Chamomile tea has long been used as a traditional folk remedy for a wide range of health problems. Today, researchers are increasingly exploring its effectiveness in controlling diseases, including cancer and diabetes. So far, research into the potency of chamomile tea has shown promise. However, studies vary, with some research proving clear benefits compared to alternative remedies, and others only pointing to a few possible ones.
For most people, chamomile tea is safe to try as a supplement to other treatments, but it should not replace conventional medical treatments when people have serious illnesses. The potency of various chamomile teas varies, with some containing significantly more chamomile than others.
Stronger teas are also more likely to cause side effects in people who are vulnerable to them. Consequently, it is safer to start with a low dosage and slowly increase to larger dosages. Chamomile contains chemicals called flavonoids, a type of nutrient present in many plants, which play a significant role in its medicinal effects. Researchers are still not sure which other chemicals are present in chamomile specifically and are responsible for its benefits.
Benefits of Chamomile Tea
Potential benefits of chamomile tea, for which there is more evidence, include:
• Reduces menstrual pain
Several studies have linked chamomile tea to reducing the severity of menstrual cramps. A 2010 study, for example, found that drinking chamomile tea for a month can reduce the pain of menstrual cramps. Women in the study also reported less anxiety and distress associated with menstrual pain.
• Treats diabetes and lowers blood sugar
Again, some studies have found that chamomile tea can lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. Research does not show that chamomile is a viable replacement for diabetes medications, but it could be a useful supplement to existing treatments. Likewise, a 2008 study of rats found that consistent consumption of chamomile tea can prevent blood sugar from rising. This effect reduces the long-term risk of diabetes complications, suggesting that chamomile may improve treatment outcomes.
• Delays and prevents osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is the progressive loss of bone density. This loss increases the risk of broken bones and stooped posture. Although anyone can develop osteoporosis, it is more common among postmenopausal women. This trend could be due to the effects of estrogen. A 2004 study found that chamomile tea can have antiestrogenic effects. It also helped promote bone density, but the study authors caution that more research is needed to prove this apparent benefit.
• Reduces inflammation
Inflammation is a reaction by the immune system to fight infection or when there is injury from heat, radiation, or trauma. Chamomile tea contains chemical compounds that can reduce inflammation. However, long-term inflammation is associated with a wide range of health problems, including hemorrhoids, gastrointestinal pain, arthritis, autoimmune diseases and even depression.
• Can prevent cancer
Some studies suggest that chamomile tea may target cancer cells or even prevent these cells from developing. However, the research so far is inconclusive and scientists say more work is needed to prove chamomile’s anti-cancer claims. Furthermore, most research has looked at clinical models in animals, not humans. A 2012 study compared the cancer-fighting powers of calendula and chamomile teas. Both were able to selectively target cancerous tumors, but the effects of marigold tea were more potent.
• Aids sleep and relaxation
Chamomile tea is believed to help people relax and fall asleep. Few clinical trials have tested this, however. In a review of current evidence, ten out of 12 cardiovascular patients are cited as having fallen asleep shortly after consuming chamomile tea. Several other studies looking at clinical models also suggest that chamomile tea can help people relax. In a study of rats, the chamomile extract helped those with sleep disturbances to fall asleep. Many researchers believe that chamomile tea may function as a benzodiazepine, a prescription drug that can reduce anxiety and induce sleep. Some studies suggest that chamomile binds to benzodiazepine receptors. A review looking at the ability of chamomile tea to reduce anxiety is inconclusive. Some research shows a modest benefit for anxiolytics, but others do not.
• Treats cold symptoms
Circumstantial evidence and some studies suggest that inhaling the steam with chamomile extract may alleviate some of the symptoms of the common cold. But this benefit has not yet been proven.
• Treats mild skin problems
A small study found the application of chamomile extract directly to assisted wound healing. Likewise, other studies have found that chamomile ointments can help treat eczema and mild inflammatory skin conditions, although they are not as effective as hydrocortisone cream.
Who should avoid chamomile tea?
These people should avoid chamomile unless otherwise advised by a physician:
People with a history of severe allergies, especially to pollens: chamomile can be contaminated with pollen from other plants, which can cause an allergic reaction. People who have had an allergic reaction, even mild, to chamomile products should avoid chamomile, as allergic reactions can get worse over time.
Babies and very young children: Chamomile tea, like honey and some other natural products, can be contaminated with botulism spores. Most healthy adults can fight the infection, but babies cannot. Many doctors recommend that babies and young children avoid honey, and they should also avoid chamomile products. It is also not safe to use chamomile as a substitute for proven medical treatments. If someone is taking medication, they should ask their doctor about possible interactions with chamomile tea.
Chamomile tea has been used in folk medicine for thousands of years, often with encouraging results. For now, however, it remains a supplement and not a drug.People interested in trying chamomile tea should use it as a supplement and never as a substitute for usual medication. In regular doses, such as one to two cups a day, you can see incremental improvements in health.
Source: WebMd – Clinically Reviewed by Debra Sullivan, Professor, Department of Clinical Nutrition, Dietetics and Nutrition, University of Kansas (United States)