Ain't No Such Thing as Green Chamomile

Feb 15, 08:10 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

Several essential oil companies have been touting their "very special" and "extremely rare" green chamomile oil, which they claim is an exclusive variant of German chamomile (Matricaria recutita).

True German chamomile is sometimes called blue chamomile because of its intense indigo hue. The extraordinary colour shocked 16th century alchemists who first distilled this plant, a relative of the daisy. The colour comes from the presence of chamazulene. Although this phytochemical is not present in the actual plant, it occurs as an artifact of the distillation process, when naturally occurring matricin breaks down and reassembles as chamazulene. A properly distilled oil will always be deep blue.

Chamazulene is a sesquiterpene hydrocarbon, and sesquiterpenes are heavy molecules which are released toward the very end of a skillful and properly timed distillation. On the other hand, if the chamomile is improperly distilled, it may present with a green or greenish-blue colour. German chamomile, like most of the so called "blue oils," is subject to oxidation, which will also give the essential oil a green hue.

If you're offered a green chamomile, run, don't walk, from the supplier. Whether poorly distilled or oxidised, you're being taken for a ride.

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