Multiple Health Benefits of Chamomile

Multiple Health Benefits of Chamomile

Chamomile has medicinal uses beyond the relaxing cup of tea.

Chamomile is of course both globally consumed and treasured, and has one of the longest histories of traditional medicinal use of any plant. For thousands of years it has been employed in various forms to soothe, calm, and heal a wide range of concerns from sleep to mood, healing, infections, stomach issues, osteoporosis, diabetes and more. It is drunk as tea, burned as incense, consumed as food, applied as ointment, tincture, and even mouthwash.

According to "The herbs of Choice: The therapeutic use of Phytomedicinals", chamomile is used across cultures for "wounds, ulcers, eczema, gout, skin irritations, bruises, burns, canker sores, neuralgia, sciatica, rheumatic pain, hemorrhoids, mastitis and other ailments."

A member of daisy family, chamomile is actually many species of plant in the Asteraceae family, but most commonly is the more popular German, or the Roman or English variety. Most of what we typically consume is the German Matricaria Recutita -- from a naturopathic perspective, it is considered the western counterpart to the eastern tonic ginseng. Despite being different species, they have remarkably similar effects on the human body.

Research suggests that it may be the compounds apigenin and chrysin that are responsible for the major medicinal qualities of chamomile.

Chamomile's remarkable range of effects include:

Relaxant and soporific:

Probably its widest use is as a mild tranquillizer and sleep-promoter (soporific). Current research states that apigenin in chamomile binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain, which is why the extract exhibits benzodiazepine-like hypnotic activity. There are other compounds in extracts of chamomile that can also bind BDZ and GABA receptors and thus may account for some of the sedative effect, but these are still being investigated. Furthermore, certain drugs are significantly enhanced when taken in combination with chamomile oil vapors, so the variety of methods of chamomile use are clearly supported.
 

Anti-anxiety:

Another successful application of chamomile for medicinal purpose is for its calming effects. According to a study at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, treatment using chamomile extract reduced the symptoms of anxiety and depression. German chamomile showed modest inhibition of generalized anxiety disorder activity in early tests. Again, apigenin is believed to be at the heart of the mood effect, likely by reducing locomotor activity and by binding to benzodiazepine sites on GABA receptors. There was even a study done that showed chamomile aromatherapy massage had a significant positive impact on nervousness and anxiety, but also actually enhanced self-esteem (Soden K, Vincent K, Craske S, Lucas C, Ashley S. A randomized controlled trial of aromatherapy massage in a hospice setting. Palliat Med. 2004.)
 

Immune boosting, anti-inflammatory, anti-phlogistic, anti-bacterial:

Studies indicate that inhaling steam with chamomile extract has been helpful in common cold symptoms, while consumption of chamomile tea may boost the immune system. One study done with 14 participants showed a significant increase in levels of hippurate and glycine, which are associated with increased anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory activity. Furthermore, studies show that chamomile inhibits helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers.
 

Wound repair and healing:

Although chamomile has long been used to promote healing of wounds, the first clear scientific evidence to support it was reported in a study of patients who underwent derm-abrasion to remove tattoos. Application of topical chamomile showed benefits in wound drying and in speeding epithelialization and in increasing wound breaking strength. More recent studies showed initial evidence that chamomile effected wound healing faster than corticosteroids.
 

Anti-cancer activity:

Studies on pre-clinical models of skin, prostate, breast and ovarian cancer have shown promising growth inhibitory effects from chamomile consumption. In a recently conducted study, chamomile extracts were shown to "cause minimal growth inhibitory effects on normal cells, but showed significant reductions in cell viability in various cancer cell lines."
 

Cardiovascular supportive:

It is believed that the flavonoids in chamomile may reduce the risk of coronary disease in the elderly, possibly via increasing brachial artery pressure.
 

Stomach and gastrointestinal calming (anti-diarrhea):

Chamomile extracts not only lowered gastric acidity as effectively as a commercial antacid, but was more effective in inhibiting secondary hyper-acidity. Also, a chamomile extract may help shorten the course of diarrhea in children as well as relieve associated symptoms.
 

Blood sugar balancing:

Another valuable medicinal benefit of chamomile is that it has clear pharmacological activity on hyperglycemia and diabetes, lowering blood sugar levels, increasing storage of glycogen in the liver and inhibiting sorbitol in erythrocytes.
 

We have been studying chamomile's applications at 4 Organics for years now and have also found in our own experience that it is one of the most potent medicinal plants. So nothing really new there, but it takes years of study before the science can align (or not) with traditional use. Anyone who has burned a chamomile candle, inhaled a chamomile steam, or taken chamomile supplements to help relax and sleep better will attest to the power of this special plant. In both our highly effective sleep aid and muscle relaxant supplement and mood support and stress relief supplement, chamomile is one of the key calming botanicals. 

Obviously it takes a lot of study to ascertain the exact nature of a plants therapeutic value, but chamomile continues to show a host of benefits that make it highly useful. 

Related Posts: 
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Sleep Aid Supplement

References:

  • Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J, eds. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2000.
  • McKay DL, Blumberg JB. A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of chamomile tea (Matricaria recutita L.). Phytotherapy Research. 2006.
  • Avallone R, Zanoli P, Corsi L, Cannazza G, Baraldi M. Benzodiazepine compounds and GABA in flower heads of matricaria chamomilla. Phytotherapy Res. 1996.
  • Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Srivastava J, Shankar E, Gupta S. Mol Med 3. 2011.
  • Natural Standard Database Web site.


The opinions expressed in this article are of the author. Content and other information presented on the site are not meant to be medical advice or any substitute for professional advice, counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard professional medical or mental health advice from your physician or other qualified health provider.

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