Chamomile is one of the oldest medicinal herbs known to man. While many daisy-like plants are sometimes called by this name, two varieties are commonly associated with the word chamomile. German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), or scented mayweed, is an aromatic flowering herb that’s native to eastern and southern Europe, while Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), its shorter but equally fragrant cousin, is native to western Europe.
Both species have a long history of use in folk and traditional medicine as remedies for various ailments. For instance, German chamomile was once used by ancient healers to treat flatulence, colic, hysteria and intermittent fever. Roman chamomile was a popular remedy for headaches, colds, flu and stomach disorders. To this day, both species are used to make soothing herbal teas or tisanes.
, another advantage these herbs have over conventional medications is their non-addictive quality. Thanks to their mild sedative effects, both Roman chamomile and German chamomile (in the form of infusions) are often used to relieve anxiety. Compared to popular anti-anxiety medications like Xanax and Valium, chamomile tea is not highly addictive and doesn’t cause any undesirable side effects.
Researchers have also found that drinking chamomile tea provides plenty of other benefits. Here are some of them.
5 Science-backed benefits of chamomile tea
Today, many natural health products contain either Roman chamomile or German chamomile. Chamomile tea is made using the dried flowers of these two chamomile varieties. Supplements (capsules) containing extracts from these two herbs are popular natural sleep aids. Chamomile oil, which comes from their flowers, is used for aromatherapy or as topical remedies for skin and digestive problems, sleep problems, painful conditions and mental disorders like anxiety and depression.
Although Roman chamomile and German chamomile offer similar benefits, their appearance and chemical composition vary slightly. German chamomile, for instance, contains higher amounts of the active compound, chamazulene, which is the most extensively studied chamomile component. Chamazulene is responsible for German chamomile’s characteristic blue color and is said to have anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory properties. Because of this, the majority of studies on chamomile’s benefits involve German chamomile instead of Roman chamomile.
Here are some of the notable findings on German chamomile’s benefits:
It helps reduce inflammation
Inflammation is a natural part of your body’s immune response. But when it persists for months or even years, it can damage your tissues and organs and increase your risk of many serious diseases. Chronic inflammation can be caused by an untreated infection or injury, or an autoimmune disorder.
If you are diagnosed with chronic inflammation, drinking chamomile tea will help you considerably. Research has found that chamomile contains plenty of anti-inflammatory compounds that can help switch off pro-inflammatory mechanisms inside your body. Some of the most well-studied anti-inflammatory agents present in chamomile are chamazulene, apigenin and luteolin.
It helps treat or prevent cancer
Drinking chamomile tea can also help you avoid cancer. In fact, several studies recommend drinking this soothing herbal tea for cancer patients. According to one such study, the apigenin in chamomile is an effective anti-cancer agent. Apigenin has been found to stop the growth and spread of various human cancers by triggering apoptosis and autophagy, disrupting the cell cycle and stimulating an immune response.
A report by researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio also noted that, despite its toxic effects on cancer cells, apigenin from chamomile doesn’t cause harm to healthy cells. This makes chamomile a safe and promising alternative to chemotherapy drugs.
It helps lower blood sugar levels
According to a study by British and Japanese researchers, chamomile can help protect against high blood sugar and diabetic complications thanks to the action of two compounds, namely, esculetin and quercetin. Esculetin can stop your blood sugar levels from rising by suppressing an enzyme called sucrase, which is responsible for breaking down sucrose from food into glucose and fructose.
Meanwhile, quercetin in chamomile has been shown to interfere with glucose absorption in the intestine, stimulate insulin secretion and improve the sensitivity of cells to insulin. Together with other chamomile compounds like umbelliferone, esculetin and luteolin, quercetin also prevents the accumulation of sorbitol, a sugar alcohol found in naturally sweet foods, in red blood cells.
It helps prevent osteoporosis in older women
Osteoporosis is a disease marked by a loss of bone density. Women have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men because of the hormonal changes that occur during menopause. Most notably, women’s estrogen levels decrease sharply during this period. This drop results in accelerated bone loss because estrogen promotes the activity of cells (osteoblasts) responsible for producing bones.
But drinking chamomile tea may help prevent the drastic loss of bones caused by a dip in estrogen levels. According to a study by Greek researchers, chamomile can stimulate the differentiation and mineralization of osteoblasts even without estrogen. This suggests that drinking chamomile tea may help protect menopausal women from rapid bone loss.
It helps reduce anxiety and depression and promotes restful sleep
One of the many things chamomile tea is known for is its ability to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Research has found that apigenin gives chamomile its sedative effect by binding to certain receptors in the brain to slow down central nervous system activity. This action is what helps people feel more relaxed. A study by American researchers also found that chamomile offers benefits for anxious depressed individuals.
In addition, drinking chamomile tea has been proven to improve sleep quality. In a quasi-experimental clinical trial, Iranian researchers found that chamomile’s sedative properties helped elderly patients in nursing homes sleep better. If you’re planning to use chamomile as a sleep aid, board-certified sleep specialist Dr. Michael Breus recommends drinking chamomile tea 45 minutes before going to bed.
Chamomile is an incredibly versatile and powerful herb that promises a wide range of health benefits. Try drinking chamomile tea regularly and see the wonderful effects of this soothing beverage for yourself.