Allergic Reactions

Occasional rare cases of allergic skin reactions have been reported. However, a bibliographic review of 50 reports of 'chamomile' sensitivity revealed that in only five papers was the botanical identification of the plant material correlated with Chamomilla recutita. In the majority of other instances, the effects were caused by species of the genus Anthemis, frequently also called chamomile. Experimental studies on pigs using a rigorous testing technique proved that C. recutita possesses low sensitising capacity. The suspected allergen is the sesquiterpene lactone, anthecotulide, found in Anthemis cotuia L. (stinking mayweed), which only occurs in trace amounts in the bisabolol oxide B-chemotype of genuine chamomile (Hausen et al 1984). Allergic conjunctivitis has been reported with the use of chamomile tea eyewashes, and the pollens contained in the teas have been identified as the allergens responsible. The reaction occurred after first exposure and was thought to be due to cross-reactivity to Artemesia pollen (Subiza et al 1989). Pollens are not likely to be present or active in aqueous alcohol extracts of chamomile.

German chamomile is thought to be less allergenic than Roman chamomile, but any variety of chamomile can potentially cause allergic reactions. An enema made from German chamomile (Kamillosan) given during labour to a 35-year-old woman with no history of atopy resulted in life-threatening anaphylaxis and fatal asphyxia of the newborn (Jensen-Jarolim et al 1998). Chamomile enemas are not a usual form of administration.

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