Chamomile tea is made from the dried flowers of either German or Roman Chamomile. It’s used widely to treat conditions as varied as hay fever, inflammation, insomnia and ulcers, and even in cosmetics and aromatherapy.
Chamomile tea is also well-known as a relaxing herbal remedy. There is a scientific basis for its use. Not only does it help you relax as a warm drink, but it contains all-natural compounds that have a sedative effect. Among these compounds are a mild tranquilizer and elements with real health benefits.
Chamomile tea has some positive effects. It’s suitable for everyone and has none of the side effects associated with pharmaceuticals. Read on if you’d like to learn more about this amazing herb.
Can Chamomile Tea Help You Sleep?
Chamomile tea most definitely helps people get to sleep. It acts as a mild tranquilizer with sedative effects, but it’s entirely natural. The first thing you should know is that there are two kinds of chamomile. These are Roman and German chamomile. In some ways, the two are similar to one another; they both have calming, soothing effects. They appear similar, too.
But the real question is whether chamomile helps you sleep. The good news is that it does.
What Do Scientific Studies Have to Say?
A study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing sought to get to the bottom of the question. The authors of the study wanted to identify whether chamomile tea had any effect on sleep quality, fatigue, and depression in postpartum women. Naturally, women who have just given birth tend to have poor sleep quality. Even if the baby is sleeping peacefully, worry and doubt can keep you awake as a new mother.
To see whether chamomile tea had an effect, the authors performed a randomized, controlled trial. They recruited 80 Taiwanese women with self-reported poor sleep quality. The women were divided into two groups of forty: one group drinking chamomile tea, and one not. Over the course of half a year, the authors measured the women’s fatigue and depression levels using standardized medical tests.
What they found was a promising answer. According to their report, the group drinking chamomile tea ‘demonstrated significantly lower scores of physical-symptoms-related sleep inefficiency … and the symptoms of depression.’ That being said, they found that four weeks after the test—after the women had stopped drinking the tea—that the effects had worn off. That suggests that chamomile tea only produces effects in the immediate term, or as long as you drink it.
But, how can a herbal infusion like chamomile have such a dramatic effect?
How Does Chamomile Improve Sleep?
It works by helping the body to relax in many ways. Some of these ways are chemical, whereas some are medicinal. The combined effect is a wonderful, soothing sensation. There are three ways that chamomile has an immediate psychological effect on us.
- First, it makes you feel warmer. This is part of the effect that cocoa or other kinds of tea have. They prepare you for bed by making you feel warm, which contributes to drowsiness.
- Second, chamomile tea helps with anxiety. Sometimes all that’s needed to soothe nerves is to slow down by preparing and drinking tea. However, as we’ll come to in a moment, there is also a very good chemical reason that chamomile helps with anxiety.
- Third, it allows you to have ‘you time.’ A day’s stress can weigh on your shoulders by evening. Having to work, commute, or keep house can feel like a non-stop experience. Having ‘you time’ lets you refocus and relax, which again, is a good way to prepare for bed.
So, is chamomile tea any better than cocoa? After all, cocoa warms you up and gets you ready for bed. No; the most important aspect of chamomile tea is that it contains genuine sedatives.
Chamomile Tea Apigenin Content
Dried chamomile flowers contain what are called ‘terpenoids’ and ‘flavonoids.’ Terpenoids are a family of natural chemicals, which includes menthol and camphor. Many have a relaxing effect. Believe it or not, but the relaxing effects of cannabis are because of cannabinoids, a different kind of terpenoid.
Flavonoids aren’t just relaxing but have a range of health benefits. Research into their effects as anti-allergens, anti-inflammatories, antioxidants, and anti-cancer have been positive. One particular flavonoid that chamomile tea contains is apigenin, a natural chemical occurring in many plants that have proven anti-cancer credentials.
Research into apigenin shows that it has a mild sedative effect in animals. This is backed up by a study in the Journal of Natural Products, which suggests that flavonoids could affect opiate replacements for addicts. This is because apigenin binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain.
Chamomile and Illnesses
Chamomile has a whole host of other benefits, too. If your sleep is affected by any of these conditions, then chamomile may be able to help. There are a surprising amount of things that chamomile can help with, which aren’t limited to mental conditions.
Let’s take a look at how chamomile can assist with other things that keep people awake.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The same study suggests that not only does chamomile lift mood, but it’s also good for mental health. It has been used to treat GAD or generalized anxiety disorder. This disorder is characterized by continued irrational worrying, panic attacks, breathing difficulties and fidgeting. Mental illness is just as effective at keeping people awake as any physical condition. Fortunately, the relaxing properties of chamomile can help. Considering that SSRIs are the most common treatment, natural chamomile is an excellent alternative therapy.
Since chamomile tea makes you feel drowsy, it’s also perfect for tackling insomnia. Insomnia is more complicated than finding it difficult to sleep. It’s caused and exacerbated by psychological stress, hyperthyroidism and a range of less common problems like restless leg syndrome. Treatment is psychological first, and pharmaceutical second. As such, chamomile ranks high because not only does it relax you, but it also works chemically to make you sleepy.
A study in Molecular Medicine Reports suggests that chamomile can also assist with hyperglycemia and other complications arising from diabetes. That’s because it can suppress blood sugar levels and help the liver to store glycogen.
It also prevents the absorption of sorbitol, a form of sugar that the body can store. It also keeps the pancreas healthy in diabetics. So, if diabetes is keeping you awake, chamomile can help.
Menstrual cramps are awful and disturb many people’s sleep. Many women take prescription painkillers to treat them. But you needn’t choose a pharmaceutical solution when a natural one is available.
Chamomile can reduce menstrual cramps, especially when taken over the long term. A study in the Iranian Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics found that chamomile tea is ‘an effective therapy’ for primary dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps).
If you currently have a condition like irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea or bloating, chamomile can help. Chamomile is naturally anti-inflammatory, which can help gut issues. It’s also effective for stomach ulcers, spasms and other kinds of cramp too.
Wound healing is affected by many factors. These include the level of clotting agents in the blood, as well as the health of the skin. However, topical solutions can aid in wound healing, making wounds heal faster and creating stronger seals.
These topical solutions are typically pharmaceutical in nature. However, chamomile dries wounds, attacks microbes and makes the wound stronger and less likely to break. So, if you’re struggling to sleep because of a painful wound, topical chamomile can help.
How Long Does It Take for Chamomile Tea to Work?
Chamomile tea doesn’t take long to work at all. As soon as you take a sip, your body starts to absorb it through the gums and lining of the mouth. Immediately once consumed, it begins to take effect. However, the effects strengthen over the course of around half an hour.
Ultimately, it depends on many parameters:
- The amount you drink compared to body weight
- The environment you are in at the time you consume the tea
- The amount of time that you allow the tea to steep (i.e., to sit in the water)
Strengthening the tea, consuming it quickly and consuming more are three ways of hastening the effects.
What Are the Side Effects of Chamomile Tea?
Most mild sedatives have side effects. These can range from mild symptoms like headaches, to full-on addictions. So, for example, sedatives such as benzodiazepines can cause slurred speech, impaired judgment, slower reflexes, and difficulty walking. That isn’t to mention the most severe side effects of drugs such as these, which are overdose and death.
However, since chamomile tea is natural, it has fewer and less serious side effects. Let’s take a look at the problems you might encounter when drinking chamomile tea.
- Drowsiness is the most obvious effect of chamomile tea. If you’re drinking it to relax, but not to sleep, you may find that it becomes hard to stay awake.
- If you drink alcohol or take other sedatives, the sedative effects of chamomile are increased. Bear that in mind: it’s like how some medicines can cause the effects of others to become stronger.
- In the event of drinking more chamomile tea than you should, it can cause vomiting. This is no different from the reflex you encounter when drinking too much water. It isn’t due to the body getting rid of an excess toxic substance.
- Allergic reaction to chamomile is possible. WebMD suggests that you should avoid drinking chamomile tea if you have specific allergies. These include allergies to ragweed, daisies, marigolds, and chrysanthemums.
- Certain people can also experience allergic eczema when they use chamomile skin creams.
- Chamomile tea can also interact with certain medicines. These include other sedatives, blood thinners, aspirin, painkillers like ibuprofen and more. That’s why you should talk to a doctor before consuming large amounts of chamomile tea.
The side effects of long-term chamomile consumption have yet to be studied. As such, there is uncertainty as to the true side effects of chamomile tea. However, based on studies of their short-term effects, it seems that there are no long-term safety risks.
Even so, you should talk to your doctor before starting to drink chamomile tea. That’s the case whenever you plan on taking a new supplement or changing your diet. Your doctor can advise you on medications that might interfere with chamomile, such as blood thinners or painkillers.
Is It Safe to Drink Chamomile Tea Every Day?
Unlike many other vitamins and supplements, there is no suggested dose of chamomile. That’s because the body doesn’t need a certain amount of chamomile to function. Contrast chamomile to vitamin B12: the body needs B12 to create red blood cells, and we can’t produce our own. The body has no comparative necessary use for chamomile.
That being said, most studies involving chamomile use between 400mg and 1.6g. That’s a typical amount that you can find in a chamomile supplement. It’s also a typical amount of chamomile flower used to brew a cup of chamomile tea.
As for taking chamomile tea every day, the same logic applies. There is no recommended dose, nor is there a limit over which chamomile tea becomes toxic, like with certain vitamins. It’s typically safe to drink chamomile tea every day (or take the equivalent in supplements).
Chamomile and Pregnancy
Doctors recommend that pregnant women avoid tea, even after they give birth. However, this advice is geared towards teas: drinks made from the leaves of certain plants. The leaf is where caffeine is stored, which is why doctors might warn you off from drinking them. As we pointed out earlier, chamomile ‘tea’ isn’t, strictly speaking, a tea. It’s made of flowers.
That being said, it’s far from a settled matter whether it’s safe to drink chamomile during pregnancy. The same goes for many herbs. The reason is that chamomile and many other herbs haven’t been conclusively studied. Scientists aren’t 100% sure whether or not it can cause certain negative effects. No doubt you will have heard some people say you shouldn’t drink it; there are probably other people you could ask who would say that it’s no problem.
The FDA classifies chamomile as ‘GRAS,’ or ‘generally recognized as safe.’ The advice you take is up to you, but you should consult with your doctor before drinking chamomile tea if that’s what you want to do.
Will It Cause Excessive Urination During the Night?
One other, less dangerous side effect of chamomile tea is that it may be a mild diuretic that wakes up during the night. Diuretics cause the body to get rid of more water than it usually would. They do this by encouraging the kidneys to filter water out of your bloodstream. Well-known diuretics include coffee and tea, which both contain caffeine, the most obvious example of a diuretic.
Chamomile tea doesn’t contain caffeine. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that it may be a diuretic. Many people report that it has a mild, but noticeable, diuretic effect. This has not, as of yet, been studied in genuine scientific research.
What’s the Best Time to Drink Chamomile Tea?
Like all sleep aids, it’s best to drink chamomile tea later on in the day, as you’re settling down. However, you can drink it at any time of the day that you choose. Simply make sure that being drowsy or sleepy won’t be a problem for you; so, for example, don’t drink it before a high-stress situation such as work. Simply follow the guide below to make sure that you drink chamomile tea at the correct time.
- Wait until late at night. Start to brew your tea around an hour before bedtime. You may find that chamomile tea takes longer/less time to take effect than half an hour. If so, adjust your schedule accordingly.
- Brew your chamomile tea for at least five minutes, up to ten minutes. Any longer and the drink becomes increasingly bitter. In that way, it’s similar to black tea and green tea.
- Wait for the drink to cool down. Remember, you won’t put milk or creamer in chamomile tea. Drinking it immediately after you pour it would burn your mouth and tongue.
- Sip your tea gently and drink it slowly. That way, you can combine the sedative effects of chamomile with the relaxing ‘you time’ of slowly sipping tea.
Alternatively, you can use chamomile tea to relax in the morning. In that way, it’s almost the opposite of stimulating caffeine drinks like coffee. Just make sure that you don’t have to operate heavy machinery or work a high-stress job afterward.
What’s the Best Chamomile Tea for Sleep?
Picking the right chamomile tea for you is fairly simple. There isn’t an overwhelming amount of choice, which makes things a lot easier. Let’s take a look at the different kinds of chamomile you can buy.
German Chamomile vs. Roman Chamomile
The first thing you have to consider is whether to use Roman chamomile or German chamomile. The two plants are very similar in appearance, although German chamomile can grow to twice the size of Roman chamomile. However, concerning their efficacy, they are practically the same. You can find a tea of both varieties.
Fresh Chamomile vs. Dry Chamomile
The second thing you have to consider—something which is far more important—is whether you use fresh chamomile or dried chamomile. In an ideal world, you would be able to go outside to the garden and pick your own chamomile. However, this isn’t necessarily possible, and most consumers would prefer to buy it than grow it.
Considering the manufacturing process, getting chamomile to the majority of consumers would be impossible without drying. That’s because it would take too long to pick, pack and ship to each customer. Make sure that whatever chamomile you buy, you buy one that’s good quality. That’s why the vast majority of affordable chamomile on the market is dried.
Dried chamomile can retain its flavor and chemical profile for a year after drying. However, the process of drying something—whether it be coffee, tea leaves, chamomile or beef jerky—can change it when not done right (like at too high a temperature). You have to be careful to avoid low-quality chamomile.
Premium vs. Basic
The final consideration you’ll have to make is whether to opt for a premium or basic brand. Basic brands are good because they allow anyone and everyone to enjoy chamomile. There are some great options available, but even so, you would be better off choosing a higher end brand. Let’s take a look at why.
- If you aren’t careful, you might buy tea that is artificially flavored. The artificial flavor can hide the fact that the chamomile blend was frozen or dried some time ago.
- Lesser brands will pad out the blend with dust from the production process. This dust is a natural chamomile by-product but doesn’t offer as fresh a taste as better brands.
- Better brands are typically fresher, taste better, and will last longer.
The good news is that you have plenty of choices when it comes to buying chamomile. Considering the relatively low cost of chamomile compared to other sleep solutions, it’s worth a try. Start out with a small pack, and see how it works for you. You might be surprised.