For centuries, people around the world have been turning to chamomile as a natural remedy for anxiety, insomnia, and other ailments.
References to the medicinal use of chamomile appear as early as Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman texts. The Ancient Egyptians used chamomile to treat colds, fevers and skin conditions and it was used in embalming oil to preserve the dead. Ancient Greek physicians describe the chamomile plant in their writings and recommended it for purification and to fight colds. The Ancient Romans consumed chamomile tea to treat headaches and urinary tract disorders. Later, in Medieval Europe, it was taken as a diuretic and pain reliever.
The name is derived from the Ancient Greek words chamos (ground), because it is a low-growing plant and melos (apple), due to its apple scented blossoms. There are two types of chamomile plants — Roman and German. Both varieties are similar, having long stems and small white and yellow flowers and both are used medicinally.
While chamomile can be used to treat a variety of conditions, it is commonly considered a treatment for insomnia and anxiety. Its sedative effects may be due to the flavonoid, apigenin, that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain.
In a study that evaluated the effects of chamomile tea on sleep quality, fatigue and depression in postpartum women, 80 Taiwanese postnatal women suffering from poor sleep were divided into two groups with one group being instructed to drink chamomile tea for two weeks. The group that drank chamomile tea reported better sleep and fewer symptoms of depression.
Researchers have also looked at the effect of chamomile on Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in 2013, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine administered chamomile extract to one group and placebo therapy to another for eight weeks. Results showed that chamomile treatment had a modest anxiolytic effect on GAD patients.
A more recent 2016 study supports the positive benefits of chamomile on GAD, following 179 participants who took 1500 mg of chamomile extract daily for 12 weeks and then split into two groups — one which continued to take chamomile and the other a placebo, for 26 weeks. The group that continued the chamomile therapy reported a decrease in GAD symptoms and the researchers verified the safety of a 1500 mg dose.
A 2017 study measured the effect of chamomile on the sleep quality of elderly people. Sixty nursing home residents in Iran were randomly divided into control and treatment groups. The treatment group which received 400 mg of chamomile extract for 28 days experienced significantly better sleep quality than the control group.
Chamomile may cause an allergic reaction in some people, particularly those with sensitivities to plants from the same family, such as ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, or daisies, but is generally considered safe. However, it’s always good practice to consult a doctor before beginning any herbal treatments. The recommended daily dosage for adults is 1-4 cups of tea, 400 to 1600 mg by capsule or 1-4 ml of liquid extract three times daily.