BLUE CHAMOMILE OIL and herb uses
the blue oils are many essential oils from two botanical groups that when distilled produce a blue-colored oil. They are all anti-inflammatory and very helpful to skin health.
Three things to learn about blue-colored oils
1. the blue oils are blue in color
2. there is no blue in the plant itself
3. if the color of the EO is turning — brown to yellow it is oxidized, don’t use it.
NAMING ~ The plant we are discussing is Matricaria chamomilla, the German or Sweet Chamomile, an annual plant, from words meaning a low-growing plant (chamo) and mother or uterus (matri) named for the uses that this plant had for women.
FAMILY ~ Asteraceae. The Asteraceae family includes the Chamaemelum, Matricaria, Artemisia, Tanacetum, and Achillea.
COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN: Native to Europe, and West Asia, and naturalized worldwide.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT, HABITAT & GROWTH ~ Even experts are confused by the variety of looks that each of the various species of the blue-oil group attains and the physical descriptions have been described in greater detail in more scholarly texts and also more simply in an article I wrote for the Aromatic Plant Project in 1994. See especially the references at the end of the articles numbers 8, 9, 10, and 11.
A plant grown near water will often be more luxuriant than the same exact plant grown without water. Be aware of the terroir in which a plant does best and if growing it on your own try to imitate the best environment. Rich soil and abundant water may not be what makes a plant grow to its best.
“Matricaria chamomilla, Sweet Chamomile, Sweet Chamomile. Sweet-scented, much-branched, glabrous annual, to 2 ½ feet; leaves to 2-3/8-inch-long, 2-pinnatifid into linear segments; heads 1 inch across, receptacle conical; disc flowers yellow, 5-lobed, ray flowers 10-20, white, reflexed, achenes 5-ribbed. Europe to West Asia; naturalized in North America.”11
PORTION OF PLANT USED IN DISTILLATION, HOW DISTILLED, EXTRACTION METHODS ~ In the plants that produce blue-colored oil, the flowers are the best part to distill whether by steam or hydro-distillation. They should be picked early in the day for the most abundant matricin and distilled immediately. As an example, for the best German Chamomile EO or hydrosol, only the top flowering parts are harvested. Chamazulene itself does not occur in the plant but is formed from a sesquiterpene lactone called matricin during the steam distillation process. Don’t expect to make herbal remedies with plants that produce blue oils to have a blue product. These plants should be carefully steam-distilled mainly from the flower, the hydrosol immediately frozen (to preserve the blue color) and the essential oil collected and stored in the freezer to preserve it from oxidation.
“The Magic of Distillation is being able to observe and watch something colorless change into something gorgeously blue. There is pure magic to distillation with the plants that contain matricin – that magical alchemical moment when you are distilling that the matricin dies and becomes something new. It changes within the blink of an eye from the plant’s colorless clear essential oil liquid and turns the perfect blue of the azulene. A different blue for each of the plants. Best observed via a glass receiver or Florentine style filtering flask.”
Chamomile CO2 is a product that we should mention. It is a thick, CO2 extracted, solid, unctuous matter from Chamomile flowers (M. chamomilla [recutita]) that contains all the natural herbal parts of the flower plus the essential oil. It smells just like the fresh flowers and could play an important part in your cosmetics and body-care products, whether they are homemade or for the professional market. I have made a hand lotion with this, using enough of the Chamomile CO2 to scent the lotion with a delicious apple scent, and then added the essential oil to color it a pale blue. Altogether a very aesthetically pleasing and beautiful product.
SUSTAINABILITY ~ It is important that you examine each of the plants you use for their ability to reproduce before you choose to harvest or wildcraft them. Many plants are in dire straits because of human incursion into their environment. Best to learn to grow what you want to harvest.
In my 30 years with the plants that produce a blue oil, I have seen a half dozen farmers learn to grow several of the blue-oiled plants and then pull them from the soil because it took so long for consumers to learn and know them. You cannot expect farmers to grow plants that cannot be sold due to consumer ignorance.
STORAGE ~ All the blue-colored oils are likely to oxidize in time due to the azulenes and they should be stored in the freezer. With the blue oils, you must be very careful and conscious of their color. If it is oxidizing, it will go from a beautiful blue to a green, greenish-black, and eventually to brown. If brown put it down and do not use it for therapy or medicinal use. The scent will also change and become what can only be described as ‘nasty’ — the scent impossible to wash off your hands. This is why you must always check the organoleptic qualities of your essential oils – there is much to be learned by their color, clarity, viscosity, and intensity.
ODOR DESCRIPTION ~ •Blue Chamomile, Matricaria chamomilla, has a deep blue color and an aroma of fruit and toasted nuts.
•Roman Chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile, is pale blue to colorless and fruity, herbaceous and oily-aldehydic.
The left side nostril smells the scent; right side nostril smells the intensity. So, smell on the left side, then smell on the right and then waft back and forth under the nose to get the entire scent experience.
IF ANY OF THESE ODORS are tending to an unpleasant fungal side, they are oxidizing. Remember, that you can know them by their scent. If the scent is changing, also check the color and if moving from a blue to dirty blue or brown, the oil is probably oxidizing and unusable. Remember to store these oils in the freezer.
TASTE THE OILS. Taste does not mean eating, it only means when you put a sample on a scent strip, that after checking the fragrance you can give a lick to the strip to get the taste of the oil. Steam-distilled oils or CO2 extracts can be tasted this way. You must use all your senses to know your oils.
SOLUBILITY ~ German Chamomile is soluble in 90-95% alcohol. It helps to always have on hand organic high-proof alcohol in which to dissolve your oils or to use in perfumery. See https://organicalcohol.com/
CHEMISTRY OF BLUE CHAMOMILE ~ Matricaria chamomilla The main compounds identified were α-bisabolol (56.86%), trans-trans-farnesol (15.64%), cis-β-farnesene (7.12%), guaiazulene (4.24%), α-cubebene (2.69%), α-bisabolol oxide A (2.19%) and chamazulene (2.18%) and in another study In Matricaria recutita major compounds were chamazulene (31.2 %), 1,8-cineole (15.2 %) β-pinene (10.11 %), α-pinene (8.14 %), α-bisabolol (7.45 %) and terpinen-4-ol (4.11 %)
GENERAL PROPERTIES OF BLUE Chamomile
The main property of any of the blue oils is as an anti-inflammatory, to control inflammation, usually of the skin, and on some occasions, when taken internally, to control inner inflammation. The blue oils are anti-inflammatory, generally because of the azulene content, although there are other factors such as bisabolol that is also inflammatory.
They can be used by AP=application, IG=ingestion or IN=inhalation.
Inhalation ~ The blue oils have many uses in blends and are used via inhalation or in the blends used in inhalers. They can be relaxing and calming.
PHYSICAL USES & HOW USED (IG OR AP)
APPLICATION ~ The blue Chamomile oil with its component of azulene is anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antibacterial and considered an exceptional plant and oil in skincare. Using a combination of coconut oil and German Chamomile herb extract or maceration will result in a powerful anti-inflammatory oil that spreads easily across the skin, with no friction, delivering the active constituents to the area where their anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory components can go to work to heal. The results are comparable to any western, medicated, product.
• Blue Chamomile EO from Matricaria chamomilla is mentioned in P. Davis’s book, “use of German Blue Chamomile can be especially helpful where skin conditions may be aggravated by stress, and indeed where stress may be the underlying cause.” The two key constituents, (-)-alpha-bisabolol and chamazulene both of which are anti-inflammatory, account for 50-65 percent of total volatile oil content.
• Blue Chamomile CO2 from Matricaria chamomilla CO2is a dark greenish-brown, an opaque, thick, and viscous product of carbon dioxide extraction. It retains more of the natural floral odor of the flower and is a strong anti-inflammatory when added to any skincare product. Use it by taking a bit and working it well into some of your skin cream or lotion and then add more lotion until all is incorporated. In commercial products when Chamomile CO2 is used it is normally around 0.2±% of the total.
CO2 extracts are closer in composition to the oil as it occurs in the plant and has better solubility in the product. A wonderful fruity-scented healing addition to any skincare application.
EMOTIONAL/RITUAL USE ~ Many sources list a litany of magical and spiritual traditions for the Blue Chamomile as well as Roman Chamomile. These sources list its use in spells for peace, love, tranquility, and purification. In ritual, they are used to instill stillness, become spiritually aware, give inner peace, and to become emotionally stable. These are all attributes we can use.
BLENDING ~ The Chamomiles can be blended with just about any herb or citrus or wood or resin. It works well with flowers, barks, and spices. •Blue Chamomile is used in very small amounts to give a soft blue note to blends and perfumes and warmth and softness.
SKIN FORMULA FOR ROSACEA
Rosacea is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that principally affects the face. Rosacea causes facial redness and produces small, red, pus-filled pustules (bumps). Rosacea worsens with time if left untreated.
Skin Care Creme
20 drops Calophyllum inophyllum aka Tamanu or Foraha – cold-pressed oil
10 drops Helichrysum angustifolium aka Everlasting or Immortelle
2 drops Blue Chamomile CO2 or West Coast Blue Artemis
.5 oz aloe vera gel
1 small scoop oat beta glucan
up to 1 oz Calendula-infused oil
Mix the essential oils to create a synergy, then add the carriers and shake vigorously again. Apply 3 times a day until treatment takes hold, then two times per day until your skin gets sensitive, then 1 time per day, and then weekly. This treatment plus dietary changes, pure water, and clean and simple soap (handcrafted, there are many choices), will reduce your Rosacea by 60%.
HERBAL USES OF THE ANNUAL CHAMOMILE ~ German chamomile is by far the most popular and widely used variety of chamomile the world over. The herb tea is anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, calmative, carminative, digestive, mild bitter, nervine, and sedative. The herb tea is used in shampoo, and for the skin, internally for diarrhea, and colic, and simply to soothe the digestive tract.
THE NASTY TOMATO TALE OF OXIDIZED BLUE CHAMOMILE
I enjoy telling my stories because it helps people, students, and teachers alike, to understand what sometimes happens when you use essential oils and what is being sold in the retail market.
A few years ago, I was in Hopland, CA at a store that sold equipment to save energy in the household. They had a small counter of ‘organic’ skincare and some essential oils. And one of the essential oils was Blue Chamomile in 15 ml-size brown glass bottles and it was listed at a truly small and ridiculous price for the amount of oil. This piqued my interest, and I asked the saleslady if I could smell this oil and look at the color. The smell was truly awful – like rotten vegetation and spoiled cabbage. The color was even worse a ripening brown that looked like runny feces and together with the scent, one wondered what was in that bottle. A bit had gotten on my fingers, and I was so repulsed at its sticky scent that I ran to their bathroom to wash my hands, but no amount of soap was going to remove that putrid odor. At that moment, I might have chosen to remove the finger to get rid of the scent.
I informed the salesperson that they were selling a truly awful, out-of-date, old, and rancid, oxidized blue Chamomile. They left it on the shelf. When I got home, I wrote the store manager as well. Their response? “well, the consumer is getting a good price”. Then I found and called the distributor in Florida, and they were very dismissive, saying that they had gotten a really good deal on this oil and were doing the consumer a favor by making it available.
Truly, those who are reading this — This is NOT a favor to you to save money but to purchase something rotten and loathsome. Would you be pleased to buy an old rotten zucchini if it were a price reduction? My point is that you should get to know what you want, what it should look like including color, what it should smell like and make sure you do not waste your money on a bad product.
This is one of the downsides of brown glass bottles. You cannot see what you are purchasing. Color is important – if it is a blue essential oil, it should be a blue color if it is a CO2 extraction it will be greenish-brown . Remember that!
Sponsored and supported by Prima Fleur Botanicals.
QUESTIONS THAT WERE ASKED ~ These are the simple answers to certain questions that were asked and answered above in longer terms.
- Are all blue oils anti-inflammatory? YES because of the content of azulene and bisabolol.
- Do blue oils oxidize faster than other oils? YES, they seem to – remember to keep them in the freezer.
- If I am making a blend with blue oils, how should I preserve them? MAKE SMALL AMOUNTS, USE THEM UP, AND THEN MAKE THEM AGAIN.
- How long before they turn green or brown? DEPENDS ON HOW THEY ARE CARED FOR IN THE BEGINNING
- Are they still good once they turn green? NO, this means they are oxidizing.
- Why are some distillations a darker blue than other distillations of the same oil? DEPENDS ON THE ATTENTION OF THE DISTILLER AND HOW CAREFUL THEY ARE WITH THE HARVEST; WHAT PART OF THE PLANT IS HARVESTED AND THE DISTILLING PROCESS. It also depends upon the weight of flowers to green tops.
Distiller = the person doing the distillation; Still = the object used to distill
- Can there be allergic or skin reactions to chamazulene? THERE HAVE BEEN SOME REPORTS OF ALLERGIC RESPONSES TO AZULENE AND TO PLANTS CONTAINING MATRICIN
- Are blue oils good for compromised skin conditions? DEPENDS ON THE BLUE OIL, SOME HAVE BEEN USED FOR SKIN CANCER such as Artemisia arborescens from Morocco because of the thujone content and A. arborescens from Oregon which has no thujone, it has camphor).
- Are they safe to use on children? Roman Chamomile can be used, VERY DILUTED IN SMALL AMOUNTS, plant tea recommends being used first.
ESSAY ON BLUE OILS AND AZULENE
INTRODUCTION ~ Many of the blue oils with their vivid blue-colored azulene have similar uses as an anti-inflammatory because of their azulene content. There are cases where it is important to know EXACTLY which oil from which plant you have or need. As with anything, the best way to clarify confusion is to research and experiment using valid informative texts. Do not purchase these expensive blue oils until you truly know which one you want.
Remember for each terroir that each year of growth, each harvest and each separate distillation will result in oil with slightly different amounts of chemical components and possibly slightly different colors. The terroir or environment and individual ecology of a plant are important in the resultant essential oil. A year or two of great drought may result in a lower yield of essential oil but with improved or “stronger” components. A GC/MS is good but is only one aspect of ‘knowing’ an essential oil. The fragrance of any particular essential oil varies slightly from year to year and is totally dependent on the vagaries of “Mother Nature”7 and even the skill of the distiller. Always know what part of the plant is being harvested for the oil.
WHY DO WE CALL THEM THE ‘BLUE OILS ~ We call them ‘blue oils’ because they are blue in color? Yes, essential oils have color. These colors include a pale sky blue such as in Roman Chamomile (although it seems to quickly lose that color), ) or the royal, blue-colored oil such as Blue Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and sapphire-Blue Cypress (Callitris intratropica). Some of these plants are related and some are not.
COLOR & CHEMISTRY OF THE BLUE OILS ~ By examining these oils one can see which were the old and improperly stored oils and even last year’s distillation by their color. Sometimes it is a disadvantage for the essential oils to be sold in brown bottles because the consumer cannot judge the age and quality of the oil by the color or examine them carefully for color and scent before purchase.
The consumer must take some responsibility and learn the Latin binomial and make sure essential oils are labeled completely before they buy them. These blue-colored oils will show age and oxidation with a change in color from blue to greenish-black or to green or from pale yellow to yellow-brown. If blackish or brown – put it down.
The blue Chamazulene itself does not occur in the plant but forms during the distillation process from a sesquiterpene lactone called matricin. Usually, the flowers of these plants are yellow sometimes white. The molecule called azulene is a dark blue color. It is composed of two terpenoids; this molecule is also found in some of the pigments of mushrooms, plants like guaiac wood oil, and also in marine invertebrates, and corals.
The azulene itself, although usually a shade of blue, can also be green, violet, blue/violet, and red/violet. It is a brilliant rainbow of color due to its chemical structure. 12
Azulene has a long history, dating back to the 15th century as the azure-blue chromophore obtained by steam distillation of German Chamomile. The chromophore was discovered in Yarrow and Wormwood and named in 1863 by Septimus Piesse.
THE BENEFITS OF AZULENE IN CHAMOMILE ESSENTIAL OIL. The use of chamomile is increasing as the knowledge of azulene (chamazulene) grows. Azulene occurs in significant amounts in Matricaria chamomilla, (Matricaria recutita) and the use of this herb has surpassed even its cousin Roman Chamomile as the essential oil to use for skincare. Azulene and bisabolol are both in the GCMS of the deep blue essential oil. Both are powerfully anti-inflammatory. ”In one study on albino rats, German Chamomile was found to heal wound burning significantly compared to topical olive oil. Bisabolol itself has been studied and shown to be non-toxic and non-sensitizing, even when taken internally in large doses. The bisabolol offers rosacea sufferers an opportunity to alleviate itching and irritation, but azulene also goes a long way towards reducing rosacea’s redness by soothing inflamed capillaries.”
Arctander, Steffen. . Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin. (Elizabeth, NJ: Steffen Arctander, 1960.)
Harman, Ann. Harvest to Hydrosol
Mabberley, D.J., Mabberley’s Plant Book, 2008 Third Edition with 2014 updates, Cambridge University Press
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.
Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations.
Rose, Jeanne. Hydrosols & Aromatic Waters. http://www.jeannerose.net/books.html
Worwood, Susan & Valerie Ann. Aromatherapy.
NOTES TO TEXT & BIBLIOGRAPHY of all the Blue Oils
1. Parsons, Pamela. “Chamomile”. The Aromatic “Thymes“. (Spring 1994) 2:2.
2. Arctander, Steffen. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin. (Elizabeth, NJ: Steffen Arctander, 1960.)
3. Franchomme, P. and Penoel, Docteur D. L’Aromatherapie Exactement. (Limoges, France: Roger Jollois Editeur, 1990.)
4. Guenther, Ernest, Ph.D. The Essential Oils. (Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company 1976.) (original edition 1952.) (in VI volumes)
5. Parry, Ernest J. Parry’s Cyclopedia of Perfumery. Philadelphia, PA: P. Blakisont’s Son & Co., 1925.) (in II volumes)
6. Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations. (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 3rd edition, 1994.) Available from http://www.JeanneRose.net/books.html
7. Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. (San Francisco, CA: Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy, 3rd edition, 1994.) Available from http://www.JeanneRose.net/books.html
8. Tutin, Heywood, Burges, Moore, Valentine, Walters and Webb, Editors. Flora Europaea, Vol. 4. (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1976.)
9. Mabberley, D.J. The Plant Book. (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, corrected reprint, 1989.)
10. Lewis, Walter H. “Notes on Economic Plants.” Economic Botany. 46(4) pp. 426-430. (1992.)
11. Bailey, L.H., staff of. Hortus Third. (Cornell, New York: Hortorium, Cornell University, 1977.)
13. The Blue Oils. By Jeanne Rose. Published in “The Aromatic Plant Project” from archives •1994
15 Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris, Artemisia douglasiana, Artemisia argyi) in the Treatment of Menopause, Premenstrual Syndrome, Dysmenorrhea and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder by James David Adams, Cecilia Garcia, Garima Garg University of Southern California, School of Pharmacy, Los Angeles, USA, 2012
16. Yield and chemical composition of the essential oil of Moroccan chamomile [Cladanthus mixtus (L.) Chevall.] growing wild at different sites in Morocco. A Elouaddari, A El Amrani, JJ Eddine… – Flavour and …, 2013 – Wiley Online Library