Description: Natural Order, Compositae. This plant is indigenous to Europe; but is much cultivated in American gardens, on account of its medical virtues. Stem herbaceous, erect, eight to fourteen inches high, round, hollow, a little downy, much branched. Leaves bipinnate, sessile, pale-green, somewhat downy; with narrow, flat, and slightly channeled leaflets. Flower-heads terminal on the branches, three-fourths of an inch across, solitary, yellowish disk, white rays. Involucre hemispherical; scales imbricated and nearly equal, with membranous margins. Receptacle conical, with chaffy scales. Disk florets numerous, tubular, yellow, perfect, becoming ligulate by cultivation; ray florets ligulate, spreading, three-toothed, fertile; usually eighteen in a single row. The flower-heads are more or less double, according to the extent to which cultivation enlarges the corolla of the disk florets.
The flowers are the medicinal portion; and the small disk-flowers are said to contain most of the strength; on which account the single flower-heads may be better than the double. Most of that found in the shops, is imported from England and Germany; but it may be profitably cultivated by dividing the roots into thirty or forty plants, setting out (in March) in a deep loam, eighteen inches apart in rows three feet asunder, and not manuring too much. The perfected flowers are nearly an inch in diameter, and of a dull-white color; they have a rather fragrant smell, which is strongest in the undried flowers. A small quantity of a volatile oil may be obtained from them by distillation; and they also contain a little resinous material. Water and alcohol extract their virtues readily; and hot water very readily. A somewhat similar but smaller flower, is found in the shops under the name of German camomile, which is the Matricaria Camomilla.
Properties and Uses: Camomile flowers have been used for centuries, and are highly esteemed for their agreeable tonic properties. They are mainly relaxant, and only moderately stimulant; expend their influence somewhat promptly; manifest a decided action upon the circulation, nerves, and uterus, as well as upon the stomach. This action is expedited and distributed, when they are given as a warm infusion. They then secure slow and gentle moistening of the surface, with relief to internal pressure; and may be thus used in remitting, bilious, and puerperal fevers, and in colds. In painful menstruation, where the flow needs to be hastened and increased, they are of peculiar efficacy; and especially if there are any nervous or hysterical symptoms. They so deserve attention in all forms of nervous agitation, and colic, and cramps in the stomach. Large and frequent doses of the warm infusion, prove nauseating; and may even induce vomiting; and sometimes these flowers are used as an adjunct in securing emesis, especially in bilious and remittent febrile cases.
In cold infusion or decoction, their action is confined more to the stomach and uterus. As a tonic, they are mild but reliable; promoting appetite and digestion; and are suitable where there is sensitiveness of the stomach, but not appropriate to cold and sluggish conditions. They are more grateful than most of the tonics; and may be selected in cases of convalescence, and especially in nervousness and hysteria. Their action upon the uterus is one to which I would call particular attention; for I have found them a most valuable soothing antispasmodic to this organ, and decidedly capable of promoting the menstrual flow. This makes them of peculiar value in all uterine pains and feebleness, when the catamenia are scanty; but they should not be employed when this discharge is already too free or frequent, nor when the lochia are too free. The warm infusion has an unusual power in reestablishing suppressed lochia; at the same time opening the capillary circulation, and relieving uterine pain. They act slowly but persistently. Externally, fomentations of the flowers are useful in congestion and moderate irritation of the abdominal viscera; and also in painful ulcers.
Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Infusion. Half an ounce of the flowers to a pint of boiling water, macerated ten minutes, make the ordinary infusion. Dose, cold, for tonic purposes, from half to a whole fluid ounce, three or four times a day; warm, two to four fluid ounces, repeated at pleasure, say once an hour. Combining ginger, polemonium, or asclepias with the warm infusion, is often serviceable.
II. Wine Tincture. In various tonic. preparations upon wine, this makes an elegant addition. It is usually combined with liriodendron, convallaria, trillium, aralia racemosa, and similar mild nervine tonics. Orange peel is a grateful and appropriate corroborant. Sometimes it is used with small portions of hydrastis, or gentian.
III. Extract. Heat impairs these flowers so much, that no really good extract can be prepared, except in vacuo. This is sometimes used as a basis for pills; and the dose is from one to three grains, at intervals of six or more hours. Some persons chew the flowers, and swallow the saliva thus slowly medicated. Those wishing to cease the use of tobacco, sometimes use camomile as a substitute. An admirable Fluid Extract is prepared, after the method for eupatorium perfoliatum. Dose, one-fourth to half of a fluid drachm.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com