Two distinct plants are known as chamomile and are used interchangeably: German and Roman chamomile. Although distantly related botanically, they both look like miniature daisies and are traditionally thought to possess similar medicinal benefits.

Over a million cups of chamomile tea are drunk daily, testifying to its good taste, at least. Chamomile was used by early Egyptian physicians for fevers, and by ancient Greeks, Romans, and Indians for headaches and disorders of the kidneys, liver, and bladder.

The modern use of chamomile dates back to 1921, when a German firm introduced a topical form. This cream became a popular treatment for a wide variety of skin disorders, including eczema, bedsores, skin inflammation caused by radiation therapy, and contact dermatitis (eg, poison ivy).

Germany's Commission E authorizes the use of topical chamomile preparations for a variety of diseases of the skin and mouth.

Chamomile tea is also said to reduce mild tension and stress and to aid indigestion.