by Kimberly Allen, RN
Chamomile is one of the oldest medicinal herbs mankind has ever used. There are two types of chamomile – the German Chamomile and the Roman Chamomile. For years I’ve heard people talk about how a cup of chamomile tea will help you relax or help you sleep, but it actually can do so much more.
Chamomile is a member of the daisy family. The flowers can be used dried or fresh and though there are a variety of ways to use chamomile tea is by far the most common with over one million cups of chamomile tea consumed every day. There has been ongoing research into chamomile to determine and verify it’s medicinal properties. Recent research has in fact validated chamomiles long standing history as a medicinal herb. Chamomile has been shown to contain numerous chemical compounds that have been shown to benefit our health. Two of the most significant compounds are apigenin and alpha-bisabolol. Apigenin has been shown to reverse the effects of chemotherapy. There has also been some studies that have indicated apigenin may induce neurogenisis on adults. Neurogenisis is the growth of brain neurons, which can play a significant role in treating neurological injuries, disorders, and diseases. Alpha-bisabolol has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, and anti-irritant properties as well as anti-microbal properties. Alpha-bisabolol is a sticky oil that is the main ingredient in the essential oil of chamomile which is used in a variety of fragrances. In addition to apigenin and alpha-bisabolol chamomile also contains numerous other compounds including flavanoids which are known for their antioxidant effects, terpenoids which in addition to their extensive aromatic properties also have antibacterial and anti cancer properties as well. There are also coumarin compounds that have blood thinning properties in chamomile. Because of the extensive research done on the chamomile plant, validating it’s medicinal properties it is now included in the pharmacopoeia of 26 countries as a drug.
Though chamomile has numerous capabilities including anti allergenic,antibacterial, anti fungal, anti, peptic and antipyretic properties it has most frequently been used as a muscle relaxant, especially for menstrual cramps. Insomnia is probably one of the most common reasons people drink chamomile tea. Drinking a warm cup before bed relaxes you allowing you to sleep better. Chamomile has also been used as a natural treatment for irritable bowel syndrome because in addition to reducing the cramping in the bowels it also alleviates the gas and bloating that accompanies the disease. Many migraine headache sufferers have discovered that it significantly reduces the severity of their headache if they drink a cup as soon as they feel the headache starting. The oil in chamomile is good for treating burns either by rubbing a small amount over the burn daily or by brewing a strong tea using 3 bags per cup of boiling water. After the tea has cooled to room temperature soak a clean, preferable white, cloth in the tea and the place over the burn as a compress.
There are also potential side effects related to chamomile use that you should be aware of. Because chamomile is used to treat insomnia it’s no surprise that it causes drowsiness, so always us extreme caution when driving or using machinery. People that have existing allergies to ragweed or have hay fever may not be able to use chamomile. Chamomile also contains blood thinning properties so people that are taking blood thinners like coumadin should use extreme caution and always consult their Dr before using chamomile. Chamomile is also not recommended for use by pregnant women due to it’s potential to induce spontaneous abortion.