Chamomile Tea: Why This Ancient Therapeutic Drink Still Stands Out Today

chamomile tea

Story at-a-glance -

  • Chamomile has been used by ancient civilizations in various ways, but it is mostly known for its therapeutic properties. Discover what these benefits are and learn how you can easily gain them by making your own chamomile tea
  • If you’re thinking about incorporating chamomile into your diet, be sure to consult with your doctor first to rule out allergies and potential complications that may disrupt your health

The story of chamomile goes back to ancient European and Western Asian civilizations. Greeks, Egyptians and Romans valued the flower for its varied uses, such as for treating erythema and xerosis (severely dry skin). Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was one of the first luminaries to advocate the use of this plant.1

It was only during the Medieval Age that chamomile came into widespread use. During the 16th and 17th centuries, doctors and healers prescribed chamomile for all kinds of uses, and it was even used as an ingredient to make other medicines. Chamomile was also taken as a tea, and is still a practice that survives today.2

The Potential Benefits of Drinking Chamomile Tea

Chamomile contains a mixture of essential oils, vitamins and minerals that are known to provide an array of benefits. One of the easiest ways of gaining these positive effects is to make tea from the flowers, which is one of the most common ways of consuming chamomile.3 Here are several documented benefits of chamomile tea that may help with your health:

Improves cardiovascular function: Flavonoids in plants like chamomile have been long associated with a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease, as well as myocardial infarction.

In a study published in The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, chamomile tea helped improve brachial artery pressure among the participants 30 minutes after drinking.4

Improves digestive function for babies with colic: Chamomile tea may be helpful in reducing colic in babies, especially when combined with other herbs.

In a correlated study published in Pediatrics in Review, infants who took chamomile tea had a success rate of 57 percent in the elimination of colic compared to those who only took a placebo, which only had a success rate of 27 percent.5

Induces sleepiness: Chamomile tea has long been known for its ability to help induce sleep, especially when taken via tea or aromatherapy.

In the study conducted on brachial artery patients, researchers also observed that 10 of the participants went into a deep sleep for 90 minutes after drinking chamomile tea.6

Helps lower risk of thyroid cancer: Apigenin, an antioxidant found in chamomile, has been shown to fight various cancer cells (breast, digestive tract, skin, prostate and uterus) in test tube studies.7,8

Another study supports this claim, as evidenced in the European Journal of Public Health. Researchers found that there’s an inverse relationship between chamomile tea consumption and benign/malignant thyroid diseases among the Greek patients who participated in the study.9

Helps manage blood sugar levels: According to a study published in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation, Type 2 diabetics who consumed chamomile tea regularly experienced decreased concentration of HbA1C, serum insulin levels, LDL cholesterol, triglyceride and homeostatic model assessment for insulin resistance.10

Helps manage inflammation: Chamomile contains compounds that may help prevent inflammation caused by microbes.

In one example, chamomile has been shown to inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori,11 a microbe that can cause peptic ulcers.12

More Nutrition Facts About Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea is a caffeine-free, low-calorie drink, with only 2.4 calories per cup, so if you’re looking for a beverage that’s nutritious yet won’t add excess weight, this can be a beneficial choice for you. It also contains potassium, vitamin A, calcium and folate. The following table provides a good overview of its nutritional values:13

Chamomile Tea, Brewed – Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 cup (237 grams)
  Amt. Per
Serving
  % Daily
Value*
Calories 2.4 Iron 0.2 mg
Total Carbs 0.5 g Potassium 21.3 mg
Vitamin A 47.4 g    
Folate 2.4 mcg    
Calcium 4.7 g    

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

How to Grow and Store Chamomile for Your Own Use

The secret to making great-tasting chamomile tea is using high-quality, pesticide-free flowers, preferably from your own garden. Luckily, growing your own chamomile flowers is a relatively easy endeavor, and their beautiful appearance can significantly uplift the aesthetics of your garden.

There are two chamomile variations: Roman chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) and German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla). The former is considered the true chamomile variety, but the latter is also acceptable and used for nearly the same things. The steps for growing them are virtually identical, so you can simply choose which one you prefer for your tea.14

To begin growing chamomile, find a plot of land with full sun exposure and moderately rich organic soil that has a neutral pH range between 5.6 and 7.5. Soil quality is important because poor soil conditions can cause the stems to become floppier.15

Plant the seeds around six weeks before the last expected frost. It’s crucial that you place them on top of the soil but do not cover them with another layer, because they need light to germinate properly. Let the seeds stratify over the winter, and they should germinate within seven to 14 days. Water regularly until the plants mature while being careful not to overdo it, as the plant can withstand drought.16

Your harvest of chamomile flowers will be bountiful, as the plants bloom two months after sowing, and will continue throughout the summer. To dry, cut the stems and place in a warm spot until dry, but make sure they are not exposed to direct sunlight. Once complete, your flowers can last up to a year when stored in a sealed container.17

Making Your Own Chamomile Tea Is Easy

Chamomile tea is easy to prepare once you have your stock of dried flowers, but fresh flowers are also amenable. Simply follow this easy recipe to make your homemade chamomile tea:18

How to Make Chamomile Tea

Ingredients

2 tablespoons fresh chamomile flowers

2 cups filtered water

2 apple slices (thinly cut)

Raw honey to taste

Procedure

1. Bring the water to a boil.

2. While the water is boiling, add the apple slices to the teapot and mash them with a spoon.

3. Add the flowers and the boiling water into the teapot.

4. Cover and steep for three to five minutes.

5. Strain the tea into the cups.

6. Add honey to taste.

Side Effects Associated With Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea can be enjoyed by most people; however, it may cause allergic reactions in some.19 In a report published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, an 8-year-old boy developed a severe anaphylactic reaction after drinking chamomile tea. Researchers discovered that the chamomile consumed by the boy contained small traces of pollen from other plants, such as mugwort and ragweed.20

If you want to reduce your risk of allergies, it is important that you grow your own chamomile or purchase 100 percent organic chamomile tea. Be sure to assess with your doctor to learn whether you’re allergic to the daisy family of plants before drinking chamomile tea.

While there’s published evidence that chamomile tea may help infants with colic, caution is advised in this regard. There’s scientific proof indicating chamomile tea may also increase their risk of acquiring botulism. Researchers noted that chamomile may harbor Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria responsible for the disease.21 If you wish to use chamomile tea to treat your child’s colic, be very cautious and thoroughly consult with your doctor before proceeding.

Pregnant women who are past their terms, however, may benefit from taking chamomile. In one study, post-pregnant women who took two 500-milligram chamomile capsules every eight hours (for a total of 42 capsules) helped stimulate labor, thereby decreasing the risk of perinatal mortality and morbidity.22 I advise post-term pregnant women who want to try this approach to consult with their doctor first.

Almost Everyone Can Benefit From Chamomile Tea, but Be Aware of Its Contraindications

Based on the published research, almost anyone can benefit and enjoy chamomile tea, but beware of the side effects, especially for infants and children. If you’re thinking about incorporating this herbal tea into your diet, be sure to consult with your doctor first to rule out allergies and potential complications that may disrupt your health.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chamomile Tea

Q: Is chamomile tea safe?

A: Chamomile tea is generally safe to drink for healthy adults. When treating colic for infants, however, caution is strongly advised as consuming it may increase their risk of other diseases, namely botulism. Consult with a doctor first for safety reasons.

Q: What does chamomile tea taste like?

A: Chamomile tea is commonly described as having an apple-like taste with floral sweetness. It normally doesn’t require any sweeteners due to its natural flavor, but other ingredients can be added if you want to experiment.23

Q: Does chamomile tea help with sleep?

A: Yes, chamomile tea may help encourage sleepiness.

Q: Can you drink chamomile tea while pregnant?

A: As mentioned earlier in one study, chamomile may help induce labor, especially among women who are past their term. However, consult your health care practitioner before proceeding.

Q: What does chamomile tea do?

A: Chamomile tea is known for helping induce sleep, relieving stress and alleviating stomach issues.

Does chamomile tea have caffeine?

A: Chamomile tea does not have caffeine and, on the contrary, can be used to help promote sleep.

Q: How much chamomile tea can babies drink?

A: Children and babies should not be given chamomile tea unless necessary, such as for treating colic, and then only after consulting with a health care professional first.

Q: Where can you buy chamomile tea?

A: Chamomile tea can be purchased online or from stores near you. However, the more important thing to consider is the quality of the product. Certified organic chamomile tea is always preferred to ensure quality, freshness and bioavailability of the ingredients.

Q: Does chamomile tea stain your teeth?

A: Yes, herbal teas like chamomile tea may stain your teeth, with low-quality varieties causing even worse appearance. However, adding a dash of raw, grass fed milk into your cup may help reduce the effects.24

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