If you were anything like me as a child, you’d probably remember cozying up to a hot cup of Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Tea before bed. Aside from its ability to calm me down, I absolutely loved the floral taste.
Little did I know I was drinking chamomile tea.
While I drank this tea by the bucketloads, I wasn’t aware that the benefits of chamomile tea went beyond relaxation.
That’s right! This popular nighttime tea is not only one of the best for fighting stress and promoting relaxation, but research has found it effective in reducing menstrual pain, lowering blood sugar, treating cancer and so much more.
And while chamomile tea is a ritual I wouldn’t want to take away from anyone, the uses of chamomile are quite diverse.
You can make chamomile into a pain-relieving muscle rub, create your own facial toning spray, and even sit in a nice warm bath infused with chamomile flowers.
The possibilities are endless.
So what exactly is chamomile tea?
What is Chamomile Tea?
Chamomile plants are members of the daisy (Asteraceae/Compositae) family and are represented by two different varieties:
- German Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita)
- Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
This soothing flower is native to Western Europe and Northern Africa, but can virtually be grown anywhere, as long as it gets enough sun and water.
The name ‘Chamomile’ comes from the Ancient Greek words kamai (earth) and melon (apple).
These descriptors make sense, given this delicate flower thrives in almost any soil type and possesses a sweet apple-like scent.
In some religions, the chamomile flower is associated with deities of the sun.
In ancient Egypt, chamomile was sacred to the sun god Ra and was highly revered over all other herbs (2). And for good reason, too.
Back in the day, the Greeks and Egyptians used crushed chamomile flowers to treat the skin conditions erythema and xerosis caused by dry, harsh weather.
The plant was so highly sought out that medieval herbalists used to breed double-flowering varieties of chamomile to increase the plant’s healing parts.
Today, the German E Commission has approved the use of chamomile to help treat gastrointestinal spasms and inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.
They’ve also approved it for use in cases of inflammation of the skin, as well as bacterial skin diseases and respiratory tract inflammation.
While chamomile is commonly consumed as a tea, it can also be taken as an extract, in capsule form, or used as an essential oil.
10 Benefits of Chamomile Tea
The chamomile flower contains negligible amounts of many vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, thiamin, riboflavin and vitamin A.
Most of the health benefits of chamomile tea come from the high concentration of antioxidants and other bioactive constituents that have a powerful effect on our health.
Here are 10 reasons why you should start drinking more chamomile tea:
1. Treats Anxiety, Stress, and Depression
If you’ve ever experienced an anxiety or panic attack, you’d probably agree with me that you’d do anything to get rid of it.
Thankfully, chamomile has the ability to do just that.
In fact, chamomile is one of the most well-known stress-soothing teas out there.
Drinking chamomile tea can help increase levels of serotonin and melatonin. These hormones are known to help ease a stressful mind and calm those who worry.
While the tea is beneficial, the extract has been found even more so. Chamomile extract has been frequently used as a mild sedative to calm nerves and reduce anxiety, to treat hysteria, nightmares, insomnia and other sleep problems.
One study published in Phytomedicine investigated how oral chamomile extract impacted those with moderate to severe generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). For eight weeks, subjects were given 1500 mg of chamomile extract each day.
They found that chamomile extract produced a clinically meaningful reduction in GAD symptoms, with a response rate comparable to those observed during conventional anxiolytic drug therapy.
Another study revealed that chamomile tea can help relieve symptoms of depression and improve sleep quality in postpartum women.
While the two likely go hand in hand (if you’re getting more sleep, you’ll probably feel less depressed), it wouldn’t hurt to try out this tea to help improve your mood.
2. Induces Sleep
While few clinical trials have tested the ability of chamomile tea to help people sleep, it is pretty evident that after drinking a cup, you do feel more drowsy and relaxed.
As we’ve seen above, chamomile tea has been shown to improve sleep quality in postpartum women.
One study found that chamomile extract significantly improves sleep quality as measured by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Subjects were given 400 mg of a standardized chamomile extract for four weeks, while the control group received a placebo. Subjects who were given chamomile reported fewer bouts of insomnia compared to the control group.
The ability of chamomile to calm and relax may be attributed to an antioxidant called apigenin. This compound is found abundantly in chamomile tea and binds to benzodiazepine receptors in your brain that decrease anxiety and initiate sleep (11).
I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer drinking chamomile tea over taking benzodiazepine drugs to help induce sleep!
3. Fights Inflammation
If you typically suffer from chronic aches and pains and experience a large amount of fatigue, you could be suffering from chronic inflammation.
But what if treating this inflammation was as easy as drinking a cup of chamomile tea?
Chamomile has long been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of inflammation-related disorders. Now, studies are finally proving its effectiveness in doing so.
One study, published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine, explored chamomile’s anti-inflammatory mechanisms using macrophages.
Macrophages are large white blood cells that play a central role in the inflammatory response and produce excess amounts of pro-inflammatory cytokines, pro-inflammatory enzymes, and inflammatory mediators.
They discovered that chamomile treatment inhibited nitric oxide (NO) production and nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) gene expression by inhibiting RelA/p65 activation.
NO plays an important role in the pathogenesis of various inflammatory diseases, like cancer. Therefore, the effect of chamomile on iNOS gene expression suggests that this is one of the many mechanisms responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Clinical trials have also been done on inflammation and chamomile tea.
One study investigated the anti-inflammatory effects of chamomile tea on patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) (13). Forty-four patients were randomized into two groups, receiving 6 g/day chamomile tea as 2 teabags twice a day for 42 days, or placebo teabags as similar.
All patients were clinically examined in order to determine the tender joints and swollen joints number, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) was measured before and after the study.
An erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) is a type of blood test that measures how fast erythrocytes (red blood cells) settle at the bottom of a test tube that contains a sample of blood.
Normally, red blood cells settle slowly. A faster-than-normal rate may indicate inflammation in the body.
At the end of the 42 days, those in the test group had significantly reduced tender joint numbers and ESR.
Again, this demonstrated the evident anti-inflammatory effects of chamomile, and may even be beneficial as a complementary treatment for RA patients.
4. Cancer Treatment and Prevention
Among some of the most impressive health benefits of chamomile tea is its potential for eradicating cancer cells.
According to researchers, a cup of chamomile tea could help ward off cancer.
Scientists at Ohio State University found that a chemical in chamomile tea called apigenin takes away the ‘superpowers’ of cancer cells (14).
Apigenin helps proteins correct abnormalities in RNA (molecules carrying genetic information) that are responsible for over 80% of cancers.
The researchers discovered that apigenin could stop breast cancer cells from inhibiting their own death, thus halting their spread and making them more sensitive to drug therapy.
This isn’t the only study that explored the anti-cancer potential of apigenin in chamomile.
One study published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry tested chamomile extracts against various human cancer cell lines, as well as normal human cells(15).
The chamomile extracts caused significant decreases in cell viability on the cancer cell lines and had minimal effect on normal cells (an effect which is quite the opposite with traditional chemotherapy treatments).
The researchers confirmed that apigenin glucosides were mainly responsible for inhibiting cancer cell growth.
Another study published in the European Journal of Public Health found that drinking chamomile tea helps prevent thyroid cancer.
5. Improves Digestion
If you’ve ever dealt with digestive issues, you’ll know that they aren’t fun.
Studies have been investigating the ways in which chamomile tea can help reset the digestive tract and improve common digestive complaints.
A large part of this is due to the relaxing nature of chamomile.
Our gut and our brain are tightly interconnected, so if you’re stressed, it’s likely that your digestive tract will experience these effects as well.
Chamomile not only helps us feel more mentally at ease, but it has relaxing effects on our digestive tract, thanks to its powerful anti-inflammatory properties (mentioned above).
Chamomile can be used to treat gas, diarrhea, motion sickness, nausea, vomiting, as well as indigestion and acid reflux symptoms.
According to a 2006 review of studies, a herbal preparation that included chamomile extract lowered gastric acidity just as good, if not better, as a commercial antacid. Since chamomile was not the only herb in the study, more studies are needed to determine if it would provide a similar effect on its own.
However, if you take into consideration that stress is a major trigger for acid reflux, it would make sense that chamomile could help mitigate this effect.
6. Nourishes Skin & Hair
Chamomile has long been used for improving the state of our skin and hair.
It is excellent when used both externally and internally.
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of chamomile can help relieve skin irritations like eczema and rosacea.
One study found that topical applications of chamomile were moderately effective in the treatment of atopic eczema. It appeared to be about 60% as effective as 0.25% hydrocortisone cream.
Chamomile has also been used for relief of dandruff when used as a hair rinse (which can easily be made by brewing chamomile tea, waiting until it is cooled, and then rinsing your hair with it).
The soothing properties of chamomile also make it great for those dealing with dry scalp, or other irritations of the scalp.
7. Enhances Cardiovascular Health
Stress puts a toll on the state of our heart. It not only increases our blood pressure, but it also increases our heart rate.
As we’ve already seen, chamomile helps reduce stress, so it definitely plays a part in reducing the excess stress our cardiovascular system experiences.
According to Dr. Sarah Brewer, chamomile tea can lower blood pressure as it has a “direct relaxant effect” on your blood vessels, bringing down your blood pressure reading (20).
The anti-inflammatory and hypotensive properties of chamomile further relax blood vessel walls and trigger the kidneys to release fluids at a higher rate, slashing blood pressure.
One study published in 2008 found that rats who consumed chamomile tea consistently over a period of 21 days prevented their blood sugar from increasing.
According to the researchers, “daily consumption of chamomile tea with meals could contribute to the prevention of the progress of hyperglycemia and diabetic complications.”
8. Improves Health of Teeth and Gums
The anti-inflammatory properties of chamomile make it a great herb for relieving sore, inflamed gums.
A study published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice investigated ways in which chamomile (and pomegranate) extracts heal bleeding gums.
The researchers tested 56 patients who had bleeding gums and gingivitis. They were split into three groups, and each rinsed twice daily with an assigned rinse for 15 days.
One group rinsed with chamomile extract, another rinsed with pomegranate extract and a third group rinsed with chlorhexidine.
The researchers found that all three extracts acted similarly and reduced gum bleeding significantly.
They discovered that the antimicrobial effects of chamomile reduced pathogenic oral bacteria like Steptococcus minis and Streptococcus sangus. These bacterium are known to accumulate as biofilm and excrete toxins that trigger inflammation, pain, and bleeding.
Another study found that chamomile is effective in reducing dental plaque and gingival inflammation (23).
In this study, twenty-five gingivitis patients used either German Chamomile herbal mouthwash or a control rinse for 2 minutes twice a day during a four-week period.
The chamomile mouthwash lowered both plaque and gingival scores significantly in comparison to the control rinse.
Chamomile tea is essentially a mouth rinse in itself, so if you want to improve the state of your gums and teeth, start making this tea a regular part of your diet!
9. Boosts the Immune System
Another great health benefit of chamomile tea is its ability to help boost your immune system to protect it against bacteria, viruses and disease-causing free radicals.
These effects were tested in one study, which involved fourteen volunteers who each drank five cups of chamomile tea daily for two consecutive weeks. Daily urine samples were taken and tested throughout the study, both before and after drinking chamomile tea.
Drinking chamomile was associated with a significant increase in urinary levels of hippurate and glycine, both of which have been associated with increased antibacterial activity.
Chamomile tea is high in terpenes, a group of antioxidants, which for chamomile, include chamazulene and acetylene derivatives.
Chamomile is also a rich source of several phenolic compounds including apigenin, quercetin, patuletin, and various glucosides.
A study published in the Journal of HerbMed Pharmacology evaluated the effects of chamomile tea in reducing oxidative stress of operative room staff that are routinely exposed to damaging factors (26).
Each subject drank 2 cups of chamomile tea every day (each cup containing 1.8730 g of chamomile and 300 ml of water). One cup was consumed in the morning, and the other in the afternoon. This went on for 21 days.
Oxidative stress parameters such as total antioxidant capacity (TAC), catalase (CAT), and total thiol molecules (TTG) were measured 2 times: first before drinking chamomile tea at the first day and the next time after the 21st day.
The researchers found significant changes in total antioxidant capacity, leading them to conclude that chamomile tea “can be a useful additional food to remove the oxidative damage that happens to operating room staff.”
10. Reduces Menstrual Pain
Sick of dealing with menstrual pain every month? You might be able to take control of it with a little help from chamomile tea.
Quite a few studies have linked chamomile tea to reducing severity of menstrual cramps.
This is likely due to the fact that the tea can help increase glycine levels in the body.
Glycine is a chemical that relieves muscle spasms and acts as a nerve relaxant to help your body relax (27).
One study published in 2010 found that drinking chamomile tea for one month could reduce the pain of menstrual cramps (28). The women also reported less anxiety and distress associated with period pain.
If you suffer from extreme cramps every month, it’s worth giving chamomile tea a try.
The study that investigated the effects of glycine had people drinking 5 cups of chamomile tea daily for one month. The other study had participants drinking two cups of chamomile tea a day, 1 week prior to menstruation and the first five days of their menstruation cycle for a 3-month period.
How to Make Chamomile Tea
If you want to reap the health benefits of chamomile tea, understanding how to brew it properly is crucial!
Chamomile tea can be prepared using fresh flowers, dried bulk flowers, or by purchasing chamomile tea bags. I personally grow my own chamomile during the summer and then harvest and dry the buds so that I have a steady supply throughout winter.
Following these steps will help you brew the perfect cup of chamomile tea:
- If you’re using fresh flowers, opt for a stainless steel tea infuser, or reusable unbleached tea bag. Fresh flowers should be removed from the stem. For fresh flowers, use 3-4 teaspoons for each cup of water you use. For dried flowers, use 1 heaping teaspoon for each cup of water you want to consume.
- Chamomile tea brews best when using hot water. Make sure your kettle whistles or reaches the max boiling point (around 200ºF) before adding loose flowers or a chamomile tea bag for steeping.
- Let your tea steep for 5-10 minutes. You can steep it longer if you want a stronger brew.
- Add a natural sweetener if you please, or drink it straight.
Who Should Avoid Chamomile Tea?
While chamomile tea is a pretty safe herb for most people, there are certain restrictions and side effects you should keep in mind. Chamomile also acts as a sedative, so that should be considered (especially if you’ll be driving long distances).
If you’re allergic to any plants in the daisy family, you should probably be careful when consuming chamomile tea. If you’re allergic to ragweed, marigolds, daisies, chrysanthemums, or of course, chamomile, you should avoid this herb.
Chamomile products are thought to be mild uterine stimulants, so if you’re pregnant, speak with a healthcare professional before consuming any strong chamomile extracts (regular chamomile tea every now and then should not cause any issues, but still bring it up with your doctor).
If you suffer from endometriosis, fibroids, or cancers of the breast, uterus, and ovaries, you should avoid chamomile, as it may act like estrogen in the body.
Chamomile contains small amounts of coumarin, which can act as a blood thinner. This is typically only problematic at high doses (which most people would never consume), but it is still recommended to avoid drinking chamomile tea at least two weeks before surgery to avoid drug interactions.
The Bottom Line
Chamomile tea has been used for centuries.
The health benefits of chamomile tea include offering relief from stress, insomnia, skin conditions and digestive complaints among others.
This natural supplement is available in many forms, including as a tea, extract, capsule, powder, and even essential oil.
It is best to avoid the herb if you are pregnant, or have a hormone-sensitive condition unless advised otherwise by a medical professional.
For everyone else, feel free to consume chamomile tea as a nightly wind-down after a tiring day, or in the morning as a relaxing start to your day.