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 [R].
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 [R].
Active Compounds in Chamomile
- α-bisabolol: an aromatic oil with anti-cancer properties and low toxicity for human cells [R].
- Bisabolol oxide A & B: compounds present in chamomile oil with pain relieving properties [R].
- Chamazulene: an aromatic compound with anti-inflammatory and antioxidative effects [R].
- Farnesene: a hydrocarbon that reduces oxidative stress [R].
- Apigenin: an effective anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory compound.
- Quercetin: a plant pigment that combats aging and oxidative stress [R].
- Patuletin: a compound that relieves muscle spasms [R].
Health Benefits of Chamomile
1) Reduces Inflammation
A study in rats concluded that chamomile contains three terpenoids (α-bisabolol, bisabolol oxide A, and guaiazulene) that reduce inflammation by inhibiting COX [R].
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 [R].
However, because the treatment was a combination that included other herbs, the effectiveness of chamomile alone was not measured [R].
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) [R].
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 [R].
Eczema, medically known as atopic dermatitis, is an itchy inflammation of the skin.
2) Promotes Skin Healing
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) [R].
A study (RCT) involving 72 patients suggested that chamomile-treated wounds or cuts caused by surgery heal faster compared to those treated with hydrocortisone cream [R].
3) Improves Sleep Quality
A study (RCT) on 80 postnatal women with poor sleep quality showed that drinking chamomile tea significantly improved in sleep quality after 2 weeks [R].
Another study (RCT) involving 80 elderly people over 60 yielded similar results. After 4 weeks of oral consumption of chamomile extract, the participants improved their sleep quality [R].
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.
Furthermore, a study has revealed that aromatherapy with Roman chamomile oil over a 2-week period reduced depressive-like behaviors in rats [R].
5) May Slow Down Cancer
Roman chamomile suppresses the growth of breast cancer cells by killing cancer cells [R].
6) Helps Reduce Diabetes Complications
In a study (RCT) involving 64 diabetic patients, chamomile tea showed beneficial effects on blood sugar control and antioxidant status in patients with type 2 diabetes [R].
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 [R].
8) Relieves Xerostomia Symptoms
Xerostomia, also known as dry mouth syndrome, is caused by a decrease in the amount of saliva.
In a study (DB-RCT) 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 [R].
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 [R].
Anisakiasis is a parasitic disease caused by the presence of worms from the Anisakis genus in the gut. This disease is usually contracted through 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 [R].
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 [R].
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 [R, R].
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 [R].
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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