Chamomile for the stomach

Chamomile tea is a classic
calming product for people under
stress. It is also good for the
Photo: Håkan Tunón

Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) is one of our oldest and most well-known medical plants. It has been used for healing since the time of the Ancient Greeks and it was included in the Stockholm Pharmacopoeia [1686] as well as in the Swedish pharmacopoeias from the first to the eighth edition [1775–1901]. Nowadays the chamomile flower has a place in the European pharmacopoeia.

Many different substances have been identified from chamomile over the years, but it is now thought that the effects are due to essential oils and flavonoids.

The flavonoids constitute the water-soluble, the non-volatile part of the chamomile’s active substances, whereas essential oils principally consist of substances which are hard to dissolve in water but easy to dissolve in alcohol and other organic solvents. Essential oils also have the property of accompanying the steam from a hot-water solution making the effect better from an alcohol infusion than from tea. Chamomile and its constituent substances have been the topics of many scientific studies and the medical effects are considered to be a result the various components which have both similar and partially different effects.

Among other things, chamomile has shown anti-inflammatory activity and to heal wounds. It has a mildly calming effect on mice and the substance apigenin inhibits panic and has a mildly sedative effect which also induces the relaxation of muscles. The calming effects are considered to result from a flavonoid binding to certain receptors in the brain and thus explains the relaxing effect of chamomile. Essential oils have demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects, the ability to reduce fever and act as antispasmodics, all of which are important for ailments of the stomach and intestinal tracts.

The anti-inflammatory effect is explained by the chamomile extract inhibiting the release of substances that causes inflammation. These effects are caused by essential oils and flavonoids. Chamomile tea is prepared from dried flowers and used for fortifying the stomach, the release of gases, strengthening nerves and for relieving cramp. Its main use is internal for stomach and intestinal problems as well as against menstrual discomfort, but it can also be used externally for inflammation and irritation of skin and mucous tissues.

Many different substances have been identified from chamomile over the years, but it is now thought that the effects are due to essential oils and flavonoids.

Liquorice – sweets for coughs

The liquorice plant, from the
root of which an extract is
refined that is used for
making liquorice sweets.
Photo: Håkan Tunón.

Liquorice is not just a kind of sweet – there is also a plant called liquorice, Glycyrrhiza glabra. It grows to 1-1.5 metres high and is found, for example, around the Mediterranean. The root at first tastes sweet, but is followed by a bitter after-taste. The sweet taste is due to its content of 2-12% glycyrrhizin, which is a triterpenoid saponin. The evaporated extract from the root is called liquorice and is used for confectionary and as a taste improver in drugs.

Glycyrrhizin and many other saponins work as expectorants for coughs since they reduce surface tension. Liquorice is therefore used as a product for treating coughing. Glycyrrhizin is about 50 times sweeter than sucrose – cane sugar. However, if you eat too much of it, you will experience the laxative effect of liquorice, and if you consume large quantities over long periods of time, you will get high blood pressure and heart problems. So when you eat liquorice, it’s not just your teeth you have to worry about.

Gum Arabic is a resin from an
African tree (Acacia Senegal) used
as a texture agent in the
confectionary industry.
Photo: Håkan Tunón.

Another plant substance which plays a big part in the confectionary industry is Gummi arabicum or gum Arabic which is the resin from an African tree, an acacia, Acacia Senegal. It is a carbohydrate which is used, among other things, as a thickening agent in many cough sweets.

Last modified: 2021-11-08