Did you know that it’s possible to be allergic to herbs? Some of the most likely culprits are actually a bit surprising. For example, consider chamomile! Even though chamomile is a mild and popular herbal tea, this herb causes allergic reactions for some people. Here’s what to know about chamomile allergies and some good alternative herbs.
What plant are we talking about?
Matricaria chamomilla is the most common form of chamomile, but Chamaemelum nobile is also sometimes used. They both may cause allergies (Engels & Brinckmann, 2015).
Types of chamomile allergies
Chamomile can cause allergic reactions ranging from contact dermatitis to anaphylaxis.
Personally, I experience contact dermatitis from handling chamomile so I avoid using it in my herbal supplements. After touching chamomile in the garden or using a topical product that contains chamomile, my skin turns red and I develop itchy hives. Not fun!
If you experience contact dermatitis from chamomile, it’s also wise to discontinue internal use. Herbs in the Asteraceae family can cause sensitization over time, meaning that your reactions can become more severe the more you are exposed.
What is likely to contain chamomile?
If you have or suspect a chamomile allergy, reading labels on your herbal products is essential. Chamomile is very popular and may be found in teas, extracts, essential oil blends, and topical beauty products.
Who experiences chamomile allergies?
People who are allergic to ragweed might also be allergic to chamomile. (NCCIH, 2015). Both plants are part of the same plant family, and it’s common to cross-react with plants within the same family. Other plants in the Asteraceae family include yarrow, daisies, marigolds, and chrysanthemums.
If you find yourself cutting out chamomile, you may wonder what herbs are good substitutes. Because this herb is often used as a nervine and carminative, there are plenty of options. My personal favorites are below.
If you want to substitute for chamomile’s tummy-soothing prowess, try:
- fennel seeds
Or perhaps you want a calming tea after a stressful day. In that case, consider:
Of course, many people use this plant with no problems. However, it’s important to talk about botanical safety when we talk about herbalism. Knowing which herbs may cause allergic reactions is part of being a successful home or professional herbalist.
Chamomile. Engels, G.; Brinckmann, J. (2015) HerbalGram. Iss 108. https://www.herbalgram.org/resources/herbalgram/issues/108/table-of-contents/hg108-herbpro-chamomile/
Chamomile. National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health. (2020). https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/chamomile#:~:text=Rare%20cases%20of%20anaphylaxis%20(a,chrysanthemums%2C%20marigolds%2C%20or%20daisies.