I thought I’d spotlight individual herbs and teas occasionally, so to kick it off, I’m featuring the beautiful (I love daisies) and humble chamomile. I love getting fresh chamomile, it smells so wonderful! Some say it smells like apples, but I don’t think that’s quite right. I can’t describe it (yes, I know I’m a writer!) Trust me, this stuff smells goood.
If you’re looking to build your tea arsenal, this would be a good basic to start with. You can get it pre-bagged (as long as it’s from a reputable brand like Numi, Rishi or Traditional Medicinals) or loose if you have a health food store that sells herbs in a bulk bin.
Did you know that roughly a million cups of chamomile tea is consumed worldwide every day?
Some of its most well-known uses are to ease the stomach and to aid in sleep. I remember giving this to a friend back in college who had a stomach ache, and she did feel better! I was newly into herbs then and was so tickled that it actually worked.
It also has an anti-stress factor, so combined with its soporific effects, this would be a good choice for writers, since we’re stressed and sleep-deprived a lot of the time!
The word chamomile derives from the Greek, meaning ‘earth apple’ and there are two plants commonly called chamomile–German Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) and Roman (or English) Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). If you’re going to pick one, I’d use the German one as it’s the one that’s been studied the most and is cheaper. Both have been used historically for thousands of years, going back to ancient Egypt, and to the Greek and Roman eras. Some traditional names it’s been given show its importance, including ‘maiden herb’ and ‘mother herb’.
It’s the flowers that are used in this plant.
- apigenin, which studies show can help stop the cancer cells by making them not live as long (7). Chamomile, besides parsley and celery, is one of the most abundant sources of apigenin.
- alpha-bisabolol, and its oxides and azulenes, including chamazulene. It has antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as a demonstrated ability to reduce pepsin without lowering stomach acid
- other flavonoids besides apigenin, such as quercetin, patuletin, luteolin and their glucosides
- coumarins such as herniarin and umbelliferone, shown to be fungistatic, and may have blood-thinning properties and could also interact with drugs.
- phenylpropanoids such as chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid
- Anti-platelet activity. In vitro studies show this to be significant, so it’s useful for reducing blood clots (9)
- Anti-inflammatory when used topically (1) and animal studies have shown this to be potent (9). One of the anti-inflammatory activities inhibits prostaglandin E(2) release (13) and reduces COX-2 enzyme activity (13)
- Anti-microbial activity. In vitro studies show this to be moderate (9)
- Anti-oxidant activity. In vitro studies show this to be moderate (9)
- Anxiolytic (anti-anxiety)
- Mild astringent (13)
35 Health, Beauty and Medicinal Uses
NOTE from the NIH: Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with liver or kidney disease has not been established, although there have not been any credible reports of toxicity caused by this common beverage tea.
NOTE from me: I’m not a doctor and this is only my interpretation of the scientific findings. Please only use this as possible uses–research further and consult your doctor. (Please see my disclaimer on the sidebar)
Because of the properties above, and probably others that make up chamomile as a whole, the flowers have been used traditionally in the following ways. I’ve also included any scientific findings when available.
Traditional lore advocates using chamomile to cure abscesses. (8)
2. Blood Sugar Management
Studies suggest that it helps lower blood sugar (1), which is great for diabetes management or for anyone wanting to regulate their blood sugar.
Chamomile is traditionally used to treat bruises (1)
A test on rats showed that when chamomile-infused olive oil was applied topically, there was a significant difference in how fast they healed (3)
5. Cancer-Fighting Ability
6. Canker sores
Traditionally used to treat chest colds (8) and some studies indicate inhaling the steam helps (1). For head cold, drink a hot tea infusion. (11) Swollen throat are traditionally treated by gargling with an infusion (1) You can also alleviate common cold symptoms, if it’s inhaled as a vapor (1), but it also has antibacterial properties, so drinking it as a tea can help too (4)
Chamomile is traditionally used to treat colic, but no clinical studies. (8)
9. Coronary Heart Disease
Helps reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, and several studies have been conducted that show it helpful in various aspects of the disease. (1)
Dandruff and irritated scalp, using the tea as a rinse can help! (6)
11. Diabetes Management
One of chamomile’s chemical components “increases the ability of the cells to allow sorbitol to pass through the cell wall. In Type 2 diabetes, the sorbitol builds up outside the nerve cells and eyes causing pain and blindness.” (14) It also increases liver glycogen. (1)
12. DNA Protector
Prevent genotoxins from damaging your DNA (2)
A few drops of a warm infusion can be used to relieve a mild inflammation (11)
14. Eye fatigue and dark circles
An easy eye compress can be made by dipping two chamomile tea bags in warm water and let steep for five minutes. Once it reaches room temperature, plop them on your eyes! (11) (14)
15. Gastrointestinal issues
It can help with an upset stomach and gas (1)
16. Gingivitis & mouth sores
Chamomile is traditionally used to treat these, but no clinical studies. (8)
Chamomile is traditionally used to treat gout, but no clinical studies. (1)
18. Hair Tonic
Making a tea and rinsing your hair helps bright blonde hair, and adds a golden tone to brown hair (6) According to an old herbal I have, it also helps keep the hair “free from cooking and tobacco odors.” (12)
19. Hay fever
Chamomile is traditionally used to treat Hay fever (1)
A hot cup could just do the trick (11)
Applied topically can help with the inflammation and the ouchies (1)
22. Immune Booster
23. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Chamomile is traditionally used to treat this IBS, but no clinical studies. (8)
Traditional lore recommends making a compress from the tea and applying it to the back. (10) It might also help to drink it as a tea throughout the day. (15)
25. Muscle Spasms
A study in England found in increase in urinary levels of glycine when subjects were given it in tea form. Glycine is an amino acid that’s been shown to relieve muscle spasms. (4) So ladies, drink during, you know, that time. This might be why it soothes some stomach issues as well.
A study showed the extract exhibited an anti-estrogenic effect and stimulated osteoblastic cell differentiation (1)
27. Panic Attacks
Drinking the tea could help calm your nerves. (14)
28. Rheumatic pain
Chamomile is traditionally used to treat rheumatic pain (1)
29. Sinus infections
Traditional lore recommends using inhalation therapy to treat sinus infections. Put a handful in a bowl, pour boiling water over it, and once the steam’s not so hot it will burn ya, place a towel over your head and inhale with your eyes closed. This is also good for opening up pores to treat acne and other skin problems because of its antibacterial properties. (10)
30. Skin conditions
31. Sleep aid
This is one of its most popular folk uses. “The Sedative effects may be due to the flavonoid, apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain,” (1) though a study in England attributes it to elevated glycine, which chamomile induces, which is known as a mild sedative. (4)
32. Stomach ulcers
There is fair scientific evidence that chamomile has anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties (1). In one study on humans, it seemed to be effective for those suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) (8)
Used as a douche it may improve symptoms (1)
Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks used it as a poultice to treat wounds in general. (14) Recent studies show it very helpful in wound drying and epithelialization, higher hydroxyproline content, as well as faster reduction in the area of the wound and greater wound-breaking strength. (1)
People allergic to ragweed, asters, daisies, and chrysanthemums should avoid it, and since it’s also a blood thinner, it could interfere with any blood thinner prescriptions and should be avoided two weeks before surgery. Since it’s also good for muscle cramps, if you’re pregnant you should probably avoid as it could lead to a miscarriage. Those suffering from asthma should also avoid it. It could also act like estrogen in women, so women with a history of hormone-sensitive cancers should talk to their doctor.
Other drug interactions: lowers blood pressure slightly, so be aware if you’re taking blood pressure meds; it can also increase the effects of any sedatives; since it lowers blood sugar, diabetics on meds should be aware as it could make your blood sugar drop too low. And since it’s processed by the liver, it could interact with these: Fexofenadine (Seldane), statins (drugs that can lower cholesterol), birth control pills, and some antifungal drugs. (8) Also could interact with aspirin, platelet inhibitors, anticoagulants, anti-depressants, propranolol (beta-blocker) and others. (13)
How to Use
Since this is a tea post, obviously you can ingest it that way. But you can also get it as an extract, tincture, or ointment if you’d like to use it in other ways.
Boil filtered water and then steep about 2-3 tablespoons (or 1 bag), covered, for about 10-15 minutes. You can use a tea ball or a tea pot. Pour and enjoy!
The University of Maryland Medical Center gives these recommendations:
- Tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 – 3 heaping Tbs. (2 – 4 g) of dried herb, steep 10 – 15 minutes. Drink 3 – 4 times per day between meals.
- Tincture (1:5, 45% alcohol): 30 – 60 drops of tincture 3 times per day in hot water.
- Capsules: 300 – 400 mg taken 3 times per day.
- Gargle or mouthwash: Make a tea as above, then let it cool. Gargle as often as desired. You may also make an oral rinse with 10 – 15 drops of German chamomile liquid extract in 100 mL warm water, and use 3 times per day.
- Inhalation: Add a few drops of essential oil of chamomile to hot water (or use tea) and breathe in the steam to calm a cough.
- Bath: Use 1/4 lb. of dried flowers per bath, or add 5 – 10 drops of essential oil to a full tub of water to soothe hemorrhoids, cuts, eczema, or insect bites.
- Poultice: Make a paste by mixing powdered herb with water and apply to inflamed skin.
- Cream: Use a cream with a 3 – 10% chamomile content for psoriasis, eczema, or dry and flaky skin.
Grow Your Own
I’ve grown it in the past and am looking forward to growing it this year. I love daisies, and it’s so beautiful in bloom with their delicate white flowers. German chamomile can be grown by seed directly in the flower bed, and Roman chamomile can be grown by seed, seedlings or cuttings. Learn more here.
- The Family Herbal, by Barbara and Peter Theiss
- The Herb Book, by Arabella Boxer and Philippa Back
- Herb Grower’s Complete Guide, Revised, by Rosella F. Mathieu, 1951.
(1) By Fir0002 20D (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
(2) Amédée Masclef [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
(3) By Giancarlo Dessì (Posted by –gian_d 22:38, 14 August 2006 (UTC)) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
What about you? Do you like chamomile? How do you use it?