Chamomile and its by-products are well-known for promoting a relaxed state and improving sleep quality. But this white and yellow flower has many more impressive health benefits than just promoting feelings of relaxation!

What is chamomile?

Most of us have heard of chamomile tea, but what is it good for? And what is chamomile anyway?

Chamomile is an ancient medicinal plant species from the Asteraceae family of flowering plants. Its flowers have properties that boast impressive health benefits.

Native to southern and eastern Europe, the chamomile plant has been around for thousands of years and has been used in herbal remedies in Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The plant was brought to India 300 years ago. India continues to be a large market for growing and producing chamomile products today. Chamomile also grows in Australia, Africa, many European countries and other parts of the world as well. (1)

Chamomile flowers in a water vase

Chamomile flowers may look like daisies but their cone-shaped centers set them apart.

Chamomile has thin spindly shaped roots, erect stems, and a flower head that looks similar to white and yellow daisies. The chamomile plant’s yellow center is flat in the beginning but eventually becomes cone-shaped and hollow – a very distinctive feature.

Harvesting chamomile is very labor-intensive. Farmers have to be sure to pluck the flowers off the plants that are in full bloom because they yield the best results and are most potent. Chamomile plants can thrive in a variety of temperatures between 2-20 degrees celsius and in a variety of soil conditions including somewhat poor soil (sand or clay). That is why, today, chamomile is also grown in North America.

Did you know?
The chamomile plant thrives in poor soil conditions rather than rich damp soil.

As a therapeutic and medicinal plant, chamomile contains a wide variety of health-supportive compounds including sesquiterpenes, flavonoids, coumarins, and polyacetylenes. Additionally, more than 120 chemical constituents (including terpenoids, flavonoids, and other compounds with possible pharmacological activity) have been identified as secondary metabolites — organic compounds produced by bacteria, plants or fungi. Many of these components are antimicrobial, fungistatic and antiseptic. (1)(2)

How can I benefit from chamomile?

The two most common types of chamomile used for therapeutic purposes today are German chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum Nobile). The chamomile flower can be processed to create chamomile capsules, chamomile tea, and chamomile extracts such as essential oils. Each variation provides different levels of potency — the essential oil being the most concentrated form. Essential oils are concentrated oils extracted from herbs, plants, and trees.

Chamomile contains a wide variety of compounds that can act like antioxidants in the body. As a result, consuming chamomile products may also help prevent the common cold, reduce the risk of harm associated with coronary heart disease, and improve the quality of your skin complexion. (3) That is only the start! There are many other health benefits!

Chamomile health benefits

Reduces pain

The anti-inflammatory effects of chamomile flowers and the essential oil derived from it can help to reduce physical pain. Chamomile has been used for hundreds of years to help reduce pain for those experiencing headaches, back pain, toothaches, and other inflammatory-related symptoms.

A 2013 study from the University College Dublin found that after taking an herbal beverage composed of chamomile, meadowsweet, and willow bark for four weeks, the mechanical joint function was improved and lower back and knee pain was reduced for participants. (4) A flavonoid called apigenin is one of the main anti-inflammatory compounds found in chamomile contributing to this effect. (5)

Similarly, a 2015 study published in the Journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice found that chamomile oil showed an increase in physical function when used as a topical oil for patients with knee osteoarthritis. (6)

Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea is made from the dried flowers of the chamomile plant but the fresh flowers work too!

Heals wounds and promotes skin health

Chamomile can help to reduce irritated skin. The essential oil derived from chamomile can be mixed with a carrier oil or lotion and applied directly to the irritated area. It can also have a positive effect in reducing breakouts and red or dry skin thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Chamomile products may also reduce symptoms associated with gout, eczema, hemorrhoids, and ulcers. (3)

In certain cases, chamomile has even been shown to be more effective than hydrocortisone cream for healing wounds. A 2011 Iranian study compared a German chamomile solution to topical steroids on peristomal skin lesions in 72 patients. Results found that the wounds treated with the chamomile solution healed faster than those treated with the medical hydrocortisone cream. (7)

Did you know?
Chamomile has also been shown to reduce the effects of teeth and gum bacterial infections and the pain associated with oral cancer sores.

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Supportive Care in Cancer compared water cryotherapy and cryotherapy made with a chamomile infusion for the prevention and reduction of oral mucositis. Cryotherapy – or cold therapy – is a technique where the body is exposed to extremely cold temperatures for several minutes. In the study, the occurrence of oral mucositis was “lower in patients in the chamomile group than in the control group. When compared to the controls, the chamomile group presented less mouth pain and had no ulcerations.” (8)

Improves digestion

Another popular use for chamomile, especially in tea form, is reducing unwanted symptoms associated with poor digestion such as an upset stomach, cramping, flatulence, and diarrhea. Therapeutic compounds found in chamomile can act as a digestive relaxant.

The Journal of Pediatrics in Review published a study of a clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of chamomile for treating diarrhea in children. Symptoms of diarrhea ended much sooner for the children consuming an apple pectin-chamomile extract compared to those receiving a placebo. (9)

Helps sleep & relaxation

Often when we think of what chamomile tea is good for, its ability to improve sleep quality and promote a relaxed state is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Many people find that drinking chamomile tea before bed helps them relax and have a better rest. This continues to be studied.

The sedative effects felt by many after drinking chamomile tea may be due to a flavonoid called apigenin that some studies show binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. Drugs that can reduce anxiety and promote sleep, in the same way, are classified as benzodiazepines. (3)

A 2017 study authored by the Department of Nursing and Midwifery from the Tehran University of Medical Sciences found that the sleep quality of 80 elderly people improved after 4 weeks of consuming chamomile extract. (10)

Similarly, a 2015 study from the University of Fooyin in Taiwan looked at the sleep quality of 80 postnatal women experiencing difficulty sleeping and found that after 2 weeks of consuming chamomile tea, their sleep quality and mood had improved. (11)

Boosts mental wellness

The use of chamomile products also benefits our mental wellness. Since chamomile can help us relax, it may also reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. (12)(13)(14)

A 2013 study looked at 90 women students experiencing physical and emotional disturbances relating to the premenstrual syndrome by comparing the efficacy of chamomile extract versus mefenamic (a pain medication). After two months, the emotional disturbances of the women who consumed just chamomile capsules were significantly less than those who had been taking mefenamic pills. (15)

Chamomile flowers next to Chamomile essential oil bottle

Chamomile is used to make tea, essential oils, supplements, and is often added to products in the self-care industry such as facial cleansers.

The flowers of the chamomile plant are therapeutic and can be consumed by:

  • Drinking dried or fresh chamomile tea
  • Diffusing chamomile essential oil (or either as a topical or taken internally with the support of a qualified medical professional)
  • In capsule form

The bottom line

Chamomile is a safe and effective plant that had been used for centuries to support those experiencing a variety of unwanted symptoms including for reducing pain, better skin, healing wounds, improved digestion, sleep, and mental wellness. It should be noted that those with seasonal allergies to ragweed or flowers in the daisy family may experience an allergic reaction to chamomile. Chamomile may also interact differently in the presence of certain pharmaceutical drugs. Be sure to consult with your qualified medical practitioner before making major changes to your healthcare routine.

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