Chamomile: benefits, side effects and medications.

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Chamomile ( Matricaria recuit a) is a flowering plant in the chamomile family (Asteraceae). Native to Europe and Western Asia, it is now found throughout the world. The herb smells like apple, which may explain its name: chamomile is Greek for earthy apple.

There are two different chamomile plants: German chamomile and Roman chamomile. German chamomile, considered the most powerful variety and the one most used for medicinal purposes, is the plant analyzed here.

Also know as

Matricaria recutita

Chamomilla recutita

German chamomile

Hungarian chamomile

Royal chamomile

Chamomile has been used as a remedy since the time of Hippocrates, the father of medicine, in 500 BC. C. The list of conditions in which it was used is extensive. Includes fever, headaches, kidney, liver and bladder problems, indigestion, muscle cramps, anxiety, insomnia, skin irritation, bruising, gout, ulcers, rheumatic pain, hay fever, inflammation, hemorrhoids, cramps, and menstrual irregularities … The common name Matricaria comes from the Latin word matrix , which means uterus, as chamomile has historically been used to treat diseases of the female reproductive system. The Germans call it chamomile alles zutraut, which means "capable of anything". In fact, chamomile was considered such a panacea or panacea that one writer described it as "pre-MacGyver medical tape."

Today, chamomile is taken primarily by mouth to relieve insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion, although it is also being investigated as a possible diabetes remedy. It is also used topically to relieve skin conditions and heal wounds. However, research does not support any of these purported benefits because chamomile has not been well studied in humans.

Some of the purported benefits of chamomile likely stem from the fact that the essential oil and flower extracts derived from chamomile contain over 120 chemical constituents, many of which are pharmacologically active. These include chamazulene (an anti-inflammatory agent), bisabolol (an oil with anti-inflammatory, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties), apigenin (a phytonutrient that acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral agent). and luteolin (a phytonutrient, anti-inflammatory potential). Research shows that chamomile has properties that can help relieve inflammation, cramps and flatulence, promote calm and sleep, and protect against bacteria that cause stomach ulcers, whether they are the result of these or other compounds.

What is chamomile used for?

Chamomile may be better known as a sleeping pill, but the most compelling evidence is that this herb helps with anxiety. Here's a look at the current evidence.

Insomnia

Chamomile is one of the most widely used alternative treatments for insomnia and sleep improvement. However, despite its reputation as a sleep aid, there is little serious research to support its effectiveness. Interestingly, although in 1984 the Commission approved the use of chamomile flower preparations for a variety of other purposes, including gastrointestinal cramps and bacterial skin diseases, Commission E, the Food and Drug Administration's counterpart of the The United States did not authorize the use of the drugs. it is like a sleeping pill due to the lack of published research in this area.

The few human studies that have been done are small, have design flaws (for example, no control group), and show mixed results. For example, in a 2011 study , 17 people with insomnia took 270 milligrams of chamomile extract twice a day (an amount that could only be obtained in concentrated extract, not in tea) for a month and also kept a sleep diary . When the researchers compared their diaries with those of those taking placebo, they found no significant difference in how quickly the patients fell asleep or how much they slept.

In contrast, a 2017 study of 77 older people in nursing homes found significant improvements in sleep quality when participants received 400-milligram chamomile capsules twice daily for four weeks, compared to those who received no treatment. Similarly, when researchers in a 2016 study randomly assigned 40 women who had just given birth to drink a cup of chamomile tea a day for two weeks, they scored significantly lower compared to a control group. they didn't drink tea when they did. . sleeping problems and symptoms of depression. However, the improvement occurred four weeks after the women stopped drinking tea, suggesting that chamomile's benefits are limited in the short term.

When it comes to how chamomile can help induce sleep, animal studies show that it has calming and sedative effects. One study found that apigenin, a component of chamomile, binds to the same receptors in the brain as benzodiazepines such as Valium. Another study found that 300 milligrams of chamomile extract significantly reduced the time it takes rats to fall asleep, while other studies in mice showed that chamomile could significantly prolong sleep times caused by sleep-inducing medications such as barbiturates. .

Anxiety

Research has shown that chamomile has significant benefits when it comes to reducing anxiety, and the Comprehensive Natural Remedies Database, which evaluates the effectiveness of natural remedies based on scientific evidence, suggests that chamomile may be effective for the anxiety.

The first controlled clinical trial of chamomile extract in 2009 showed that it may have a mild sedative effect in people with mild to moderate general anxiety disorder, one of the most common anxiety disorders. The participants took between 200 and 1,100 milligrams of chamomile per day for eight weeks. A 2016 study found that taking 500 milligrams of chamomile extract three times a day for 12 weeks significantly reduced moderate to severe symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, one of the most common anxiety disorders. Research shows that chamomile extract not only relieves anxiety, but also has antidepressant effects.

Digestive problems

Preliminary research suggests that chamomile suppresses Helicobacter pylori , a bacteria that can contribute to the development of stomach ulcers. Chamomile is believed to help reduce smooth muscle spasms associated with various inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, such as inflammatory bowel disease, although research is needed to confirm this use.

A 2014 animal study showed that chamomile extracts have potent antidiarrheal and antioxidant properties when administered to rats in a dose-dependent manner against castor oil-induced diarrhea and intestinal fluid accumulation.

A 2015 study of more than 1,000 acute diarrhea patients found that a commercial product containing a combination of myrrh , coffee charcoal, and chamomile flower extract was well tolerated, safe, and just as effective as traditional treatments.

Wound healing

Chamomile applied topically can accelerate wound healing. Research shows that the substances in chamomile can kill viruses and bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus, which causes Staphylococcus aureus infection, reduce inflammation, and prevent and treat ulcer growth.

A preliminary study comparing chamomile and corticosteroids for treating ulcers in vitro and in animals concluded that chamomile promoted faster wound healing: chamomile-treated animals showed complete wound healing nine days earlier than treated animals with corticosteroids.

Chamomile also helps heal wounds in humans. In a small study that looked at the effectiveness of a combination of lavender and chamomile essential oil in patients with chronic leg ulcers, researchers reported that four out of five patients in the chamomile and lavender oil group had complete healing of wound, and a fifth patient progressed to recovery. In another study, chamomile was also superior to 1% hydrocortisone ointment in healing skin lesions after surgery. Wounds treated with chamomile compresses for one hour once a day healed five to six days faster than wounds treated with hydrocortisone once a day. However, more research is needed.

Eczema

Chamomile is often used to treat mild skin irritations such as sunburns, rashes, ulcers, and even eye inflammation, but its value in treating these conditions requires more research.

Topical application of chamomile has been shown to be moderately effective in treating eczema . In a partially double-blind study , conducted as a half-blind comparison, a commercial chamomile cream showed little superiority over a low dose of 0.5% hydrocortisone and a marginal difference over placebo.

Diabetes

Some studies have shown that chamomile tea can lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. In one study , 64 participants who consumed chamomile tea three times a day after meals for eight weeks saw statistically significant reductions in diabetes markers and total cholesterol compared to people who drank water. It also showed some activity against obesity. While chamomile may be a useful adjunct to existing treatments, the researchers noted that larger and longer-term studies are needed to evaluate the benefits of chamomile in diabetes.

Oral health

Some preliminary studies evaluating the efficacy of chamomile mouthwash have shown that it significantly reduces gingivitis and plaque formation compared to controls, probably due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity.

Get Drug Information / Anastasia Tretyak

Selection and preparation

The flower tips of chamomile are used to make tea, liquid extracts, capsules, or tablets. The herb can also be applied to the skin in the form of a cream or ointment, or as a mouthwash.

To make the tea, soak a heaping teaspoon of chamomile flowers in two-thirds of a cup of boiling water for five to ten minutes before straining. You can also buy commercial tea. Chamomile is also available in capsules.

To gargle or mouthwash, brew it like tea and let it cool. Gargle as desired. You can also rinse your mouth by adding 10 to 15 drops of liquid German chamomile extract (also known as a tincture ) to 100 milliliters of warm water.

There is no standard dosage for chamomile. Doses used in studies vary. For example, capsules containing 220 to 1,100 milligrams of German chamomile extract were taken daily for eight weeks to reduce anxiety.

Possible side effects.

Chamomile is part of the same plant family as ragweed and chrysanthemum, so people allergic to these plants can react, sometimes dramatically, when chamomile is used internally or topically. Although reactions are reported to be more common with Roman chamomile, call your doctor if you experience vomiting, skin irritation, or allergic reactions (chest tightness, wheezing, hives, rash, itching) after using chamomile.

Contraindications

Chamomile contains coumarin, a natural compound that has anticoagulant or blood-thinning properties. It should not be combined with Coumadin (warfarin) or other medications or supplements that have the same effect, nor should it be used by people with bleeding disorders without medical supervision.

A separate case is reported of a 70-year-old woman who developed severe internal bleeding after drinking four to five cups of chamomile tea for a sore throat and using a chamomile-based skin lotion four to five times. up to date. The woman was treated with warfarin for a heart attack. Chamomile tea (and possibly lotion) is believed to work synergistically with warfarin to cause bleeding.

Due to concerns about bleeding, chamomile should not be used two weeks before or after surgery.

German chamomile can act as estrogen in the body. If you have any conditions that may be made worse by exposure to estrogen, including hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids, do not use it without consulting your healthcare professional. ..

Keep in mind that chamomile, in any form, should be used as a supplement to your regular medication regimen, not as a substitute. If you are taking any medications before taking chamomile, check with your healthcare professional. Giving them a complete picture of what you are doing to manage your health will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

Also note that not all supplements have been tested for safety, and due to the fact that food additives are largely unregulated, some products may differ in content from what is stated on the product label. Also note that the safety of the supplement for pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and people with medical conditions or taking medications has not been established.

Frequently asked questions

  • It usually has a mild floral flavor with hints of apple.

  • Chamomile grows best in cool conditions, in full sun or partial shade. It is quite easy to grow and does not need a lot of water or fertilizer. If you grow it to make tea, chances are it will be ready to harvest after the flowers bloom.

  • Pour boiling water over the chamomile flowers, 1 teaspoon dried or 2 teaspoons fresh. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. You can use an infuser to brew tea or use a strainer to remove the flowers before drinking.

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