Chamomile is an ancient medicinal herb that has stood the test of time.
The dried flowers of the chamomile plant contain compounds called terpenoids and flavonoids believed to have wide-ranging medicinal qualities, including anti-anxiety effects.
Researchers aren’t sure which other chemicals are present in chamomile that account for its benefits, but the plant is thought to boost chemicals in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline that affect mood. These natural chemical messengers are present in the brain, and increasing them might help with anxiety and depression.
There are three types of chamomile plants: German chamomile, Roman chamomile and Egyptian chamomile. German chamomile is thought to be the most potent and is most widely used for medicinal purposes.
Chamomile is available as a tincture, an extract, in topical creams and as one of the world’s most popular teas.
It’s most widely regarded as a mild tranquilizer and sleep aid and is caffeine-free.
The taste and aroma of chamomile tea are apple-like. Chamomile’s name comes from the Greek word “chamaeleon,” which translates to “earth apple.”
No standard dosage for chamomile has been established to alleviate anxiety, but one study found 1,500 mg/day of pharmaceutical grade chamomile for eight weeks reduced anxiety symptoms similar common anti-anxiety drugs.
The potency of chamomile teas varies, with some containing significantly more chamomile than others.
Chamomile is classified by the federal Food and Drug Administration as GRAS — generally recognized as safe.
It’s estimated that about a million cups of chamomile tea are consumed each day. But people who are sensitive to ragweed or chrysanthemums might be prone to develop contact allergies to chamomile. If you have either of these allergies, it is safest to start with a low dosage and work up slowly to more.
Environmental Nutrition is a newsletter written by experts on health and nutrition.