When the day has frazzled
your nerves to the extent that you feel like pulling your hair out,
it’s time to sit down and have a nice cup of chamomile tea. And your
nerves aren’t the only thing chamomile tea is good at soothing: This
herb is wonderful for easing digestive distress, skin irritations,
and occasional mild insomnia.
rooted in history
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) tea is made from the tiny daisy-like
flowers of a lacy-leafed plant that now grows all over the world.
This delicate, apple-scented beverage has been soothing folks for
thousands of years, dating back to the ancient Romans, Egyptians,
and Greeks. The world’s first great healers—Hippocrates, Asclepius,
Dioscorides, and Galen—all documented its use.
Back in the day, chamomile tea provided a medicine chest’s worth of
useful remedies. Its list of treatable conditions included
cold-related symptoms, stomach and gastrointestinal problems,
toothaches, convulsions, and insomnia. People used chamomile as a
gargle or antiseptic wash and inhaled the tea’s steam to reduce
congestion and clear up irritations throughout the respiratory
Historically, midwives treated pregnancy and childbirth issues with
chamomile tea. Today, despite reservations that chamomile’s effect
on uterine muscles could stimulate uterine contractions, the tea is
generally considered safe for pregnant women. Healers also soaked
poultices in a hot chamomile infusion to soothe back pain, gout,
earaches, skin inflammations, bruises, and arthritis.
what’s in it?
Chamomile contains a handful of major healing components. Among them
are chamazulene and alpha-bisabolol. Chamazulene, formed during the
heating of the tea or extract, has proven anti-inflammatory
activity. Alpha-bis abolol is antibacterial, antifungal, and
anti-inflammatory, and can promote the healing of ulcers, burns, and
eczema. Chamomile’s volatile oils help expel digestive gas, relax
muscles, kill bacteria, and have a sedative effect.
what science says
Recently, science proved that the ancients were right on target when
they prescribed chamomile tea to calm frayed nerves. In 2009,
researchers from the University of Pennsylvania conducted a gold
standard clinical trial (meaning that it was placebo-controlled and
neither the researchers nor the participants knew whether they were
getting a real or a sham treatment) to study chamomile’s effects on
people with generalized anxiety disorder. Fifty-seven people with
mild to moderate anxiety disorder took either chamomile as an
extract or a fake treatment daily for eight weeks. The researchers
reported that folks in the chamomile group had significantly
improved scores—meaning they were less anxious—on standardized tests
than those who took the sham treatment.
enjoy a cup (or three) of comfort
When you drink chamomile tea regularly (two or three cups every
day), it can protect against peptic ulcers; ease irritable bowel
syndrome, indigestion, and stomach cramps; and act as a gentle,
natural tranquilizer. What’s more, chamomile tea can prevent muscle
spasms and relax the smooth muscles that line the internal organs,
such as the stomach and the uterus, making it a good remedy for
easing stomach upsets and menstrual cramps.
Even though chamomile flowers contain pollen and may cause an
allergic reaction when ingested or applied externally, researchers
have found that chamomile may have antiallergenic properties. The
potential effect is attributed to the as-yet-unconfirmed
histamine-blocking action of chemical compounds called azulenes.
Good to Know
Chamomile may cause an allergic reaction among those sensitive to
ragweed and other members of the aster family, induding
chrysanthemums. To be on the safe side, avoid taking chamomile if
you have asthma. The flowers contain pollen and may cause
dermatitis, although allergic skin reactions are rare. Chamomile may
increase the effects of sedating drugs and blood- thinning drugs.
Find chamomile tea bags in the tea section of the super market or in
health food stores. Look for tiny daisy— like flowers inside the
bags and a pleasant, apple aroma. Discard tea bags that aren’t
fragrant—they’ve likely lost their healing power Pour boiling water
over one to three tea bags, cover the cup, steep for 10 minutes,
then enjoy. Traditionally, the recommended medicinal dosage calls
for drinking one cup three or four times a day to heal digestive
complaints. One strong cup before bed time can ease mild insomnia.
A soothing bedtime story
Chamomile tea’s abilrty to calm jangled nerves was immortalized in
Beatrix Potter’s famous children’s story The Tote of Peter Robbit,
treasured by children for more than 100 years. Against his mother’s
wishes, lithe Peter sneaks into Mc McGregor’s garden, eats too much,
is chased by McGregor and catches a chill while hiding in a watering
can. When Peter arrives home, he doesn’t feel well. His mother puts
him to bed early with a dose of chamomile tea tablespoonful to be
taken at bed time—which is still a common remedy for ailing and