Chamomile is the common name of a group of plants that have been used since ancient times as herbal remedy. There are several different species of chamomile; however, Matricaria recutita (German chamomile) and Chamaemelum nobile (Roman chamomile) are widely grown across the world. Matricaria recutita is a hardy plant that can be found in a variety of different soils and climate. The plant has historically been used in teas for treating fevers, flu, digestive disorders, and skin ailments. Chamomile oil, also known as blue oil, is the primary extract of the flowers and flower heads of the chamomile plant.
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This oil contains several compounds that have medicinal benefits with key constituent groups being coumarins, sesquiterpenes, polyacetylenes, and flavonoids. These groups mainly consist of chamazulene, (E)-β-farnesene, α-bisabolol oxides A and α-bisabolol oxides B, α-bisabolol and terpene alcohol. The Matricaria recutita extracts are included as drugs in the pharmacopoeia of many countries across the globe and are known for their anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and spasmolytic properties.
Common process of obtaining the Matricaria recutita extract from the blossom of the plant is trough steam distillation. Under this process, hot steam is passed through a still containing the Matricaria recutita flowers. The hot steam penetrates the plant, forcing the essential oil out of the plant. It is then collected separately.
Chamomile oil yields obtained from the Matricaria recutita flowers are very low, typical yields being only 0.2–0.4% of the total weight of the flowers. The extracted oil is used for a variety of medicinal purposes, with the general use being for mental and physical relaxation. Depending upon the therapeutic use, the oil can be ingested orally or can be topically applied. Matricaria recutita oil extract is used to ease insomnia, as a mood enhancer, mild anti-depressant, and an aid to calm nervousness or anxiety problems. Apart from its mental calming properties, the oil is also useful for soothing aching joints and muscles. The Matricaria recutita oil is commonly used as an ingredient in skin lotions and creams due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. The oil is also used to ease digestive problems and soothe conjunctivitis symptoms. In addition to pharmaceutical uses, the oil is extensively employed in a number of commercial products including soaps, alcoholic beverages, detergents, perfumes, lotions, ointments, hair care products, food products, bakery products, and cosmetics.
Because of its extensive medicinal and pharmaceutical properties, Matricaria recutita oil possesses good economic value and is in high demand across the world. The plant grows well in temperate and semi-temperate regions and is native to Southern and Eastern Europe. Commercial growing of the plant has been undertaken in the mountainous regions of India and Nepal. Matricaria recutita is an important crop in Hungary, France, Yugoslavia, Germany, Russia, and Brazil. The plant can be found in other regions in North Africa, Asia, North and South America, Australia, and New Zealand. Hungary is one of the most important growers of Matricaria recutita with the majority of the flowers produced being exported to Germany. Germany is one of the largest distillers of Matricaria recutita extracts. Several countries in Eastern Europe export Matricaria recutita flowers in bulk to Germany.
Other important distillers of the essential oil are France, India, and the U.S. International demand for Matricaria recutita oil has been increasing at a fast rate in the recent years due to the increasing preference for pharmaceuticals and cosmetics obtained from natural sources. Demand for the Matricaria recutita extract is high in countries in Western Europe and Northern America. Implementation of stringent regulations regarding the use of synthetic ingredients in pharmaceuticals and rising awareness regarding the ill-effects of these ingredients are likely to encourage manufacturers to include natural ingredients in their products.
Growth in health consciousness in the burgeoning middle class in China and India is expected to boost the market for Matricaria recutita oil in the near future. One of the major challenges facing this market is to provide speedy transport of the flowers, from the growing fields to the extraction units, which may be located at a considerable distance from the fields. This is necessary because the chamazulene content of the flowers decreases during storage. This, in turn, decreases the therapeutic effectiveness of the extracted oil.
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The Matricaria recutita extract market is fragmented; a number of small players operate in the market. Key players operating in the Matricaria recutita extract market are Silvestris, Bristol Botanicals Ltd, Norfolk Essential Oils, and Mountain Rose Herbs.
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