Two distinct plants are known as chamomile and are used interchangeably: German and Roman chamomile. Although botanically far apart, they both look like miniature daisies and appear to possess similar medicinal benefits.
It has been suggested chamomile’s reported effect is due to the constituents of its bright blue oil, including chamazulene, alphabisabolol, and bisaboloxides. However, the water-soluble part of chamomile may play a role too, especially in soothing stomach upset.
Chamomile is useful for digestive disturbances, especially if they occur from nervousness (irritable bowel disorder). Due to the number of chemicals contained in chamomile, this herb can be effective in inflammatory bowel disease and other gastrointestinal disorders, such as pets with excessive intestinal gas. It might help protect the stomach against irritation caused by anti-inflammatory drugs.
Concentrated alcohol extracts of chamomile are also sometimes used to treat the pain caused by various forms of arthritis. And, it is common practice in Germany for individuals with asthma or other breathing problems to inhale the steam from boiling chamomile and other herbs.
Chamomile is often recommended as an herbal dewormer for pets with worms, especially roundworms and whipworms, and is safer than other dewormers (wormwood, black walnut).
Chamomile is useful for pets with nervousness and anxiety. Chamomile is an anti-inflammatory herb that is also useful for its antimicrobial properties (for pets with skin infections) and for its ability to heal wounds.
Chamomile can be used as a cooled infusion preparation applied topically to inflamed or infected skin, and applied topically to the eye for pets with allergic conjunctivitis.
Avoid using German chamomile in pregnant animals as it may cause abortion. Usually considered a safe herb, the rare pet may be allergic to chamomile, especially those allergic to ragweed, so a small amount should be applied to the skin first to check for inflammation, hives, or other signs of sensitivity. If no reaction occurs, feed a small amount and watch for vomiting, diarrhea, or hives. If no reaction occurs, use as directed by your veterinarian.
Chamomile also contains naturally occurring coumarin compounds that can act as “blood thinners.” Excessive use of chamomile is therefore not recommended when taking prescription anticoagulants.
Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with liver or kidney disease has not been established, although there have not been any credible reports of toxicity caused by this common beverage tea. Similar precautions should probably be observed in pets.
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Shawn Messonnier, DVM
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Shawn Messonnier DVM Past Supporting Member, Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians Author, the award-winning The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats, The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs, and Breast Choices for the Best Chances: Your Breasts, Your Life, and How YOU Can Win The Battle!
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