The chamomile we see comes in two species - Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) or German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). England seems to prefer the Roman chamomile, while the rest of the world tends towards the German. The German chamomile is considered "stronger" than the Roman. (I will be concentrating on the German chamomile in this post, but it still applies for Roman chamomile, although the latter tends to less concentrated levels of each property.)
We find chamomile extract in two forms - hydrophilic in the form of the powdered extract and hydrosol, lipophilic in the form of the essential oil. (I'll be concentrating on the powdered extract and hydrosol, leaving the essential oil for a post when we get that that topic!) The liphophilic portion of chamomile oil contains coumarins, phytosterols, choline, and flavones. The hydrophilic portion contains flavonoids, phenols, and amino acids. The essential oil can cost many more times than the extract, so let's take a look at how to get the awesome power of chamomile into our products without breaking the bank!
So what's the big deal about chamomile? It's a great anti-inflammatory (an anti-phlogistic, meaning it reduces inflammation and fever), as well as being a good anti-oxidant, anti-spasmodic, and wound healer. I've seen claims it might ameliorate the look of UV damaged skin and reduce stinging and irritation. So does it? Let's find out!
One of the major components of chamomile for anti-inflammatory purposes is α-bisabolol, a sesquiterpene found mostly in the essential oil, but we do get some in the powdered extract and hydrosol (most hydrosols contain some of the essential oils...). It is a fantastic anti-irritant, at 1% is almost on par with lidocaine for reducing irritation on our skin, and it can prevent or reduce redness and stinging. It can reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL) for up to 48 hours, but it isn't in any way considered an anti-oxidant and does not influnce skin barrier repair. And the awesome part? It is substantive to skin, meaning if we include it in a rinse off product (like body wash) it sticks around after washing!
α-bisabolol can penetrate our skin to promote production in the granular tissue under the stratum corneum, which will improve skin's texture and elasticity as well as helping with UV damage.
The other major component contributing to the awesome anti-inflammatory power of chamomile is the apigenin, found in the hydrophilic part of the chamomile flower. It is well absorbed by our skin to inhibit adhesion between our skin cells, leading to exfoliation of upper and lower layers of the stratum corneum.
(For an interesting summary of studies on apigenin and inflammation, click here.) As little as 0.05% in our creations will be enough to get the awesome power of apigenin.
Chamazulene (or chamazulen) is a flavonoid that gives chamomile its yellow colour. It is extracted from the flower as a deep blue oil - it's part of the oil soluble part of the flower, but we do find some in the extract and hydrosol - and it is considered to offer great anti-inflammatory qualities.
Chamomile also contains luteolin in the water soluble portion, a glycoside that offers anti-inflammatory properties as well as anti-oxidant properties (it's a free radical scavenger).
Chamomile also contains quercetin (anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant) and kaempferol (strong anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory).
As you can see, chamomile is a very powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, and anti-oxidant extract we can include in our liquid, surfactant, or lotion-y creations at 0.5% in the cool down phase after dissolving it with a little warm water. If you want to use the essential oil, use it at suggested amounts in the cool down phase in an anhydrous or emulsified product.
Chamomile can cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to wheat and daisies, so as with any botanical extract, test it first! The essential oil should not be used with pregnant women - it can cause miscarriages - or breastfeeding women.
Join me tomorrow for fun formulating with chamomile (although that last paragraph seems a little scary, eh?)!