Both Eastern and Western cultures have a deep love for tea – it’s no wonder that tea, coffee, and cocoa consistently hold top positions among popular beverages worldwide. While Eastern and Asian regions tend to prefer green, oolong, and black tea brewed from tea leaves, Westerners lean more towards herbal infusions. Speaking of herbal infusions, they can generally be categorized into three aroma groups based on their scents: spicy, grassy, and floral.
Among these herbal infusions, there’s a plant used extensively – not just for tea but also in beauty and body care products such as shampoos, hand creams, mouthwash, and essential oils. With a distinct aroma reminiscent of apples, it’s commonly known as Chamomile. Its English name is derived from two Greek words, meaning “ground apple” – Chamomile.
What is Chamomile?
Chamomile generally refers to certain plants from the Matricaria chamomilla (German chamomile) or Chamaemelum nobilis (Roman chamomile) species, both belonging to the Asteraceae family, as well as Cladanthus mixtus.L (Moroccan chamomile). However, the first two are more common. The appearance of chamomile flowers is similar to daisies, with white ray florets surrounding yellow disc florets. The essential oil content of chamomile flowers is approximately 0.2% to 2% of their total weight. Apart from the essential oil, over 120 active components have been identified, with more than 50 of them believed to have pharmacological activities. Flavonoids are the major constituents, followed by terpenoids, with minor presence of compounds like ethers, organic acids, choline, tannins, and polysaccharides. The composition of chamomile can vary based on the species, soil conditions, temperature, season, and harvesting time.
5 Major Benefits of Chamomile
1. Improves Sleep
Clinical trials have shown that supplementing with chamomile extract improved sleep quality in elderly residents of care centers and in postpartum women with better sleep quality and reduced anxiety symptoms.
2. Gastrointestinal Benefits
Chamomile has been studied for its positive effects on infant colic, diarrhea in children, and its potential to inhibit gastric acid secretion and prevent alcohol-induced gastric mucosal damage.
3. Blood Sugar Stabilization and Complication Prevention
Chamomile supplementation has demonstrated improved glycemic control and antioxidant enzyme activity in type 2 diabetes patients, as well as significant reductions in total cholesterol levels.
4. Mood Enhancement (Anxiety and Depression)
5. Relief from Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Chamomile’s anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and antidepressant effects suggest it could help with PMS. Studies have indicated that chamomile tea consumption may alleviate primary dysmenorrhea and irritability during menstruation.
Possible Side Effects of Chamomile
Chamomile is considered generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, those allergic to plants in the Asteraceae family (such as ragweed) or who have previously experienced allergic reactions to chamomile products need to exercise caution.
As the beneficial components of chamomile become more identified, there’s solid reason to enjoy a cup of chamomile tea as an afternoon refreshment. It not only helps alleviate the stresses of a busy workday but also provides health benefits. If you’re looking to achieve specific health benefits, chamomile extract supplementation is a convenient option. However, individuals with allergies to Asteraceae family plants should be mindful.