7 Benefits Of Chamomile Tea & The Best Times To Drink It
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7 Benefits Of Chamomile Tea & The Best Times To Drink It

Jun 06, 2023

Coffee is widely the beverage of choice for a morning pick-me-up. But if you want to calm your mind after a stressful midday meeting or ease digestive discomfort after a heavy meal, you're best off skipping the java and sipping on a cup of chamomile tea instead.

Here, experts share the main chamomile tea benefits, which may very well convince you to keep a few sachets on hand at all times.

Native to Europe and Asia, chamomile is a medicinal herb1 grown primarily throughout southern and Eastern Europe, Northern Africa, central and western Asia, and western North America.

While Moroccan chamomile is included in cosmetics and perfumes, German chamomile and English (aka Roman) chamomile are commonly used for medicinal purposes. German chamomile can typically be grown2 on any type of soil, even those that can't support other crops, and can withstand colder temperatures.

Chamomile tea, in particular, is an herbal tea made from the flowers of the chamomile plant, says Rachelle Robinett, R.H. (AHG), a registered herbalist and the founder of Pharmakon Supernatural. "It tastes herbaceous and vegetal, warm, mildly floral, a bit savory, and very pleasant," she notes.

The tea—which costs $3 to $10 for 20 servings—is also naturally free of caffeine, adds Maya Feller, M.S., R.D., CDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and the author of Eating From Our Roots.

"Chamomile is a nervine herb, which means that it specifically benefits the nervous system," says Robinett. "We use it for nervousness in people of all ages." Chamomile tea has long been used to promote calmness1, and the herb may help treat generalized anxiety, notes Robinett.

In a long-term study of 93 participants, researchers found that consuming pharmaceutical-grade chamomile extract significantly reduced moderate-to-severe symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder3. Similarly, a meta-analysis found that chamomile was safe and effective for treating generalized anxiety disorders4 after two and four weeks of use, though it didn't help ease state anxiety (simply feeling tense or worried5). That said, none of these studies analyzed the effects of chamomile tea, specifically.

Currently, there isn't much research into the mechanisms behind chamomile's potential anxiety-reducing effect. However, the herb's flavonoids may be a contributing factor6, as they may affect the neurotransmission of dopamine, GABA, and noradrenaline or regulate the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis, which may play a role in stress response6.

Along with curbing anxiety, chamomile tea may also ease symptoms of depression, says Robinett. However, research is limited. A small study, for instance, suggests that drinking chamomile tea may significantly reduce depression symptoms in postpartum women7.

What's more, chamomile tea may make depression medications more effective. In another study, participants with depression drank an herbal tea, consisting of 20 milligrams of chamomile and 1 milligram of saffron, twice daily for a month in addition to taking their prescribed antidepressant medications.

Researchers found that the herbal tea enhanced the efficacy of the medications8, helping to further alleviate depression symptoms by increasing the availability of tryptophan in the brain. Tryptophan is a precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin, a compound that's linked to depression9.

Sipping on a cup of chamomile tea may help deepen your slumber. A meta-analysis found that chamomile significantly improved sleep quality4, while the aforementioned study on postpartum women also found that drinking chamomile tea was linked with significantly lower scores of sleep inefficiency7.

This potential chamomile tea benefit may be due, once again, to the herb's flavonoids, particularly apigenin, which binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain10 and can cause a sedative effect.

A cup of chamomile tea could help soothe your upset stomach, says Robinett. "Chamomile is also a carminative11, which means that it helps to relax smooth muscles in the digestive tract, easing cramps, discomfort, digestive tension, or slow motility," she explains.

The herb has been shown to minimize symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders12, including flatulence and stomachache, as it increases antioxidant levels and protects the gastric mucosa, among other factors.

Chamomile may also help relieve diarrhea; when children suffering from acute diarrhea received a mixture of chamomile extract and apple pectin for three days, the condition resolved sooner 10than in the children who received the placebo.

Chamomile has long been used to combat inflammation, and the tea in particular has been employed as a mouthwash10 to ease inflammation in the mouth and throat's mucous membranes. A 2014 randomized controlled trial, for example, found that a mouth rinse containing chamomile and pomegranate extracts possessed antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties13 and minimized bleeding caused by gingivitis.

The herb's flavonoids—specifically apigenin—are likely behind its anti-inflammatory effect14. Since chamomile's flavonoids are water-soluble, they may provide therapeutic effects when consumed via tea1.

Chamomile flowers may have anti-diabetic effects14. For example, drinking chamomile tea after three meals daily for eight weeks has been shown to significantly decrease serum insulin levels and concentration of HbA1C15 in folks with Type 2 diabetes.

What's more, chamomile tea helps to inhibit the digestive enzymes that are related to intestinal sugar release, as well as hinders the transport of fructose and glucose throughout the body. In turn, it may be a useful tool to manage sugar absorption and metabolism and minimize blood glucose spikes.

As an herbal tea, chamomile tea doesn't contain any caffeine, a substance that has a mild diuretic effect16. While one cup of caffeinated coffee generally "counts" as a half-cup of water, the same amount of chamomile tea would still count as a full cup. That means drinking the warming herbal beverage is an easy way to stay hydrated and meet your fluid intake goals for the day.

There's no wrong time to drink chamomile tea, but if you want to capitalize on some of the beverage's potential benefits, consider sipping on a cup in these instances:

To brew loose-leaf chamomile tea, steep roughly 2 teaspoons of dried, high-quality flowers in 8 ounces of hot water for four to five minutes, using a covered teapot, suggests Robinett. Then, strain the flowers from the liquid before enjoying, adds Feller.

Brewing bagged chamomile tea is similar, but you won't have to do any measuring: Just steep one to two tea bags per cup of hot water for the same amount of time, remove the bags, and sip away, says Feller.

In general, the longer you steep the tea and the more chamomile you use per cup, the more concentrated your beverage will be.

"Steeped for five minutes, the infusion is floral and soothing. Steeped for 10 minutes it becomes more full-bodied and has more tonic effects on digestion," says Feller. "Adding a little sweetener—like ¼ teaspoon of honey per cup–is fantastic if that's your preference."

When shopping for chamomile tea, consider choosing an organic option if that's in your price range, as herbicides may be used2 to control weeds during the plant's cultivation.

Look for a tea that has a certification (such as USDA-certified organic) that backs up its organic label, and consider scouting the company's website for evidence that it supports sustainable farming practices that take worker health and safety into consideration, says Feller.

However, "it's important that we don't shame people for not purchasing organic options—it may not be readily accessible or affordable," adds Feller.

If you're using sachets to get your dose of chamomile tea, you'll also want to consider plastic- and glue-free bags. These bags have been found17 to release billions of micro- and nanoplastics into your drink during the steeping process.

Once you've stocked up, store your bagged chamomile tea in its packaging in a cool, dark area according to package recommendations. Otherwise, store your chamomile tea in a well-sealed container at room temperature and out of sunlight, which can help extend its shelf life, says Feller. "It's best to store herbs away from temperature changes, humidity, and light," adds Robinett. "Once dried, they won't go bad but can lose efficacy or potency after a couple of months on average."

Brewed tea can be stored in the fridge for up to two days; after that, it may start to ferment and taste sour, says Feller.

Chamomile is likely safe when consumed in the amount found in teas, according to the NIH. "However, people with allergies and known sensitivities should always check formulation and package labels," adds Feller. "There is some research that suggests that, for sensitive individuals [dealing] with skin rashes, drinking chamomile daily may increase [symptoms]18."

People who are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, or daisies may also be more likely to suffer allergic reactions to chamomile, and some individuals may experience nausea and dizziness after using it.

It's generally safe to drink chamomile tea every day, the experts say. So if the beverage helps calm your nerves or ease your digestive upset—or simply satisfies your taste buds—feel free to keep it in your daily routine.

Since chamomile tea is caffeine-free, soothes anxiety, and may improve sleep quality, it's worthwhile to sip on a cup before bed. Just know you may need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night if you drink it too close to lights out.

As an herbal tea, chamomile tea is naturally free of caffeine, so don't expect it to perk you up like coffee, black tea, or matcha.

Chamomile offers plenty of potential health benefits, including anxiety relief, improved sleep, and a soothed stomach. However, many of the studies investigating the herb's benefits looked solely at chamomile extract, so you may not experience the same effect by drinking a cup of chamomile tea. That said, since the beverage is free of caffeine, helps you meet your fluid intake goals, and has minimal potential side effects, chamomile tea is worth a spot in your usual drink rotation.

Megan Falk is an experienced health and wellness journalist whose work has appeared in publications such as SHAPE.com, Health.com, LIVESTRONG.com, Equinox, DoctorOz.com, and SAVEUR magazine, among others. Most recently, she was the assistant editor at SHAPE.com, primarily covering exercise tips, fitness modalities, workout trends, nutrition, and more.

Megan is a graduate of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications with a bachelor's degree in Magazine Journalism and a minor in Food Studies. She's also a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise.

After a meal When you're feeling nervous When you want to unwind before bed When you're feeling under-hydrated