The name of this medicinal plant is derived from MATRIX, because of the specific action supposed by the ancients to be exerted by it on the uterus.
It was used by the ancients, by whom likewise and for similar reason the name Parthenion was given to it.
Culpeper says of it: " Venus commands this herb, and has commended it to succour her sisters; and to be a general strengthener of wombs ; and to remedy such infirmities as a careless midwife has there caused."
It is found in most parts of Europe, in cornfields, waste grounds and by road-sides.
In medicine the whole plant is used; it is gathered when in flower, and the tincture is formed by expressing the juice of the whole plant, gathered fresh, and mixing it with twenty parts of alcohol.
By allopathic physicians the Anthemis nobilis has been substituted for the Matricaria chamomilla, their properties being assumed to be identical.
It is classed among the stimulant tonics. It contains an essential oil and a bitter principle. Its action is described as both stimulant and tonic.
In substance, or in a strong infusion, it produces a sense of warmth in the stomach, and, it is said, some acceleration of the pulse. It expels flatus, improves the digestion, does not confine the bowels, and is alleged even to possess emmenagogue virtues. In large doses it occasionally produces vomiting, looseness of the bowels, pain, with fullness of the head ; and in certain idiosyncrasies it is even said to produce a sort of somnolent intoxication, with general depression and exhaustion.—Stille, i., 557.
Our knowledge of the positive properties of Chamomilla is derived from Hahnemann's proving (Materia Medica Pura, iii., 1). This has been singularly corroborated within a few years by a proving conducted by Prof. Hoppe, of Basle.
Before proceeding to an analysis of the action of Chamomilla, it may not be amiss to quote at some length from Hahnemann's introduction to the proving. It is full of practical wisdom.
This has been extensively used as a family medicine in complaints of all kinds, chiefly those that develop themselves rapidly. But physicians have held it too much in contempt, not considering it as a medicine, but only as a popular remedy; and allowing their patients to use it, in conjunction with their prescriptions, in large handfuls, for infusions, teas, etc., and for external applications, while, at the same time, they were giving internal medicines; as if it were always a safe and salutary thing, never injurious, or at least quite unimportant.
Thus we may see how far physicians have been blinded with regard to a plant belonging to a class of, powerful medicines, when it was their duty to acquaint themselves thoroughly with its properties; not only that they might themselves make a wise and proper use of it, but put a stop to the general abuse, pointing out when good effects might be expected from it, and, on the other hand, when it should be avoided.
But physicians have hitherto not fulfilled this duty ; they have rather rivaled the public in prescribing or permitting the use of this powerful remedy in all cases, without distinction, and in doses of all degrees.
Yet it requires a very little ray of sense to perceive that no medicine in the world can be proper for all diseases ; that each one has its circle of benefit strictly defined, beyond which every powerful medicine like Chamomilla must, of course, exercise injurious action in proportion to its energy ; and therefore to avoid quackery the physician ought to know previously when Chamomilla may be useful and when prejudicial; as also how to proportion the doses, that they may be neither too powerful nor too weak.
In fact no medicine, however polychrest it may be, can be useful and salutary in a tenth part of the existing diseases ; neither can this prerogative belong to Chamomilla. But, admitting what is impossible, let us suppose it can cure a tenth part of the diseases of which mankind is susceptible, is it not clear that if it is employed universally it must be injurious to the other nine-tenths ? Is it right to purchase success in one case to the injury of the other nine ? What do you mean by injurious effects ? says the common practitioner; I see none that depend on Chamomilla. Certainly, I reply, so long as you are ignorant of the effects so powerful a medicine is capable of producing in a healthy person, you cannot perceive it to be the source of the mischiefs that are caused by the manner in which you employ it. These evils you consider to belong to the disease itself, and you attribute them to the malignity of that disease, and thus you deceive yourself, while you are doing harm to your poor patients.
But cast your eye upon the mirror which I hold up to you ; read the catalogue of the symptoms produced by Chamomilla, and then, if you fall back into your daily sin, if you put no limit to your habitual use of this plant, see how many among the apparent symptoms will be attributable to those belonging to Chamomilla, and judge of the distress and pain that will be caused to the sick by the abuse of this substance in those cases in which it is not suitable, and when given in large doses.
It may be remarked that the use of Chamomilla is not so universal now as it was when Hahnemann wrote; but his observations apply with equal force to whatever drugs it may be the fashion to use in the same indiscriminate and reckless way.
1. On the VITAL FORCE, the action of Chamomilla is shown:
In the fact that it exalts the general susceptibility, causing pains to be felt very keenly, so that a pain which might be supposed to be only moderately severe is, to the patient, intolerable. The disposition is impatient, intolerant, restless and very anxious.
In the prostration of general muscular power and in the lassitude, exhaustion and disposition to syncope which Chamomilla produces; in the peculiar modification of circulation which constitutes the fever of Chamomilla. This fever presents a compound of the features above described. Though marked by excitement and increased sensibility, it is, nevertheless, not a well-developed inflammatory fever. The prostration is likewise represented. The heat is partial, confined, for example, to one cheek, and is conjoined with profuse sweat of the head. The fever does not last long, but often recurs.
In the jerkings of isolated muscles, and in spasms.
In the special perversions of functions excited in the nerves of sensation of various parts of the body, and in the digestive and the urino-genital organs.
2. On the ORGANIC SUBSTANCE, Chamomilla does not act so vigorously nor so deeply as one might suppose from the nervous excitement which it produces. It acts:
On the digestive canal, increasing and changing the secretions, and provoking accumulations of flatus.
On the female genital organs, producing leucorrhoea, increased menstruation, and uterine haemorrhage.
On the respiratory mucous membrane, increasing the secretion.
On the skin, producing a miliary eruption on the cheeks, isolated papules and pustules, and an unhealthy disposition of the skin, so that wounds do not readily heal, but become very painful.
PERIODICITY is in so far a property of Chamomilla action, that the pains recur in the evening, and are much worse at night before midnight, becoming then intolerable.
PECULIARITY. It is a peculiarity of Chamomilla that the pains are aggravated by heat: it is thus among a minority of medicines.
Hahnemann remarks that " a very small dose of Chamomilla seems to lessen very much excessive sensitiveness to pain, and the effects which pain produces on the mind. For this reason it relieves many of the morbid symptoms produced by excessive use of coffee and of narcotic substances ; and it is also less beneficial to those who remain patient and composed under their sufferings."
SENSORIUM. Vertigo, even to falling, especially after eating and when talking; or early in the morning on rising from the bed. Sometimes the vertigo is conjoined with a kind of syncope.
The intelligence is benumbed, or blunted, and distracted; not observant. In writing or talking the prover lets entire words and phrases drop.
Headache is felt even during sleep. The head is heavy. But the most frequent pains are tearing and drawing, generally anterior, and almost always semi-lateral. The same is true of all the pains, they are semi-lateral.
EYES. The pupils contract.
The margins of the lids feel dry, yet there is morning agglutination.
Pressure, heaviness and burning in the eyes. The conjunctiva is often deeply injected, without pain.
The special sense is somewhat affected. The sight is obscured,—there is a fluttering before the eyes.
EARS. The tearing, which is a characteristic symptom of Chamomilla, is felt in the ears; sometimes also single stitches, especially on stooping, or a dull pressure. The ear seems stopped, and there is a buzzing or ringing in it.
TEETH. The affection of the teeth is a very prominent and characteristic action of Chamomilla, and has been turned to great practical account. The toothache rages chiefly at night, is accompanied by swelling of the cheek, and generally comes on or is aggravated after eating and drinking, and particularly after warm drinks. The pain is paroxysmal, is a drawing or tearing pain, with stitches toward or into the ear. The toothache, like the headache, is semi-lateral.
The taste is slimy, sour or bitter.
Appetite is extinguished. Food is repulsive.
Frequently there are sour eructations; and it is noteworthy that thereby whatever pains may be present are aggravated.
After eating, a sensation of fullness, nausea, and distention of the abdomen.
Nausea frequently occurs; frequently early in the morning.
Vomiting occurs sometimes, of food and bile.
Painful pressure is felt in the stomach, epigastrium and hypochondria, which sometimes embarrasses respiration ; the pressure extends to the region of the heart. (Not only applicable in gastralgia but also in certain forms of hepatitis.)
Flatus is generated in abundance. It moves about with rumbling and griping and a pressure downward, especially toward the inguinal canal.
There are likewise intolerable pains in the abdomen, cutting, pinching or tearing; and particularly with a sensation as if the intestines were rolled up in a ball in the side of the abdomen.
The stool is diarrhoeic, semi-fluid, sometimes yellow, sometimes green and watery, sometimes only white and slimy. It occurs most frequently at night, and is' attended with cutting pains, which cause one to crouch together. It produces, likewise, blind and sometimes bleeding haemorrhoids.
Chamomilla produces a yellow, acrid leucorrhoea. It causes also a uterine haemorrhage, the blood being generally coagulated and passed with severe labor-like pains.
Before the menses there is produced a cutting colic and drawing in the iliac region, with frequent pressure to pass water.
The respiratory organs are affected chiefly in their mucous membrane.
The coryza is at first dry and obstructed ; then the discharge is scanty and moderately acrid. There is hoarseness, produced by a tenacious mucus in the larnyx and trachea, with an almost uninterrupted tickling irritation, provoking a cough.
Along with this there is a kind of dyspnoea from pressure on the thorax and pressure on the sternum.
The mammary gland is affected. Indurations and nodosities occur in it, which are painful to the touch, and have, besides, a tearing and burning pain.
In the symptoms of the trunk we find again the tearing and drawing pains of Chamomilla, worse at night.
From the lumbo-sacral region such pains extend into the thighs, like a kind of labor-pains (hence its use for after-pains).
Similar pains in the extremities, drawing and tearing, most violent at night, and seeming to have their seat in the ligaments and periosteum. They often extend from shoulder to finger, or from elbow to hand (and similarly in the lower extremity), and are conjoined with a paralyzed or numb sensation. The arms often go to sleep; there is a great disposition to cramps in the calves and in the toes.
The hands and feet become cold and stiff; and also at night the feet lose power, so that when attempting to stand the limbs give way.
SLEEP. During the day there is great sleepiness with yawning, but at night sleeplessness with anxiety, inability to remain in bed, with prattling delirium.
Starting in sleep, weeping and complaints. Pain seems to be felt during the sleep.
FEVER. The fever is partial in all its stages. The heat predominates. The chill is not always marked by external (objective) coldness ; is attended by nausea, restlessness and tossing; often by burning heat of the head, or generally with internal dry heat. The heat is attended by thirst and dry tongue.
Sweat is partial, chiefly at night, generally on the upper part of the body.
The disposition is anxious, restless, impatient, intolerant of pain. There is easy starting, as if affrighted ; easy vexing ; irritability ; disposition to anger; great sensibility to smells ; and intolerance of music.
The symptoms of Chamomilla, while their profound action on the nervous system and the excitement they show to be produced in the circulation, would lead us to expect benefit from Chamomilla in febrile affections, yet, nevertheless, show so little action upon the organic substance as to preclude the idea of relying on Chamomilla in parenchymatous inflammations, or in any purely and strictly inflammatory affection.
The fever is eminently one of irritation, and an attentive comparison of its phenomena with those which we observe at the bedside, will show its similarity to fevers arising from a more or less permanent physical source of irritation, such as is supplied by dentition, or by the irritation of indigestible foreign bodies in the intestines.
The fever is partial; the nervous system is highly excited, and yet the sensorium is not perverted ; pains are unreasonably intolerable ; the patient cannot long retain one position; heat aggravates the entire condition, and yet, withal, the muscular strength is prostrated ; twitching and jerkings of isolated muscles occur, and finally general clonic spasms come on. This action of Chamomilla has led to its extensive and successful use in the diseases of dentition in infants. The diarrhoea which it produces is similar to that which so frequently accompanies dentition.
But dentition does not always so affect children that Chamomilla is indicated.
If the child be restless, irritable, wanting always to be carried about in the nurse's arms (muscular weakness), never content in one place, nor with anything that is done or said, one cheek red and hot, the other pale, with sweating head, hot mouthy tickling cough, green or yellow diarrhoea, with colic; with these, or most of these symptoms, but especially the disposition above mentioned, then indeed Chamomilla is indicated. But, if the disposition be mild and sluggish, the child disposed to be quiet,, the bowels flatulent, to be sure, but costive, with frequent tenesmus, no matter if Chamomilla be recommended in forty books for dentition, give that child Nux vomica and cure it!
On the other hand, the fever may be really inflammatory, the pulse hard and full, and the sensorium excited with wild delirium, or dull and oppressed. In such cases we may expect to find, on searching, that organic disease of some vital organ has set in, which must be sought and treated.
Chamomilla shows its adaptation to catarrhal affections of the eyes, ears, gastro-intestinal and urino-genital mucous membranes, and to similar affections of the respiratory mucous membrane. The secretions are moderately increased and are somewhat acrid.
For semi-lateral headaches, especially when they accompany otalgia, odontalgia or metrorrhagia, and when the disposition corresponds, Chamomilla is useful.
There must always be intolerance of pain, aggravation at night, and aggravation by warmth. This applies to the toothache, earache, facial and cervical neuralgia, and to the abdominal colic, and distinguishes it from the symptoms of Colocynth, which are diminished by warmth.
Chamomilla has been useful in bilious vomitings and in sub-acute hepatitis.
In mucous diarrhoeas, frequent in summer, with abundant griping, yellow or yellow-green mucous stools, often produced by check of perspiration or crude food, it is a most valuable remedy. There is no great flatulence as in Colocynth, nor tenesmus.
Its action in controlling metrorrhagia is attested by both allopathists and homeopathicians.
The discharge is paroxysmal, the blood dark and coagulated.
In nasal and laryngeal catarrh its indications have already been pointed out.
As a remedy for after-pains Chamomilla enjoys considerable repute; likewise for certain forms of dysmenorrhoea, where pain precedes the period, which nevertheless is abundant when it does occur (which distinguishes it from Sepia).
Indurations in the mammary gland, with tearing, drawing pains, are often relieved by Chamomilla when other symptoms correspond.
In some forms of rheumatism it has done good, the pains being drawing and tearing, worse at night and from warmth, and felt in the ligaments and in the periosteum.