Introduction

Rolf Franke

The medicinal plant of chamomile and the species related to it are of manifold interest as both the drug Matricariae flos (Ph. Eur. 4.6, 2004) [1] and the native plants. Cultivated and wild plants offer a number of subjects that belong to the range of basic and applied research; on the other hand, they are of great economic interest as well.

Considering the fact that the traded chamomile flowers show a very heterogeneous spectrum of content [2, 3], a drug bound to a pharmacopoeia can — if it is to be recognized by the medical sciences in the rational sense — only reach a high standard relating to natural science provided there is a comprehensive knowledge about the biology of the medicinal plant and the species related to it, as well as the drug obtained from it.

Chamomile flowers belong to those drugs that experienced a wide medical application in ancient times [2, 3]. The curative effect of chamomile has been known by physicians for about 2500 years. Hippocrates gives a description of the drug in the 5th century b.c., and chamomile appears as a medicinal plant in the work De Materia Medica written by Dioscorides (1st century a.D.). Galen and Asclepios describe the application of a chamomile infusion at some length. In Palladius' writings dating back to the 4th or 5th century, notes about chamomile are to be found as well. Medical applications continued in the Middle Ages. Bock, for example, gives the following report about chamomile in his Kreutterbuch of 1539 (described as "gantz gemein Chamill": "quite ordinary/common chamomile"): "Es ist bei allen menschen kein breuchlicher kraut in der artznei als eben Chamillenblumen/dann sie werden beinahe zu allen presten gebraucht." (In Old High German, "There is no herb in medicine for people being more usual than chamomile flowers because they are used against nearly all kinds of ailments.")

From the New Kreuterbuch written by Mathiolus (1626) it may be gathered that "...das Kamillenöl dienet sonderlich wol wider den krampf" ("chamomile oil serves as a remedy against convulsion"). Tabernaemontanus mentions chamomile in 1664 [4]: ".zu mancherley gebrauch in der Artzeney/als in Pflaster/Salben/Behung/Säcklein/Bäder und dergleichen nützlich gebraucht wird/und vielerley Artzeneyen darauß bereiten" ("for manifold use in medicine such as in plasters/ointments/pouches, [medicinal] baths and for other useful purposes, many different medicines can be prepared out of it"). In his Medizinisches Lexikon (Medical Encyclopaedia, 1755) von Haller makes honorable mention of the pain-relieving and spasmolytic effect of chamomile flowers, and in his Praktische Arzneimittellehre (1814, Vol. 1) (Practical Pharmacology), Hecker as well as Hufeland and colleague Collenbuch report the successful use of chamomile preparations in cases of ulcerations (in Hufeland's Journal) [5]. Saladin von Asculum mentioned the blue volatile oil of chamomile in 1488 and Hieronimus Brunschwig described the distillation of the volatile chamomile oil in 1500. High appreciation is also given to chamomile preparations in the various works written by Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897) [6]. In the first edition of the Lehrbuch der Phytotherapie (Textbook of Phytotherapy) (1942) Weiss refers to chamomile as being one of the most significant medicinal plants, giving wider space to it in the review [7].

The summary of a choice of internationally known pharmacopoeias (see Chapter 2, Table 2.1) shows that since the publication of the German Pharmacopoeia in 1882, chamomile flowers and preparations from chamomile flowers have been included in a number of pharmacopoeias. In the current pharmacopoeia for the Federal Republic of Germany, the drug called Matricariae flos is to be found in the European Pharmacopoeia 4.6, edition 2004 [1].

Roman chamomile has also been significant as a drug from ancient times. Tabernaemontanus had already known filled and unfilled forms in 1664 [4]. This Roman chamomile is included in a number of pharmacopoeias and also in the European Pharmacopoeia, Suppl. 4.3 2003 (see Chapter 2, Table 2.2).

In 1956 Heeger [8] reported that true chamomile has been worked on to a small extent [only] and that it is "on its way to becoming a culture plant." In the past 40 years chamomile has developed into a real culture plant that is cultivated on a wide scale.

FIGURE 1.1 True chamomile (Matricaria recutita L.). (Fuchs, L. [1543] New Kreüterbuch. Basel. With permission of Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum, Berlin-Dahlem.)

FIGURE 1.1 True chamomile (Matricaria recutita L.). (Fuchs, L. [1543] New Kreüterbuch. Basel. With permission of Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum, Berlin-Dahlem.)

FIGURE 1.2 The capitulum of the True chamomile has a cone-shaped, hollow bottom. (Köhler [1987] Medizinal-Pflanzen in naturgetreuen Abbildungen mit kurz erläuterndem Text. Gera. Vol. With permission of Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum, Berlin-Dahlem.)
FIGURE 1.3 True chamomile (Matricaria recutita L.). (Hayne, F.G. [1805] Getreue Darstellung und Beschreibung der in der Arzneykunde gebräuchlichen Gewächse. Berlin. Vol. 1. With permission of Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum, Berlin-Dahlem.)

FIGURE 1.4 True chamomile (Matricaria recutita L.) [4].

FIGURE 1.5 Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile [L.] All.). (Chaumeton, F.P. [1815] Flore médicinale. Paris. Vol. 2. With permission of Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum, Berlin-Dahlem.)
FIGURE 1.6 Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile [L.] All.) (Tabernaemontanus, 1664 p. 58) [4].
FIGURE 1.7 Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile [L.] All.) (Tabernaemontanus, 1664 p. 59) [4].

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