Chamomile is one of the most widely used herbs in the world. To make tea, the chamomile flowers are picked and dried. The tea has a mild, soothing flavor and has been used to relieve stress, promote relaxation, ease stomach complaints and treat mild infections. Although some scientific research supports the traditional uses of chamomile, the University of Maryland Medical Center notes that not enough clinical trials have been conducted at this point. Chamomile is generally considered safe but may interact with medications.
Ingesting chamomile has an anti-inflammatory action in the body. The University of Maryland Medical center states that chamomile may be used to treat inflammatory conditions such as eczema, gingivitis, acne and sore throats. The reduction of swelling may relieve symptoms of conditions such as arthritis, and it may help to speed the healing of wounds and prevent the development of disease. In rare cases, chamomile can cause allergic reaction, so if symptoms worsen, see your doctor.
The chamomile flowers contain oils that may limit the growth of certain bacteria, viruses and fungi. A study published in the "Molecular Medicine Report" found that consumption of chamomile enhances immune function and helps fight off infections like the common cold. In the experiment, urine samples were collected from participants before and after they drank chamomile tea. The results showed an increase in the antibacterial indicators in the body after participants consumed chamomile tea.
Anxiety and Sleep
The Mayo Clinic notes that chamomile tea may relieve stress and anxiety and help to improve mood with little to no side effects as compared to prescription medications. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that one clinical trial done in humans showed that consuming chamomile reduced anxiety symptoms in people with mild to moderate anxiety disorders. The center also notes that in larger doses, chamomile promoted sleep in animals and may be useful in relieving insomnia. As with any sleep aid, it's important not to take chamomile prior to driving because it can cause drowsiness.
Chamomile can relax muscle contractions in smooth muscles like the intestines. This makes it useful in relieving intestinal distress and diarrhea. It has also been used traditionally to relieve heartburn, nausea, gas, stomach cramps, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion and colic, though limited scientific studies have been done to support these uses. The Mayo Clinic suggests that chamomile tea may also relieve acid reflux and prevent esophageal inflammation. Next time you reach for the antacid, try a cup of chamomile tea instead.
Erica Kannall is a registered dietitian and certified health/fitness specialist with the American College of Sports Medicine. She has worked in clinical nutrition, community health, fitness, health coaching, counseling and food service. She holds a Bachelor of Science in clinical dietetics and nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh.