic, and nutritional values have been established through years of traditional and
scientic use and research. Chamomile has an established domestic (Indian) and international market, which is increasing
day by day. The plant available in the market many a times is adulterated and substituted by close relatives of chamomile.
This article briey reviews the medicinal uses along with botany and cultivation techniques. Since chamomile is a rich
source of natural products, details on chemical constituents of essential oil and plant parts as well as their pharmacological
properties are included. Furthermore, particular emphasis is given to the biochemistry, biotechnology, market demand, and
trade of the plant. This is an attempt to compile and document information on different aspects of chamomile and highlight
the need for research and development.
Key words: Amino acid, cadmium, co-cultivation, copper, cultivation, medicinal plant, salicylic acid, secondary metabolites,
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Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) is one of the important
medicinal herb native to southern and eastern Europe. It is also
grown in Germany, Hungary, France, Russia, Yugoslavia, and
Brazil. It was introduced to India during the Mughal period, now
it is grown in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Jammu and
Kashmir. The plants can be found in North Africa, Asia, North
and South America, Australia, and New Zealand. Hungary is the
main producer of the plant biomass. In Hungary, it also grows
abundantly in poor soils and it is a source of income to poor
inhabitants of these areas. Flowers are exported to Germany in
bulk for distillation of the oil.
In India, the plant had been cultivated in Lucknow for about 200
years, and the plant was introduced in Punjab about 300 years ago
during the Mughal period. It was introduced in Jammu in 1957 by
Handa et al. The plant was rst introduced in alkaline soils of
Lucknow in 1964–1965 by Chandra et al.[4,5] There is no demand
for blue oil as such at present in India. However, owers of
chamomile are in great demand. Presently, 2 rms, namely, M/s
Ranbaxy Labs Limited, New Delhi and M/s German Remedies
are the main growers of chamomile for its owers.
Chamomile has been used in herbal remedies for thousands
of years, known in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. This
herb has been believed by Anglo-Saxons as 1 of 9 sacred herbs
given to humans by the lord. The chamomile drug is included
in the pharmacopoeia of 26 countries. It is an ingredient
of several traditional, unani, and homeopathy medicinal
preparations.[9-12] As a drug, it nds use in atulence, colic,
hysteria, and intermittent fever. The owers of M. chamomilla
contain the blue essential oil from 0.2 to 1.9%,[14,15] which nds a
variety of uses. Chamomile is used mainly as an antiinammatory
and antiseptic, also antispasmodic and mildly sudoric. It is
used internally mainly as a tisane (infuse 1 table-spoonful of the
drug in 1 L of cold water and do not heat) for disturbance of the
stomach associated with pain, for sluggish digestion, for diarrhea
and nausea; more rarely and very effectively for inammation of
the urinary tract and for painful menstruation. Externally, the
drug in powder form may be applied to wounds slow to heal,
for skin eruptions, and infections, such as shingles and boils, also
for hemorrhoids and for inammation of the mouth, throat,
and the eyes. Tabulated products from chamomile ower
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Singh, et al.: Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.)
extracts are marketed in Europe and used for various ailments.
Chamomile tea eye washing can induce allergic conjunctivitis.
Pollen of M. chamomilla contained in these infusions are the
allergens responsible for these reactions.
Antonelli had quoted from writings of several doctors of ancient
time of the 16th and 17th century that chamomile was used in
those times in intermittent fevers. Gould et al. have evaluated
the hemodynamic effects of chamomile tea in patients with
cardiac disease. It was found in general that the patients fell
into deep sleep after taking the beverage. Pasechnik reported
that infusion prepared from M. chamomilla exercised a marked
stimulatory action on the secretary function of the liver.
Gayar et al. reported toxicity of acetone-extract of M. chamomilla
against larvae of Gulex pipens L. The other pharmacological
properties include antiinammatory, antiseptic, carminative,
healing, sedative, and spasmolytic activity. However, M.
chamomilla has exhibited both positive and negative bactericidal
activity with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Salmonella typhimurium, and
The international demand for chamomile oil has been steadily
growing. As a result, the plant is widely cultivated in Europe and
has been introduced in some Asian countries for the production
of its essential oil. M. chamomilla L., Anthemis nobilis L., and
Ormenis multicaulis Braun Blanquet and Maire belonging to the
family Asteraceae is a natural and major source of “blue oil” and
avonoids. The oil used as a mild sedative and for digestion[20,24-29]
besides being antibacterial and fungicidal in action.
In addition to pharmaceutical uses, the oil is extensively used in
perfumery, cosmetics, and aromatherapy, and in food industry.
[27,30-33] Gowda et al. studied that the essential oil present in the
ower heads contains azulene and is used in perfumery, cosmetic
creams, hair preparations, skin lotions, tooth pastes, and also in
ne liquors. The dry owers of chamomile are also in great
demand for use in herbal tea, baby massage oil, for promoting
the gastric ow of secretion, and for the treatment of cough
and cold. The use of herbal tea preparations eliminated colic
in 57% infants. Because of its extensive pharmacological
and pharmaceutical properties, the plant thus possesses great
economic value and is in great demand in the European
True chamomile is an annual plant with thin spindle-shaped roots
only penetrating atly into the soil. The branched stem is erect,
heavily ramied, and grows to a height of 10–80 cm. The long
and narrow leaves are bi- to tripinnate. The ower heads are
placed separately, they have a diameter of 10–30 mm, and they
are pedunculate and heterogamous. The golden yellow tubular
orets with 5 teeth are 1.5–2.5 mm long, ending always in a
glandulous tube. The 11–27 white plant owers are 6–11 mm
long, 3.5 mm wide, and arranged concentrically. The receptacle
is 6–8 mm wide, at in the beginning and conical, cone-shaped
later, hollow—the latter being a very important distinctive
characteristic of Matricaria—and without paleae. The fruit is a
yellowish brown achene.
The true chamomile is very often confused with plants of
the genera Anthemis. Special attention has to be paid to avoid
confusion with Anthemis cotula L., a poisonous plant with a
revolting smell. In contrast to true chamomile, A. cotula similar
to as A. arvensis L. and A. austriaca Jacq., has setiform, prickly
pointed paleae, and a lled receptacle. The latter species are
nearly odorless. Although the systematic status is quite clear
nowadays, there are a number of inaccuracies concerning
the names. Apart from misdeterminations and confusion,
the synonymous use of the names Anthemis, Chamomilla, and
Matricaria leads to uncertainty with regard to the botanical
identication. Moreover, the nomenclature is complicated by
the fact that Linnaeus made mistakes in the rst edition of his
“Species Plantarum” that he corrected later on. The best-known
botanical name for true chamomile is Matricaria recutita (syn.
Matricaria chamomilla, Chamomilla recutita (L.) Rauschert, belonging
to the genus Chamomilla and family Asteraceae. M. chamomilla is
a diploid species (2n=18), allogamous in nature, exhibiting wide
segregation as a commercial crop.
Chamomile, a well-known old time drug, is known by an array
of names, such as Baboonig, Babuna, Babuna camornile,
Babunj, German chamomile, Hungarian chamomile, Roman
chamomile, English chamomile, Camomilla, Flos chamomile,
Single chamomile, sweet false chamomile, pinheads, and scented
mayweed, suggesting its widespread use.[38,39]
The three plants, namely, A. nobilis Linn, Corchorus depressus Linn,
and M. chamomilla Linn. are reported under one unani name
Babuna at different places in the literature. This created a lot of
confusion and misuse of the drug as an adulterant, etc. Ghauri
et al. conducted a detailed taxonomic and anatomical study
and concluded that Babuna belongs to the family Compositae
(Asteraceae) and that the correct scientic name of Babuna is
M. chamomilla L.
CULTIVATION AND CO-CULTIVATON
Soil and climatic requirements
German chamomile can be grown on any type of soil, but
growing the crop on rich, heavy, and damp soils should be
avoided. It can also withstand cold weather with temperature
ranging from 2°C to 20°C. The crop has been grown very
successfully on the poor soils (loamy sand) at the farm of the
Regional Research Laboratory, Jammu. At Banthra farm of the
National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, the crop has
been grown successfully on soil with a pH of 9. Soils with pH
9–9.2 are reported to support its growth. In Hungary, it grows
extensively on clayey lime soils, which are barren lands and
considered to be too poor for any other crop. Temperature and
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Singh, et al.: Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.)
light conditions (sunshine hours) have greater effect on essential
oils and azulene content, than soil type. Chamomile possesses a
high degree of tolerance to soil alkalinity. The plants accumulate
fairly large quantity of sodium (66 mg/100 gm of dry material),
which helps in reducing the salt concentration in the top soil.
 No substantial differences were found in the characteristics
of the plants grown 1500 km apart (Hungary–Finland). Under
cooler conditions in Finland, the quantity of the oxide type in
the essential oil was lower than in Hungary.[29,44]
The plant is propagated by seeds. The seeds of the crop are very
minute in size; a thousand seeds weigh 0.088–0.153 gm. About
0.3–0.5 kg of clean seed with a high germination percentage sown
in an area of 200–250 m2 gives enough seedlings for stocking a
hectare of land. The crop can be grown by two methods i.e. direct
sowing of the seed and transplanting. Moisture conditions in the
eld for direct sowing of seeds must be very good otherwise
a patchy and poor germination is obtained. As direct sowing
of seeds usually results in poor germination, the transplanting
method is generally followed. The mortality of the seedlings is
almost negligible in transplanting.
The optimum temperature for good seed germination lies
between 10°C and 20°C. Nursery beds were prepared by applying
good quality of farmyard manure (FYM) and compost and
kept moist. The most appropriate time for raising seedlings in
the nursery is soon after the cessation of monsoons in North
India, that is, during the month of September. Seed germination
starts within 4–5 days of sowing, and the seedlings area ready
for transplanting within 4–5 weeks. Seedlings older than 5 weeks
should not be transplanted; it results in a poor and indifferent
crop. Based on the thermal model, appropriate time and method
of sowing was studied. The study revealed that transplanting
the crop was better than direct sowing, and the best time to
transplant the crop was found to be from October 10 to 18 for
getting higher yields. Transplanting should not be delayed beyond
the end of October.
Zalecki reports that different sowing times affect the shifting of
the harvesting time but do not affect the oil and chamazulene
content signicantly. The work on crop geometry shows
that transplanting the crop at narrow spacing of 15, 20, and
30 cm, gave the highest yields of owers.[46-49] Dutta and Singh
reported that the highest yields of fresh owers and oil content
was obtained under 30 cm2 spacing. In case of varieties with
a spreading habit of growth, a wider spacing of 40 cm2 is
The crop growth is slow till mid-January and picks up gradually
till early February. As the season warms up, there is high activity
in crop growth (increase in height, branching, bud formation)
and stray owers may be seen in the crop. Bud formation is
profuse in March, there is all round growth in the plants, the
early formed buds open into owers, hence the plucking of
owers has to be also selective all through the crop cycle. With
sudden rise in the temperature from 33oC to 39oC within a few
days, heavy seed-setting and plant maturity will be observed
in the crop. There is seed shedding and in the next year a self-
germinated crop is observed.
As the roots of the plant are shallow, the plant is unable to draw
moisture from the lower moist horizon of the soil and therefore
needs frequent irrigation to maintain an optimum moisture level.
Irrigation during the bloom period is helpful in increasing the
ower yield, one additional ush of owers is obtained and seed
formation is delayed. Krèches observed that irrigation at the
rosette stage increased the yield substantially. On alkaline soils,
the crop is irrigated more frequently and about 6–8 irrigations are
required during the crop cycle. Good performance is obtained
if the soil is kept moist, but ooding should be avoided.
Manures and fertilizers
The effect of nitrogen (N) is very marked on the fresh owers
and oil yield, whereas that of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K)
is negligible. Dutta and Singh observed that application of N in
the form of ammonium sulfate at 40 kg/ha signicantly increased
fresh ower and oil yield, while the oil content decreased from
0.64 to 0.59%. Addition of organic matter increases the humus
content of such soil and thereby improves the crop performance.
Application of 15–25 t/ha of FYM is proved benecial before
transplanting. El-Hamidi et al. advocates the ratio of 2:2
for N2 and P for obtaining the highest yield. Application of N
at a higher level caused a notable decrease in the chamazuler
percentage. Paun and Mihalopa found that the application of P
and K at 50 kg/ha each in autumn before sowing and application
of N at 50 kg/ha in early spring was responsible for satisfactory
crop growth. However, neither volatile oil nor chamazulene
content was affected. On saline alkaline soils, Singh found plants
showing good response to N and P fertilizers. Application of
20–25 t/ha of FYM was useful before transplanting the crop.
Misra and Kapoor found the optimum dose of N and P to
be between 50–60 kg N/ha and 50 kg P2O5/ha. It is reported
that N significantly increased the contents of α-bisabolol
and chamazulene, but signicantly decreased the contents of
bisabolol oxides A and B in the essential oil. N signicantly
increased essential oil yield per unit dry ower weight in both
Bohemia and Tisane varieties. The quantity of essential oil
in chamomile was inversely related to its quality in terms of
α-bisabolol and chamazulenes.
No deciency symptoms of trace elements have been observed
on the crop in the country so far. Peskova has reported the
good effect of the sulfates of manganese and cobalt; and borax
on lime soils, whereas Koeurik and Dovjak indicated that
combined application of boron and molybdenum increased dry
There are many herbicides for the control of weeds in M.
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chamomilla. Generally 3–4 weedings are required for a good
crop. The application of 1–1.5 kg/ha of sodium salt of
2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D); four weeks after
transplanting gave good control of weeds for four weeks. The
experimental results of researchers in other countries suggests
that herbicides, such as atrazine, prometryene, propyzamide,
chloropropham, mecoprop, triuralin, linurones, give satisfactory
control of weeds, but these should be used with caution. It was
found that afalone was the best selective weedicide. Herbicide-
treated crop had lower chamazulene content, and bisabolol
content was lower in the second harvest as herbicides interfere
with the metabolism of secondary products. Certain herbicides
have little inuence on the total essential oil content, but greater
differences were found in the quantitative composition of useful
On saline–alkali soils only one thorough weeding and hoeing
one month after transplanting, may be enough, as the plant
once established, smothers the weed and no further weeding is
required. It was reported that weed removal during 5–11 weeks
after planting the crop was necessary to obtain a higher yield
of the ower and oil. The uncontrolled weed growth caused
34.4% reduction in the dry ower yield as compared with the
weed-free condition. The application of oxyuorfen (0.6 kg/ha)
gave higher returns.
Harvesting is the most labor-intensive operation in chamomile
cultivation, accounting for a major portion of the cost of
production. The success of M. chamomilla cultivation as a
commercial venture lies in how efciently and effectively one can
collect the owers at the right stage during the peak owering
season extending over a period of 3–6 weeks during March–April.
Flowering is so profuse that practically every alternate day at
least 30–40 units of labor will be required to be employed to
pluck the owers from an area of 0.25–0.3 ha. Flower plucking
is a selective process as owers in all stages, namely, buds, semi-
opened buds, owers in all stages of bloom appear on the plants.
Flowers at the near full bloom stage give the best quality of the
product, hence care has to be exercised to see that as little as
possible buds, stems, leaves, and extraneous material is plucked.
Flowering will be observed on plants here and there all over the
eld from the later half of February and these owers are plucked
at the appropriate stage. Flowers are produced in ushes and
4–5 ushes are obtained. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th ushes are the
major contributors to ower yield. The peak period of plucking
is between the 2nd week of March and the 3rd week of April in
North India. In normal soils, Singh obtained a maximum yield
of 7637 kg of fresh owers, the average being 3500–4000 kg/
ha. In saline–alkaline soils, Singh obtained a yield of 3750 kg
fresh owers/ha. Temperature affects the number of owers
per kg. The weight of 1000 owers is reduced from 130 to 80
gm by the 2nd week of April.
Diseases and pests
The various insects, fungi, and viruses have been reported, which
attack the chamomile crop. The following fungi are known to
attack this plant: Albugo tragopogonis (white rust), Cylindrosporium
matricariae, Erysiphe cichoracearum (powdery mildew), E. polyphage,
Halicobasidium purpureum, Peronospora leptosperma, Peronospora
radii, Phytophthora cactorum, Puccinia anthemedis, Puccinia matricaiae,
Septoria chamomillae, and Sphaerotheca macularis (powdery mildew).
Also, yellow virus (Chlorogenus callistephi var. californicus Holmes,
Callistephus virus 1A) causes severe damage to this plant. In the
years 1960–1964 when the crop was cultivated in the Regional
Research Laboratory, Jammu, no incidence of disease was
reported. However, after 20 years in the month of February
about two dozen plants were observed to produce symptoms
resembling those of plant viruses. These plants were burnt
to prevent further spread of the disease. In early March, the
incidence of leaf blight caused by Alternaria spp. was observed
in the crop. A spray of Benlate (0.1%) controlled the disease.
Fluister reported that black bean aphids (Aphis fabae) were feeding
on M. chamomilla. The insect Nysius minor caused shedding
of M. chamomilla owers, whereas Autographa chryson causes
defoliation of the plant. The one spray with fosfothion 0.2%,
controlled successfully aphid infestation (Doralis fabae Scop.) on
chamomile. Methyl bromide (3 kg/100 m3) proved satisfactory
as a fumigant against pest infestation of Ephestia elutella Hb in
the desiccated herb of chamomile. Metalydacolus longistriatus in
the Giza region of Egypt, was found to be associated with the
roots of chamomile.
Besides damaging the cultivated crop of chamomile, fungi and
insects also cause extensive damage to the dry owers during
storage and reduce the quality of the dried raw product. This
is because dried chamomile, the owers in particular, contain a
large amount of hydrophilic constituents (sugars, avonoids,
mucilages, phenyl carbonic acids, amino acids, choline, salts),
and also chamomile herbs are hygroscopic. Microbiological
deterioration caused by fungal agents occurs in a very short time.
Thus, at the marginal condition of the dry product, the most
xerophilic species, molds of the species Aspergillus and Penicillium
form rst. The metabolism of bacteria and fungi releases more
and more moisture for the more demanding organisms, such
as Fusarium and Rhizopus, so the attack continues to develop
in a kind of cascade effect. The metabolic excretions from
the microbiological agents also make the stored product smell
musty or damp, which is rated very negatively in terms of
quality. In addition there is a risk that the stored product will
be contaminated with mycotoxins, which are a health hazard.
The dried product is also a favorite habitat for certain insects.
Larvae and beetles generally damage the stored product by eating
away and polluting it with excreta and webs. This considerably
reduces the quality and leads to total deterioration in a short time.
The main stock pests that affect the drug are Plodia interpunctella
Hb. (copper red-Indian meal moth), Ptinus latro F. (dark brown
thief beetle), P. testaceus Oliv. (yellow brown thief beetle), Gibbium
psylloides Gzemp. (smooth spider beetle), Lasioderma servicorne, and
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Singh, et al.: Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.)
Patra et al. reported that chamomile is grown as a winter (Rabi)
season crop and, therefore, ts well in rotation with major
summer (Kharif) season crops, such as paddy, maize, and others.
It may follow pulses, such as green gram, pigeon pea, and other
summer vegetables, such as “Okra,” cucumber, and others. It can
be grown even after early maturing Brassicas; chamomile can be
grown on the residual soil fertility preceding green manuring and
crops that are heavily fertilized. It can be grown as an intercrop
with many arable crops.
In 1999 Mishra et al. reported intercropping of celery +
chamomile, ajwain + chamomile, fennel + chamomile, and sowa
+ chamomile, all in 1:1 ratio. Sowing of the main crop was done
on 2nd November, and 8-week-old seedlings of chamomile were
transplanted in the 1st week of January. Spacing of 45 × 20 cm
was maintained for all the crops, dried biogas slurry was supplied
at the time of land preparation, and three irrigations were given
to the crops. Chamomile started blooming from the second
week of March and three ower pickings (between March 25
and April 19) were done manually at an interval of 7–10 days.
Also, chamomile has been found to be a suitable intercrop with
aromatic grasses, such as lemon grass and palmarosa, which
remain dormant in winter.
CHAMOMILE (M. CHAMOMILLA) AS A SOURCE
OF NATURAL PRODUCTS
M. chamomilla belongs to a major group of cultivated medicinal
plants. It contains a large group of therapeutically interesting
and active compound classes. Sesquiterpenes, flavonoids,
coumarins, and polyacetylenes are considered the most important
constituents [Figure 1] of the chamomile drug. The coumarins
are represented in M. chamomilla by herniarin, umbelliferone, and
other minor ones.[67,68] (Z)- and (E)-2-β-d-glucopyranosyloxy-
4-methoxycinnamic acid (GMCA), the glucoside precursor
of herniarin, were described as native compounds in
chamomile.[69,70] Eleven bioactive phenolic compounds,
such as herniarin and umbelliferone (coumarin), chlorogenic
acid and caffeic acid (phenylpropanoids), apigenin, apigenin-
7-O-glucoside, luteolin and luteolin-7-O-glucoside (avones),
quercetin and rutin (avonols), and naringenin (avanone) are
found in chamomile extract.
More than 120 chemical constituents have been identied in
chamomile ower as secondary metabolites,[72,73] including 28
terpenoids, 36 avonoids,[13,74,75] and 52 additional compounds
with potential pharmacological activity [Table 1]. Components,
such as α-bisabolol and cyclic ethers are antimicrobial,[76,77]
umbelliferone is fungistatic, whereas chamazulene and
α-bisabolol are antiseptic. The chamomile was found to have
the most effective antileishmanial activity.
German chamomile is a natural source of blue oil (essential
oil). The owers and ower heads are the main organs of the
production of essential oil. It is remarkable that chamomile
ower oil mainly consists of sesquiterpene derivatives (75–
90%) but only traces of monoterpenes. The oil contains up
to 20% polyynes. The principal components of the essential
oil extracted from the owers are (E)-β-farnesene (4.9–8.1%),
terpene alcohol (farnesol), chamazulene (2.3–10.9%), α-bisabolol
(4.8–11.3%), and α-bisabolol oxides A (25.5–28.7%) and
α-bisabolol oxides B (12.2–30.9%),[33,80-84] which are known for
their antiinammatory,[27,85,86] antiseptic, antiplogistic,[81,88] and
spasmolytic properties. Among the various major constituents,
α-bisabolol and chamazulene have been reported to be more useful
than others. Chamazulene is an artifact formed from matricine,
which is naturally present in the owers during hydrodistillation
or steam distillation. The color of the oil determines its quality.
Blue color of the oil is due to sesquiterpene. The chamazulene
content of the various chamomiles depends on the origin and age
of the material. It decreases during the storage of the owers.
Bisabolol has been found to reduce the amount of proteolytic
enzyme pepsin secreted by the stomach without any change
occurring in the amount of stomach acid, due to which it has
been recommended for the treatment of gastric and upper
intestinal diseases. It has also been reported to promote
epithelization and granulation, and to produce a pronounced
and antiphlogistic effect on paw carrageenin edema and cotton
pellet granuloma of the rat. Similarly, it is recommended that,
if chamomile extracts were to be used for their antiphlogistic
effects then plants rich in bisabolol and chamazulene should be
chosen.[88,92] Also, because of the antiinammatory properties of
bisabolol, it is recommended in cosmetic preparations. The
Table 1: Biological activity attributed to
Inhibition of poliovirus replication
Lousicidal, ovicidal, repellent
Treatment of infant botulism
Treatment of oral mucositis
Wound healing property
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Singh, et al.: Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.)
1. Isobutyl angelate
2. 2-Methylbutyl angelate
7. Bisabolol oxide A
8. Bisabolol oxide B
12. Umbelliferone (R=H)
13. Herniarin (R=CH3)
15. Chlorogenic acid
14. Caffeic acid
18. Apigenin-7-O-glucoside (R=H)
19. Luteolin-7-O-glucoside (R=OH)
21. Z-Enyne dicycloether
16. Apigenin (R=H)
17. Luteolin (R=OH)
Figure 1: Secondary metabolites from M. chamomilla
88 Pharmacognosy Reviews | January-June 2011 | Vol 5 | Issue 9
presence of cis-en-yne-dicyclo ethers, perillyl alcohol, triacontane,
cadeleric hydrocarbon, and cadeleric tertiary alcohol was reported
in chamomile.[93,94] The other compounds, such as thujone and
borneol were present in very low amounts. The main constituents
of the owers also include several phenolic compounds, primarily
the avonoid apigenin, quercetin, patuletin, luteolin, and their
Besides the capitula, the shoot (leaves and stem) and root of the
plant also contain essential oil. Earlier investigations on the oil
of this herb reported[55,83] the presence of (Z)-3-hexenol, (E)-β-
farnesene, α-farnesene, germacrene D, (E)-nerolidol, spathulenol,
hexadec-11-yn-11,13-diene, and (Z)- and (E)-en-yn-dicycloethers,
whereas the root oil was reported to contain linalool, nerol,
geraniol, β-elemene, (E)-β-farnesene, α-farnesene, spathulenol,
τ-cadinol, τ-muurolol, β-caryophyllene, cis-caryophyllene,
caryophyllene oxide, chamomillol, hexadec-11-yn-11,13-diene,
cis- and trans-en-yn-dicycloethers, and chamomile esters I and
II.[55,95] These oils were devoid of chamazulene and α-bisabolol
and its oxides were present as minor constituents. α-Humulene,
hexadec-11-yn-13,15-diene, phytol, isophytol, and methyl
palmitate were detected for the rst time from M. chamomilla.
All these and other compounds were found in different amounts
and ratios in various parts of the inorescence depending on
the growth stage and the time of picking during the day. The
quantity of α-bisabolol and α-bisabolol oxides A and B in the
owers reached a maximum at full bloom and then declined.
Farnesene content of the owers decreased gradually with their
growth and development. The accumulation of essential oils
in the owers continued during drying. Harvesting at the early
owering phase and drying in shaded places is recommended.
Franz, in pot trials, showed that the oil content was the lowest
in decaying heads and highest in one week of ower initiation.
Farnesene and bisabolol were highest in the ower buds and
lowest in the decaying owers. Chamazulene and bisabolol oxide
content increased from buds to fully developed ower buds.
BIOCHEMISTRY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY
Effect of nitrogen on M. chamomilla
Environmental stress, irrespective of its nature, enhances reactive
oxygen species (ROS) formation, thereby activating both
protective mechanism and cellular damages. Tissue damage
occurs when the capacity of antioxidative systems becomes lower
than the amount of ROS generated. To protect cells under
stress conditions and maintain the level of ROS, plants possess
several enzymes to scavenge ROS. Important in regulating
intracellular hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) are catalase (CAT) and
peroxidases (guaiacol peroxidase [GPX]). A previous study
has shown that both CAT and GPX increase their activity
under conditions of N starvation in rice leaves. Moreover,
both CAT and GPX showed the highest activities, while H2O2
accumulation and superoxide dismutase activity was the lowest
in the leaves of bean plants cultivated with the lowest N dosage
compared with the highest N dosage. Since growth of the
leaves and roots was the highest in the lowest N dosage, this
could be an indication that removal of H2O2 occurs also under
optimal nutrient conditions. Additionally, this indicates that the
highest N dose is toxic and drastically depresses the growth of the
plants. Phenolic compounds are potent inhibitors of oxidative
damage due to availability of their phenolic hydrogen. Their
involvement in H2O2 detoxication through peroxidases is well
established. Enhancement of phenylalanine ammonia-lyase
(PAL) activity and higher accumulation of leaf phenolics and
root exudation of phenolics under phosphate and N deciency
In a previous study, Kovacik et al. reported that with prolonged
N deficiency the majority of detected phenolic acids and
coumarin-related compounds increased in chamomile leaf
rosettes. Recently Kovacik and Backor showed that N
deciency enhanced root growth and inhibited shoot growth in
M. chamomilla plants. Chlorophyll composition was not affected
by N stress, but N and soluble proteins decreased in both the
rosettes and the roots. PAL activity was enhanced in N-decient
rosettes and tended to decrease by the end of the experiment,
while in the roots PAL activity was maintained. The total phenolic
contents increased in both rosettes and roots under N deciency.
N-deciency also affects peroxidase and CAT activities as it
decreased them in the rosettes, while it increased them in the
roots. Furthermore, lipid per oxidation status increased in
N-decient roots, indicating that antioxidative protection was
insufcient to scavenge ROS being generated. Surprisingly,
H2O2 content was lower in N-decient roots, while in the leaves
Effect of Cd and Cu on M. chamomilla
Heavy metals have become one of the main biotic stress agents
for living organisms because of their increasing use in the
developing eld of industry causing high bioaccumulation
and toxicity. Heavy metal toxicity usually depends on the
metal amounts accumulated by plants. Cadmium (Cd) has no
known physiologic function in plants, whereas Copper (Cu)
is an essential plant micronutrient. Being a redox active metal,
Cu generates ROS, whereas Cd is a redox inactive metal unable
to catalyze the generation of ROS via Fenton–Haber-Weiss
reactions.[133,134] Nevertheless, Cd may induce the expression
of lipoxygenases in plant tissues, and thus indirectly causes
oxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Cu has a greater
ability to cause lipid peroxidation than redox inactive metals,
such as Cd; this fact was previously demonstrated also in Cd-
and Cu-treated chamomile.[136,137] Hydrogen peroxide is the main
ROS being formed from superoxide radical and scavenged by
specic enzymes. Therefore, regulated production of ROS
and maintenance of “redox homeostasis” are essential for the
physiologic health of organisms.
Plants develop different mechanisms enabling them to cope with
metal accumulation in the tissues and ROS formation induced
by the presence of metals. Kovacik and Backor studied the
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Pharmacognosy Reviews | January-June 2011 | Vol 5 | Issue 9 89
Cd and Cu uptake by 4-week-old chamomile plants and their
effect on selected antioxidative enzyme activities, such as CAT,
GPX, and glutathione reductase (GR) up to 7 days of exposure
to 3, 60, and 120 µM Cd or Cu. Cd content in the rosettes
was 10-fold higher in comparison with Cu, whereas Cu was
preferentially accumulated in the roots. The increase of CAT and
GPX activity was similar in the rosettes of Cd- and Cu-treated
plants, indicating the nonredox active properties of Cd and low
Cu accumulation. In the roots, Cu showed strong pro-oxidant
effect, as judged from extreme stimulation of CAT and GPX,
followed by an increase in H2O2 and malondialdehyde (MDA).
However, alleviation of oxidative stress (ca. 93- to 250-fold
higher activity in 120 µM Cu-treated roots) seemed to be more
important. Cd had substantially lower inuences and stimulated
GR activity more than that by Cu.
Kovacik et al. reported that Cu decreased dry mass production,
water, chlorophyll, and N content in both the leaf rosettes and
roots at 120 µM. Most of the 11 phenolic acids detected increased
in 60 µM Cu but in the 120 µM treatment their contents were
lower or not signicantly different from the control. Among the
coumarin-related compounds, (Z)- and (E)-GCMAs increased in
60 and 120 µM Cu, whereas herniarin rose in the 3 and 60 µM
Cu. The amounts of umbelliferone were not affected by any of
the doses tested. The MDA content of the leaf rosette was not
affected by the exposure of plants to 120 µM Cu, but a sharp
increase was observed in the roots. At 120 µM Cu stimulated a
9-fold higher K+ loss than the 60 µM treatment, whereas at the
lowest concentration it stimulated K+ uptake. Cu accumulation
in the roots was 3-, 49-, and 71-fold higher than the leaf rosettes
in the 3, 60, and 120 µM Cu treatments, respectively. The 120
µM Cu dose is limiting for chamomile growth.
Chamomile is reported to accumulate high amounts of Cd
preferentially in the roots and also in anthodia,[140-142] indicating
that it belongs to the group of facultative metallophytes or
metal excluders. Grejtovsky et al. studied the effects of Cd on
secondary metabolites of chamomile, and did not observe any
changes in apigenin-7-O-glucoside and other derivatives in
anthodia. On the other hand, the quantities of two coumarins
in the leaves, herniarin and umbelliferone, as well as herniarin
glucosidic precursors (Z)- and (E)-GMCAs, were affected by
foliar application of Cu2+ ions and biotic stress.[144,145] These
two stress factors resulted in a decrease in the GMCAs, but an
increase in herniarin as well as umbelliferone compared with the
control. However, nutritional starvation, such as N deciency,
did not cause this pattern of coumarins dynamics, indicating the
presence of other mechanisms governing their accumulation.
Kovacik et al. reported that the dry mass accumulation and
N content were not signicantly altered under low (3 µM)
and high (60 and 120 µM) levels of Cd. However, there was a
signicant decline in the chlorophyll and water content in the
leaves. Among coumarin-related compounds, herniarin was not
affected by Cd, whereas its precursors (Z)- and (E)-GCMAs
increased signicantly at all the levels of Cd tested. Cd did
not have any effect on umbelliferone, a stress metabolite of
chamomile. Lipid peroxidation was also not affected by even
120 µM Cd. Cd accumulation was approximately 7- (60 µM) to
11-fold (120 µM) higher in the roots than that in the leaves. At
high concentrations, it stimulated K+ leakage from the roots,
whereas at the lowest concentration it could stimulate K+ uptake.
This supported the hypothesis that metabolism was altered only
slightly under high Cd stress, indicating that chamomile is tolerant
to this metal. Preferential Cd accumulation in the roots indicated
that chamomile could not be classied as a hyperaccumulator
and, therefore, it is unsuitable for phytoremediation.
Effect of amino acids on M. chamomilla
Amino acids can act as growth factors of higher plants because
they are the building blocks of protein synthesis, which could
be enzymes important for metabolic activities. There is evidence
that ornithine is a precursor of polyamines that are essential in
the regulation of plant growth and development.[147,148] Proline
has been shown to accumulate in the plant tissue under various
conditions.[149,150] The suggested functions of the accumulated
proline are osmoregulation, maintenance of membrane and
protein stability, growth, seed germination, and provision of
storage of carbon, nitrogen, and energy.[149,151,152]
Gamal el-Din and Abd-el-Wahed investigated the effect of
different concentrations of ornithine, proline, and phenylalanine
on vegetative growth, essential oil, and some biochemical
constituents of chamomile. They observed that all the amino
acids signicantly increased the plant height, number of branches,
number of ower head, fresh and dry weights of the aerial
parts, and ower head per plant. Foliar application of 50 mg/L
ornithine and 100 mg/L proline or phenylalanine resulted in
greater effect as compared with other treatments. This regulatory
effect of amino acids on growth could be explained by the notion
that some amino acids (eg, phenylalanine and ornithine) can
effect plant growth and development through their inuence
on the gibberellin biosynthesis. The total phenol and total
indole contents in the vegetative aerial parts were signicantly
increased by all the amino acids. The maximum effect showed
ornithine, proline, and phenylalanine at a concentration of 150
mg/L. Proline or phenylalanine at 50 or 150 mg/L decreased the
total carbohydrates, whereas 150 mg/L of ornithine had such
effect. The greatest increase in the oil percentage and yield were
obtained at 150 mg/L of ornithine and 100 mg/L of proline
Effect of salicylic acid on M. chamomilla
Salicylic acid (SA) is a well-known endogenous plant signal
molecule involved in many growth responses and in disease
resistance.[155,156] Stimulation of growth after exposure to SA
has been recorded in some plant species, such as wheat,
soybean, and maize. It can also contribute to stress
tolerance by stimulating highly branched metabolic responses.
 The effect of exogenous SA depends on numerous factors,
including the species and developmental stage, the mode of
application, and the concentration of SA.[160,161] A range of plant
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90 Pharmacognosy Reviews | January-June 2011 | Vol 5 | Issue 9
physiologic reactions to SA application are known. Pastirova et al.
have shown that accumulation of coumarin-related compounds
in chamomile was affected by exogenous SA application at a dose
of 2 mM. Kovacik et al. reported that SA exhibited both
growth-promoting and growth-inhibiting properties at doses of
50 and 250 μM, respectively. The latter being correlated with the
decrease of chlorophylls, water content, and soluble proteins. In
terms of phenolic metabolism, it seems that the higher SA dose
has a toxic effect, based on the sharp increase in PAL activity,
which is followed by an increase in total soluble phenolics and
lignin accumulation. GPX activity was elevated at a dose of
250 μM SA. However, PAL activity decreased with prolonged
exposure to SA, indicating its inhibition. Accumulation of
coumarin-related compounds (umbelliferone and herniarin) was
not affected by SA; whereas (Z)- and (E)-GCMAs increased in
the rosettes at 250 μM SA.
Tissue culture studies
Tissue culture is the culture and maintenance in vitro of plant
cells or organs in sterile, nutritionally and environmentally
supportive conditions. It has applications in research and
commerce. In commercial settings, tissue culture is often referred
to as micropropagation, which is really only one form of a set
of techniques. Micropropagation refers to the production of
whole plants from cell cultures derived from explants, the initial
piece of tissue put into culture of meristem cells. Two types of
tissue culture of M. chamomilla were isolated, namely, E40 and
BK2 derived from leaf and stem, respectively. These cultures
were also maintained in modied Murashige and Skoog medium
and essential oil was present in both types of tissue culture and
chromatograms of both essential oils showed similarity. Szoke
et al.[165,167] obtained callus tissues from root, stem, and ower
clusters of wild chamomile. They studied the dynamics of
growth of callus tissues on the basic growth medium containing
2,4-D and kinetin in light and in dark. It was observed that the
growth of inorescence callus, either cultured in light or dark,
was sensitive to added growth regulators. It grew better with
kinetin + 2,4-D. Use of 10% coconut milk instead of kinetin
+ 2,4-D was effective in improving the growth. Differences in
the composition of essential oil in the three parts studied were
attributed to the level of tissue organization. Cellarova et al.
has dealt with the possibility of morphogenesis induction in callus
tissue cultures of some representatives of M. chamomilla. Shoot
in calli has been induced by 0.1 mg/L kinetin or by combination
of 0.5 mg/L kinetin and 0.5 mg/L alpha naphthyl acetic acid
(NAA) added to Murashige and Skoog medium. Rhizogenesis
took place without any other addition of auxin.
IMPROVED VARIETIES OF CHAMOMILE AS A
SOURCE OF DRUG
The world market currently has chamomile drug of various
origins and therapeutical values. The medicinal value of the plant
material was evaluated by the content of essential oil and the
content of chamazulene, etc. The quality of blue oil (essential
oil) is determined by its color. As the name indicates, bluer the
oil better is the quality, because blue color serves as the chemical
marker for the presence of terpenoids and avonoids, chiey
chamazulene and α-bisabolol. For manufacturing chamomile
extracts of antiphlogistic effectiveness, only such types of
chamomile should be used, which exhibit a high content of
(-)-α-bisabolol and the synthetic racemic bisabolol. Thus,
chamomile of a particular chemical composition is used as drug
as it shows specic pharmacological activity.
As efcient methods for determining the drug constituents and
effectiveness have been developed, the content of (-)-α-bisabolol
and its oxides in the owers has become an important indicator
of drug quality and value. As a result, four basic types of
chamomile A, B, C, and D are recognized, according to the
qualitative and quantitative composition of the essential oil.[80,169]
-Chemical type A (dominant component of essential oil is
bisabolol oxide A).
-Chemical type B (dominant component of essential oil is
bisabolol oxide B).
-Chemical type C (dominant component of essential oil is
-Chemical type D ((-)-α-bisabolol and bisabolol oxide A and B
present in 1:1 ratio approx.).
The major suppliers of chamomile for the world market, which
are Poland, Hungary, Germany, Argentina, and Czecho-Slovakia,
have recently initiated intensive plant improvement programs to
produce plants with high levels of essential oils with a dened
chemical composition. The varieties “Bona,” “Kosice-II,” and
the cultivar “koice-1” have been developed through selection
and breeding efforts. Normally, these new types have over twice
the essential oil content of the older “Bohemia” variety, and
“Bona” and “Kosice-II” have chemical proles much higher in
(-)-α-bisabolol and chamazulene [Table 2].[23,170]
German chamomile was introduced in India during the 17th
century. But its commercial cultivation remained marginalized
mainly due to poor yield of owers coupled with low oil content
and poor oil quality. No attempt was ever made to scientically
organize the cultivation of such valuable cash crop. As a result of
germplasm enhancement and exploitation program, an improved
variety, Vallary, was developed and nally released for commercial
cultivation in India. It is the rst ever genetically improved
variety of German chamomile, bred specially for agroclimatic
conditions of North Indian plains. Its oil is highly viscous and
dark blue in color, indicative of high concentration of terpenoids
German chamomile enjoys good domestic and international
market. It is the fth top selling herb in the world and is a
major food cosmetic and pharmaceutical additive. It sold either
as ower head or as blue oil. “Blue oil” is the commercial trade
name of chamomile oil in the international market, which fetches
Singh, et al.: Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.)
Pharmacognosy Reviews | January-June 2011 | Vol 5 | Issue 9 91
about Rs. 40,000 for a kilogram. The world production of
chamomile blue essential oil was estimated by the USDA to be
5.4 t, in the year 1989.
The medicinal plant sector in India is unorganized and it is
difcult to get regular update of statistics vis-à-vis the demand
and supply, collection, and economics of chamomile. Also,
worldwide production gures are difcult to isolate due to
small-scale farming and the fact that statistics generally do not
quote chamomile separately from herbs. In 1995, the worldwide
production was estimated to be approximately 500 t of dried
ower per annum from large-scale farming. In 1998, this gure
raised to 1000 t of dried ower per annum from large-scale
Price is largely regulated by supply and demand in the world. In
1991, the world price for dried chamomile ower ranged from
US $ 1,000/t for low grade to approximately US $ 16,000/t for
high oil content ower. Bulk botanical herbs, in 1997, was
advertising organically grown chamomile on the Internet at US
$ 28 per pound (US $ 61.73 per kg). Recently, it is selling at
the rate of US $ 700 per kg. With the current trends, these
prices should increase within the next two years.
There is a great demand for chamomile in the world market
because of its extensive medicinal values and impeccable
pharmacological properties. Also, there has been an increase
in the use of natural substances instead of synthetic chemicals
because many herbal medicines are free from side effects, easy
to obtain, considered healthy, and create income. It is a well-
established fact that chamomile plant diversity is being threatened
by unregulated harvesting of natural populations and expansion
of urban centers. So it is advisable to cultivate chamomile for
better quality control of the target bioactive components. This
approach also allows for the production of uniform plant material
at predetermined intervals in the required quantities. A strong
need is felt to screen the different chemotypes of chamomile
growing at different phytogeographical locations. Similarly,
biodiversity studies at morphologic, biochemical, and genetic
levels will enable the research community to realize the extent
of variability within the existing germplasm of chamomile, and
hence help in the conservation of the plant. However, there is
still a wide scope for exploring different aspects of chamomile.
In India, it appears that there is a good potential for chamomile
cultivation as a commercial medicinal and industrial crop.
Because of the high international market price of chamomile, it
is necessary to promote this valuable crop as a commercial crop
mainly for export of chamomile oil from India.
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Source of Support: Nil, Conict of Interest: None declared