Chamomile is one of the most popular and widespread herbal medicines available today and is commonly found in teas, oils, and skin products. It’s popular for good reason: chamomile has been known to help with sleeplessness, anxiety, upset stomachs, and even to improve the look of skin and hair.
But is chamomile as beneficial to our health as people say? We think it is. Here’s why.
Matricaria chamomilla has a long history as a traditional medicine and dietary supplement dating back thousands of years. It was first used throughout ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome as a healing tincture for skin rashes and other ailments, but its popularity grew in the Middle Ages when it was used to treat illnesses like asthma, colic, fevers, inflammation, and nausea. Chamomile flowers belong to the daisy family, and were cultivated in America by German settlers in the 19th century. Today it’s widely accessible in teas and essential oils. It has even been dubbed the European ginseng due to its popularity in Western culture.
The plant is often called by its most common species, German or Roman chamomile, but there are many different types, all of which fall under the Asteraceae or Composite family of plants, along with flowers like asters, sunflowers, and ragweed. It’s the daisy-like flower heads that are harvested and valued for their medicinal qualities.
There are several health benefits to using chamomile as an herbal medicine. Why does it pack in so many health benefits? Chamomile tea contains a chemical compound called chamazulene along with several healing oils, which are known to possess anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-allergenic properties. There are many common ailments that chamomile can help with:
Sleep Disorders—Chamomile is commonly used as a sleep aid and acts as a mild sedative. It’s also been known to promote calm and relaxation, and to lessen anxiety. This makes it an excellent nighttime supplement, to unwind at the end of a busy day, support healthy sleep hygiene, and as a natural treatment of sleep disorders like insomnia.
Digestive Health—The antispasmodic qualities of chamomile can be useful for fighting digestive problems by reducing muscle spasms and by smoothing the walls of the intestines. This is helpful for those experiencing stomach discomfort, bloating, and constipation. Chamomile has also been shown to help those with IBS, particularly when those symptoms are due to stress.
Healthy Skin and Hair—There are many benefits to using chamomile on your skin and hair. The antioxidants present in chamomile can help with anti-aging and lightening of your complexion, including soothing irritation and reducing the look of under eye circles. It’s also a useful aid in reducing sun burns or scarring on your skin. The anti-inflammatory elements in chamomile can also help to treat dry scalp or dandruff, and you can use chamomile on your hair to promote overall health and shine.
Combat Cold and Flu—Chamomile contains antibacterial and anti-viral properties, which could help you combat the common cold and even alleviate some flu symptoms. Drinking tea or steaming chamomile while sick could help reduce sore throats, swelling, and redness. At the very least, chamomile will offer comfort and rest while sick, which can help you recover sooner.
Though less tested, studies also suggest that chamomile is linked to helping treat colic in babies, reducing menstrual pain, and has even been shown to contain anti-cancer properties, along with a number of other benefits.
There are several ways to enjoy the benefits of chamomile beyond just a nice cup of tea. Here are some of our favorites:
When enjoying chamomile in a bagged tea, you typically don’t need to worry about the quantity you’re taking and it’s safe to enjoy 3 or more cups of tea a day. However, when using it in bulk or in oil form, it’s a good idea to monitor your consumption to ensure you don’t take too much. For adults, dosage varies widely from 25 mg to 2000 mg a day.
|Liquid Extract||1–4 ml||3 times/day|
|Tincture||15 ml||3–4 times/day|
Source: Integrative Medicine, 2018
When giving chamomile to children, start with very small amounts and gradually increase this after monitoring its effect. That is, after you’ve spoken with your child’s pediatrician for professional medical advice.
Chamomile is safe for almost everyone as it produces few side effects, with a couple of exceptions. While some experts say drinking chamomile tea during pregnancy can help with joint inflammation and sleeplessness, others disagree. To be safe, women who are pregnant or nursing should consult with a doctor before using chamomile or any other herbal supplement. Additionally, people who have allergic reactions to other Composite flowers like ragweed may be allergic to chamomile as well and experience a mild reaction to it. If you’re concerned you may have an allergy, use chamomile sparingly at first to ensure there are no adverse effects.
Fortunately, bagged chamomile herbal tea is widespread today and easy to find in most grocery stores. But, if you’re interested in using it for other purposes, you may consider buying loose tea in bulk or seeking out essential oils with chamomile extract. Check the ingredients list for higher concentrations of chamomile, or buy 100% pure chamomile products for the highest quality. You can also grow it in your garden. If you live in the U.S., German chamomile is a hardy annual that grows well in USDA zones 5–8 in the summer months, producing a bushy shrub about 3 feet tall. It’s mostly pest-resistant and can be planted alongside vegetables to repel common insects. Roman chamomile is more widely found in the UK and grows as a creeping, herbaceous perennial.