Using chamomile extract as a form of natural medicine dates back 5,000 years (1). The gentle herb is safe to use with few side effects and has been shown to treat a wide variety of conditions that range from insomnia to cancer. Sipping on a cup of hot chamomile tea is a delicious way to reduce anxiety. It is also available in essential oil or capsule form to treat skin disorders, nausea, and much more. Here’s why you need to include chamomile extract in your daily diet and how to do it.
Chamomile is an herb that belongs to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. The two most popular types that you will see in stores are German chamomile and Roman chamomile. As one of the oldest and most widely used herbs, chamomile works slowly to provide many health benefits with few side effects.
The chamomile plant looks similar to a daisy flower. It has a bright gold center and white petals. Its medicinal properties are located in the herb’s dried flowers. The plant contains many different types of bioactive compounds that are collected and used as natural medicine. Most chamomile supplements are sold in pill or capsule form.
Chamomile contains approximately 120 phenolic compounds that contain protective properties, including 36 flavonoids, such as apigenin, quercetin, patulin and various glucosides, and 28 terpenoids (1). Other compounds found in chamomile include chamazulene and acetylene derivatives, which are highly unstable and are best used when preserved in essential oil form (2).
Chamomile contains an antioxidant called apigenin that binds to receptors in the brain to make you feel relaxed and less anxious so that you can sleep. Antioxidants are needed to neutralize free radical toxins that accumulate in the body and cause disease.
Because of its high antioxidant content, chamomile can be used to treat a wide variety of health conditions. It is best known for its mood enhancing role. Research shows that when taken in extract or capsule form, chamomile works to calm nerves and reduce anxiety through its mild sedative properties. One study demonstrated that chamomile turns off the body’s stress response, which can be used to effectively treat symptoms of stress and anxiety, such as insomnia, digestive problems, nightmares and hysteria (3).
The plant compound apigenin has antioxidant abilities that have been shown to treat ovarian, breast, skin, and prostate cancers. Apigenin works by inhibiting cancerous cells from growing. It also binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain to make you feel relaxed (1). One study found that chamomile extract barely reduced the growth and development of healthy cells, but significantly put a stop to the expansion of human cancer cells, especially prostate cancer cells (4). This study suggests that chamomile extract may be able to distinguish between healthy cells and abnormal ones by preventing dangerous cells from multiplying.
The generous amount of flavonoids found in chamomile may protect against cardiovascular disease. According to one study, men between the ages of 65 to 84 who ate a diet high in flavonoids from foods and herbs had a significantly reduced risk of death from coronary heart disease (5). A 2015 study found that there is clear evidence to suggest that oxidative damage caused by free radicals leads to cardiovascular disease (6), which suggests that the antioxidant content in chamomile may be able to combat the risk of developing a heart condition.
Chamomile is one of the best herbs you can take when you’re not feeling well. Research shows that chamomile extract helps alleviate the symptoms of the common cold, such as a sore throat, as well as menstrual problems. One study found that chamomile has antibacterial properties that boost the immune system to fight off illnesses. Chamomile is also helpful in treating muscle spasms, which can help relieve menstrual cramps by acting as a nerve relaxant (7).
As a mild sedative, chamomile can be used to help induce sleep by calming the central nervous system. One study found that people with cardiovascular problems fell into a deep sleep that lasted for 90 minutes after drinking chamomile tea (1). Research shows that the average sleep cycle lasts for 90 minutes. The results of this study suggest that chamomile can be used to ensure you sleep through an entire sleep cycle to get the most restorative form of rest possible.
Antioxidants are extremely useful in fighting toxins that cause inflammation. Research shows that chamomile can be used to reduce pain and symptoms associated with inflammatory disorders, such as irritable bowel disease, arthritis, allergies, skin irritations, eye diseases, and hemorrhoids (1). It can also assist with wound healing. One study found that chamomile may even be able to prevent bone density loss, making it an effective preventative measure to take against osteoporosis (1). Chamomile can also be used to treat hormonal imbalances, back pain, oral diseases, and signs of aging.
Finally, chamomile can be used to treat stomach ailments, such as nausea and vomiting. A 2016 study found that the herbs ginger and chamomile were extremely efficient at reducing the amount of vomiting and nausea in breast cancer patients who were being treated with chemotherapy (15). Many people drink chamomile tea when they have an upset stomach. Taking a chamomile capsule is also just as effective.
Chamomile can be taken in tea, tincture, essential oil, or capsule form. Be sure to dilute any essential oil in water or a carrier oil before applying directly to the skin to avoid irritation. To prepare in tea form, boil a cup of water on the stove and steep a tea bag for two to three minutes. Chamomile tea does not contain caffeine and can be enjoyed at any time of the day without keeping you awake at night.
If you are using chamomile extract in capsule form, take it as directed by following the label instructions on your supplement bottle. Avoid using chamomile with caffeine or other stimulants as this may disrupt the calming effects of the herb. If you’re using chamomile to help you relax at night before sleep, take it about an hour before bed.
There is no recommended daily value for chamomile. According to Drugs.com, clinical studies have used chamomile extract in the amount of 9 to 15 grams per day (9). WebMD stated that studies had used chamomile extract quantities of 400 to 1,600 mg in capsule form (8).
Chamomile should make you feel relaxed but not overly tired. To find the right amount for you, pay attention to how chamomile makes you feel. Track your results by writing down how much you take and how it makes you feel. Remember that more is not necessarily better. Chamomile is considered safe, but it’s a good idea to gradually increase or decrease the amount you take when adjusting your dosage.
According to Drugs.com, chamomile has a safety rating of “a very minor concern” when taken with other drugs. However, some interactions between chamomile and other drugs are possible.
Chamomile may interact with 89 drugs (10). Of these interactions, approximately 88 are considered minor interactions and one is moderate. For a complete list of all medications that may interact with chamomile, please visit the following website: https://www.drugs.com/drug-interactions/chamomile-index.html.
Chamomile tea is considered safe and gentle by most experts (8), but everyone reacts differently to nutritional supplements. According to WebMD, chamomile may cause drowsiness and vomiting when taken in large amounts. Allergic reactions are rare but may occur in people who are allergic to the following plants: ragweed, daisies, marigolds, and chrysanthemums.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, chamomile may increase your risk of bleeding when it is taken with anticoagulant drugs, including warfarin; therefore, people on blood thinners should not take it (11).
Do not take chamomile if you are pregnant or nursing.
According to a report by the University of Michigan Medicine Department, chamomile is commonly prescribed by pediatricians to help ease anxiety and insomnia symptoms in children with gastrointestinal disorders (12). Chamomile can also be used to treat diaper rash, colic, and chickenpox in children (13). The Penn State Hershey Medical Center recommends that children under five should not have more than a half cup of chamomile tea per day (13).
WebMD stated that chamomile is safe for children of all ages. It can be used as a mild sedative to help children sleep or reduce anxiety. The report indicated that children who are allergic to ragweed should not be given chamomile (14). Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have questions about any possible interactions.