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9 Proven Health Benefits of Chamomile

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:
Evguenia Alechine
Jonathan Ritter
Medically reviewed by
Evguenia Alechine, PhD (Biochemistry), Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology) | Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Last updated:

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Chamomile

For hundreds of years, chamomile has been used to treat many conditions such as inflammation, anxiety, sleep disorders, and skin problems. Many different preparations of chamomile have been developed, but the most popular form is the herbal tea. In fact, more than one million cups of chamomile tea are consumed per day around the world. Read on to discover the scientifically-proven health benefits of chamomile.

What is Chamomile?

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is a well-known medicinal plant. The two common varieties are German and Roman chamomile [1].

This extraordinary herb is commonly used to treat many ailments such as hay fever, insomnia, and inflammation. Because of its medicinal value, chamomile is often referred to as the star among medicinal species [2].

Active Compounds

Chamomile possesses many healing properties because it contains different compounds such as terpenoids and flavonoids, natural compounds with pharmacological effects [1, 3]:

Terpenoids

  • α-bisabolol: an aromatic oil with anti-cancer properties and low toxicity for human cells [4].
  • Bisabolol oxide A & B: compounds present in chamomile oil with pain relieving properties [5].
  • Chamazulene: an aromatic compound with anti-inflammatory and antioxidative effects [6].
  • Farnesene: a hydrocarbon that reduces oxidative stress [7].

Flavonoids

  • Apigenin: an effective anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory compound.
  • Quercetin: a plant pigment that combats aging and oxidative stress [8].
  • Patuletin: a compound that relieves muscle spasms [3].

Health Benefits of Chamomile

1) Reduces Inflammation

Inflammation occurs due to the buildup of cyclooxygenase (COX) and nitric oxide (NO) [9, 10, 11, 12].

A study in rats concluded that chamomile contains three terpenoids (α-bisabolol, bisabolol oxide A, and guaiazulene) that reduce inflammation by inhibiting COX [13].

NO is produced by white blood cells in response to a threat or disease, and in high amounts can be toxic and leads to inflammation. Studies show that chamomile is an effective anti-inflammatory agent by decreasing NO production [14].

Alleviates Heartburn

A study on 149 patients showed that chamomile, in combination with other herbs, effectively reduced heartburn in patients with several digestive disorders [15].

However, because the treatment was a combination that included other herbs, the effectiveness of chamomile alone was not measured [15].

Treats Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel diseases are chronic disorders characterized by disruption and ulceration of the digestive tract. Herbal extracts are an effective and natural treatment for inflammatory bowel disease symptoms.

A study on rat colon samples revealed that chamomile extract is able to decrease inflammation by reducing serotonin levels and inflammatory molecules (MPO, IL-6, NF-kB, TNFα, PGE2, and 8-iso-PGF2α) [16].

Relieves Mucositis

Mucositis is the painful inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membranes lining the gut. A study involving 98 patients concluded that a mouth rinse of chamomile reduced symptoms of mucositis and prevented the occurrence of severe mucositis in patients [17].

Reduces Eczema

Eczema, medically known as atopic dermatitis, is an itchy inflammation of the skin.

A study on rats concluded that German chamomile oil alleviates skin inflammation after application to the skin for 4 weeks [18].

2) Promotes Skin Healing

Several animal studies have shown that chamomile extract promotes wound healing [19, 20, 21].

Chamomile extract increased the rate of wound contraction and skin-cell formation in rats by increasing hydroxyproline (a peptide found in the skin that is responsible for healing) [21].

A study involving 72 patients suggested that chamomile-treated wounds or cuts caused by surgery heal faster compared to those treated with hydrocortisone cream [22].

3) Improves Sleep Quality

A study on 80 postnatal women with poor sleep quality showed that drinking chamomile tea significantly improved in sleep quality after 2 weeks [23].

Another study involving 80 elderly people over 60 yielded similar results. After 4 weeks of oral consumption of chamomile extract, the participants improved their sleep quality [24].

4) Reduces Anxiety And Depression

Chamomile can be used as a treatment for patients with generalized anxiety disorder by reducing depression, restlessness, and constant worrying.

Several studies concluded that long-term chamomile consumption reduces generalized anxiety disorder symptoms without significant side effects [25, 26].

Furthermore, a study has revealed that aromatherapy with Roman chamomile oil over a 2-week period reduced depressive-like behaviors in rats [27].

5) May Slow Down Cancer

Antioxidant compounds in chamomile have anti-cancer effects. Chamomile extract prevents and slows the progression of human breast cancer in a time and dose-dependent manner in a cell-based model [28].

Roman chamomile suppresses the growth of breast cancer cells by killing cancer cells [29].

Several studies have shown that apigenin, a compound in chamomile, inhibits growth in gut cancer cells [30, 31, 32].

One major benefit of chamomile is that it minimally harms normal cells. Studies have shown that chamomile has low toxic effects as well as minimal growth inhibition in normal cells [28, 29].

6) Helps Reduce Diabetes Complications

A study on rats showed that chamomile extract decreases blood sugar by reducing glucose absorption in the intestine [33].

Due to excess blood sugar, individuals who suffer from diabetes have delayed wound healing and susceptibility to infections [34, 35].

A study on diabetic rats concluded that chamomile extract can improve the healing of oral ulcers by slowing down the rate of cell death (apoptosis) in the lining of vessels [36].

In a study involving 64 diabetic patients, chamomile tea showed beneficial effects on blood sugar control and antioxidant status in patients with type 2 diabetes [37].

7) Alleviates Pain

Stomach (perineal) pain is the most common complaint of mothers after surgical cuts to aid childbirth delivery. A triple-blind study of 114 women showed that chamomile cream can reduce this pain in women who have given birth for the first time [38].

According to a study involving patients with knee osteoarthritis, chamomile oil significantly reduced patients need for pain relievers [39].

8) Relieves Xerostomia Symptoms

Xerostomia, also known as dry mouth syndrome, is caused by a decrease in the amount of saliva.

In a study of 74 participants with xerostomia, a chamomile saliva substitute was effective in relieving symptoms in older participants. Participants who took chamomile experienced relief in the mouth and had better ease in swallowing food [40].

9) Reduces Parasites In The Gut

A cell-based study showed that chamomile extracts exhibit anti-parasitic activity against Haemonchus contortus. Chamomile inhibited egg hatching and led to worm paralysis and/or death even at low concentrations [41].

Anisakiasis is a parasitic disease caused by the presence of worms from the Anisakis genus in the gut. This disease is usually contracted through the consumption of raw or undercooked fish. Symptoms of anisakiasis include vomiting, nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea.

An animal study concluded that chamomile essential oil can treat anisakiasis by producing damage to the parasite’s muscular and digestive systems, and ultimately killing, the worms [42].

How to Obtain the Benefits of Chamomile

One of the most famous ways to use chamomile is to make a cup of chamomile tea. The most common recipe is 1 tablespoon of dried chamomile flowers per 8 ounces of hot water. Apart from serving as a drink, the tea can also be used as a mouthwash or gargle.

Chamomile tincture or extract can be prepared by mixing 1 part chamomile flower with 4 parts of water and 12% consumable alcohol. Extracts are usually stronger than tinctures.

Chamomile can also be applied to the skin in the form of a cream or ointment to reduce swelling and pain.

Chamomile oil is used in aromatherapy. Inhalation of the vaporized oil is recommended to relieve anxiety and general depression.

Side Effects of Chamomile

1) May Trigger Allergic Reactions

People who have allergic reactions to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, and daisies should avoid chamomile because they contain the same proteins. Although rare, chamomile may trigger allergic reactions such as skin rashes, asthma, and inflammation of the eyes. In rare cases, chamomile may lead to anaphylaxis, which is life-threatening and must be treated immediately [43].

2) Interacts with Some Drugs

Chamomile interacts with drugs such as warfarin, a common anticoagulant (anti-blood clotting). Warfarin is broken down by two proteins (CYP1A2 and CYP2C9), which are inhibited by chamomile. In a case study, a patient taking warfarin along with chamomile experienced increased internal bleeding [44, 45].

Cyclosporine is a drug that suppresses the immune system and is widely used in organ transplants to prevent organ rejection. Cyclosporine is broken down by the enzyme CYP3A4. Chamomile is known to decrease CYP3A4. Hence, patients taking cyclosporine should avoid chamomile products to prevent a toxic buildup of cyclosporine in the body [46].

User Experiences

Many people report that chamomile tea relaxes their nerves and decreases anxiety.

Drinking chamomile tea also has sedative effects and increases sleep quality.

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About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen won the genetic lottery of bad genes. As a kid, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, and other issues that were poorly understood in both conventional and alternative medicine.Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a journey of self-experimentation and self-learning to improve his health--something that has since become known as “biohacking”. With thousands of experiments and pubmed articles under his belt, Joe founded SelfHacked, the resource that was missing when he needed it. SelfHacked now gets millions of monthly readers.Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, author and speaker. He is the CEO of SelfHacked, SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer.His mission is to help people gain access to the most up-to-date, unbiased, and science-based ways to optimize their health.
Joe has been studying health sciences for 17 years and has read over 30,000 PubMed articles. He's given consultations to over 1000 people who have sought his health advice. After completing the pre-med requirements at university, he founded SelfHacked because he wanted to make a big impact in improving global health. He's written hundreds of science posts, multiple books on improving health, and speaks at various health conferences. He's keen on building a brain-trust of top scientists who will improve the level of accuracy of health content on the web. He's also founded SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer, popular genetic and lab software tools to improve health.

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