The chamomile flower, closely related to the daisy, has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years—since early Egyptians, Greeks and Romans discovered its calming properties. Today, chamomile is used for multiple purposes including wound care, treating sleeping problems, digestive issues and even diaper rash. Another promising use for chamomile is in the treatment of—you guessed it—anxiety.
Scientific research into the effectiveness of chamomile in mental health treatment has been scant, however, a small University of Pennsylvania study in 2009 demonstrated that subjects who were diagnosed with mild to moderate Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) reported a reduction in anxiety symptoms after taking chamomile extract in capsule form for 8 weeks. A follow-up study in 2012 revealed that chamomile not only has the potential to ease anxiety, but also can act as an effective antidepressant. An Iranian study conducted in 2010 found that chamomile was effective in alleviating menstrual pain and accompanying anxiety.
Obviously, more study is necessary, but these preliminary results are very promising. Researchers are also investigating how chamomile can be used to prevent or slow osteoporosis, lower blood sugar in diabetes sufferers, and shrink cancerous tumors. The flavonoid apigenin is the compound thought to be responsible for chamomile’s healing properties.
Chamomile is ingested most typically in herbal tea, which is made from the dried flowers, but you can also find chamomile tinctures, liquid extracts, capsules and topical creams thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. (We have not tried the other forms, but find that a cup of chamomile tea can be very soothing, particularly before bed.)
Although chamomile is a natural remedy, it can still interact with other herbs and medications so be sure to check with your health care provider before you try it. Chamomile is counter-indicated for pregnant/nursing women, anyone with allergies to daisies, chrysanthemums, marigolds and ragweed, and people with bleeding disorders or who take blood thinners. If you are on benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, etc.) or other sedatives, chamomile can increase drowsiness.