The flower-heads of Matricaria Chamomilla, Linné"—(U. S. P.). (Chamomilla officinalis, Koch; Chrysanthemum Chamomilla, Bernhardi.)
COMMON NAME: German chamomile.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 155.
Botanical Source.—A branching annual, having a stem from 1 to 2 feet high, with alternate, smooth, deep-green, pinnate, or bi- or tri-pinnate leaves, the leaflets of which are small and linear. The numerous small branches bear single, terminal flowers, about 3/4 inch in breadth, with spreading rays. The calyx-scales are obtuse, whitish, translucent, and membranaceous near the margins, but green in the center. The white ray-florets are spreading at first, finally becoming reflected. The disc is convex primarily, and later becomes prominently conical and hollow.
History and Description.—This plant is found in wastes and fields in Europe northward to Finland, and is cultivated in this country by our German population. It is likewise found in Asia in the temperate localities, and, through naturalization, has become one of the plants of Australia. All parts of the plant are medicinal, but the flowers are generally employed. When dried they are much smaller than the fresh heads. Matricaria is described by the U. S. P. as follows: "About 15 to 20 Mm. (1/2 to 4/5 inch broad), composed of a flattish, imbricate involucre, a conical, hollow, naked receptacle, which is about 5 Mm. (1/5 inch) high, about 15 white, ligulate, reflexed ray-florets, and numerous yellow, tubular, perfect disk-florets without pappus; strongly aromatic and bitter. The similar flower-heads of Anthemis arvensis, Linné, and Maruta Cotula, De Candolle (Nat. Ord.—Compositae), have conical, solid, and chaffy receptacles"—(U. S. P.). (See Anthemis.)
Chemical Composition.—In addition to the ordinary constituents of plants, matricaria contains a small portion of tannin and tannates, malates, bitter extractive, and a volatile oil. The latter, known as Oleum Chamomillae Aethereum, may be obtained, by distillation in a suitable apparatus, in the quantity of 0.45 per cent (Schimmel & Co.). It has an aromatic, warm taste, and a pronounced odor of matricaria. It is thick, somewhat viscid, opaque in bulk, but in layers transparent, and has a rich, dark-blue color which, on exposure to air and light, gradually becomes green, and, lastly, brown. Its density is 0.93; its congealing point,—20° C. (-4° F.). It consists of a colorless oil having the composition C10H18O, and a terpene (C10H16). Azulene (of Piesse), or caerulein (of Gladstone), a volatile body said to be present in all blue or green oils, gives to it its blue coloration. It was investigated by Kachler (1871), and occurs only in the highest fractions of the oil. An Oleum Chamomillae Citratum, sometimes met with, is prepared by adding oil of lemon (1 part) to recently gathered matricaria (480 parts), and distilling. It is thinner than the true oil, and its blue color changes more readily. Werner, in 1867, states to have obtained from Matricaria Chamomilla the crystallizable, bitter anthemic acid, isolated by Pattone (1859) from the flowers of Anthemis arvensis, Linné; and a crystallizable alkaloid, which he called anthemidine. Flückiger (1891) doubts the correctness of these results.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Matricaria is usually listed as having properties similar to anthemis, but of less activity. It has, however, come to be preferred over the latter by Eclectic practitioners, and is now an important remedy with us, particularly in affections of young children. It has two particular specific fields of action—one upon the nervous system, subduing nervous irritability, and the other upon the gastro-intestinal tract, relieving irritation. Upon the nervous system its action is most pronounced, affecting both the sensory and motor nerves. It is peculiarly adapted to the nervous manifestations of dentition, and in other affections where there seems to be a morbid susceptibility to pain. Earache, rheumatic and neuralgic pains, abdominal neuroses, etc., are relieved by it when the nervous apprehension is all out of proportion to the actual amount of pain experienced. A matricaria patient is restless, irritable, discontented, and impatient, and, if a child, is only appeased when continually carried. In pregnancy, it relieves nervous twitching, cough, false pains, etc., accompanied by great unrest. Ɣ It should be borne in mind, however, that it is not the gross dose of matricaria that will overcome these morbid, nervous phenomena, but the small, or almost minute dose. It is one of those agents, and we have many, that exert their peculiar effects only in small doses, yet can be used without harm in large doses, but without the peculiar benefit derived from the smaller amounts. It relieves the erethism producing hysteria—a little slowly, perhaps, but its effects are lasting—and for the conditions that threaten infantile convulsions, during dentition, it is one of the most certain of drugs. After the spasms have supervened, it is not equal to gelsemium or lobelia.
While it has been said that it has two specific fields of action—upon the mental and nervous, and upon the digestive tract—it must be remembered that the nervous manifestations calling for matricaria, are nearly always present in the disorders of the latter, while, on the other hand, the nervous phenomena may occur without any disturbance of the latter. Hence the references to the nervous symptoms of stomach and bowel disorders, given as specifically calling for the drug. In the summer diarrhoea of irritation (not of atony), it becomes an important remedy. The condition will probably not be without call for other specifics, but the indications for matricaria will be distinct. There is marked irritability, the child is peevish and fretful, the stools extremely fetid, and may excoriate around the anus more or less. In appearance they vary—may be watery and green, or slimy, perhaps in yellow and white lumps, or it may be of undigested curds of milk, imbedded in a green mucus—an appearance aptly compared by Prof. Bloyer to "chopped eggs and greens." In subacute inflammation and in congestion of the liver, small doses of matricaria are very efficient when the bowels are costive, the urine voided with difficulty, the child fretful and peevish, and the right hypochondrium tender. If fever is present, aconite may be associated with it. It corrects the skin eruptions and rashes due to these disorders. Alone, or associated with phytolacca, it relieves soreness and swelling of the breasts in infants, and is useful in suppression of the lacteal secretion. It is a remedy for flatulent colic with distension.
Either small or large doses of matricaria (specific or infusion) are of value in amenorrhoea, with sense of weight and heaviness in the womb, and bloating of the abdomen, accompanied with sudden nervous explosions of irascibility. The infusion, given to the extent of producing free diaphoresis, relieves dysmenorrhoea, with labor-like pains, and tends to prevent the formation of clots. Various painful conditions, due to contracting colds, are relieved by matricaria infusion associated with aconite. Among these may be mentioned earache, rheumatism, catarrhal affections of the bowels, ears, nose, and eyes. Locally, it has been used as a wash for leucorrhoea, mammary abscess, ulcerating bubo, and catarrhal conjunctivitis.
For topical application and internal administration, an infusion (℥ss to water Oj) may be used. For its gross action, it may be given freely, but for specific purposes, teaspoonful doses of an infusion of half the above strength will give the best results. Specific matricaria is given in doses of a fraction of a drop to 30 drops.
Specific Indications and Uses.—Nervous irritability, with peevishness, fretfulness, discontent, and impatience; sudden fits of temper during the catamenial period; muscular twitching; morbid sensitiveness to pain; head sweats easily; alvine discharges, fetid, greenish and watery, and of green mucus with curds of milk, or of yellow and white flocculi, associated with flatulence, colic, and excoriation of the anal outlet; a remedy particularly fitted for the disorders of dentition, and to correct the condition threatening to end in dentition convulsions.
Related Species.—Anthemis arvensis, Linné. America and Europe. The flowers of this species have no odor, but have a bitter, acrid taste. They are possessed of medicinal qualities similar to anthemis and matricaria, but are regarded less valuable. Pattone (1859) found the flowers to contain bitter and crystallizable anthemic acid, and a crystallizable alkaloid, anthemine. Flückiger (Pharmacognosie, 3d ed., 1891, p. 832) doubts the correctness of these statements.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.