Benefits of Chamomile Tea for Sleep
Published November 30, 2021.
Chamomile is an ancient, natural remedy for many ailments and has been used for thousands of years. Even today, it is a popular herb that can be bought in supermarkets as a caffeine-free tea or essential oil. It is said to induce feelings of relaxation, relieve stress, and promote a better overall sense of well-being, but is there any truth to these claims?
This article examines what chamomile is, how it can improve the quality of sleep, and its potential side effects.
What Is Chamomile?
Chamomile is a herb from the Asteraceae/Compositae species, more commonly known as the daisy family. It contains compounds known as terpenoids and flavonoids. These are nutrients found in many plant varieties and are the reason for the benefits apparent in chamomile products.
The most common way of utilising chamomile is by brewing the dried herb into a tea and drinking it either on its own or with other herbal components like ginseng and ginger. Chamomile reportedly has a floral taste with mildly sweet undertones that may come across as bitter to those who are accustomed to sweeter flavours. If this is the case, you can add some honey without compromising the benefits.
How Does Chamomile Aid With Sleep?
There are various ways that chamomile tea might help you sleep, but the most significant one would be the presence of a flavonoid called apigenin. Studies have shown that apigenin exhibits a sedative effect in individuals via interaction with GABA–benzodiazepine receptors in the brain, similar to pharmaceutical sleeping aids. Further research has shown that chamomile extracts with apigenin effectively reduced the time it took hospitalised patients to fall asleep.
Additional research also noted that chamomile caused muscle relaxation (another possible benefit to sleep) and improved daytime functioning. Essentially, that research suggests that chamomile tea does help you sleep.
Chamomile Tea for Anxiety
Aside from the direct benefit to sleep, there are also some potential indirect ways that chamomile can improve sleep. By interacting with GABA–benzodiazepine receptors, apigenin can exhibit the same benefit as many anxiolytics (anxiety medications). Valium, for example, is a benzodiazepine that operates through the same mechanism and is used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures.
The relation between sleep disorders like insomnia and mood-related disorders like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is well covered by scientific research. Anxiety is a common cause and aggravating factor of sleep problems, and so it stands to reason that reducing the symptoms of anxiety and stress will likely promote improvements in sleep quality. In fact, anxiety reduction is a common benefit of many natural sleep aids.
Side-Effects of Chamomile Tea
Generally speaking, the risk of side effects from chamomile is low. The most prominent side effect of chamomile tea is the triggering of allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) in those who are susceptible to it. However, research has found this number to be low (<5%) when the compound is ingested.
Skin reactions (contact dermatitis), such as an itchy red rash, are slightly more common when the compound is applied to the skin, especially around the eyes, but this can easily be avoided by running a simple spot test first. Simply apply some of the chamomile product to a small patch of skin (such as the forearm) and allow some time to judge whether a reaction occurs or not.
Another potential side effect of chamomile is the risk of vomiting, though it needs to be understood that this risk is purely situational and will likely only occur from overconsumption.
Interactions Between Chamomile and Pharmaceutical Drugs
A side effect that needs to be watched out for is the potential for negative interactions between chamomile and many sleeping pills, pain medication, and psychiatric medications for mood-related disorders. Taking these substances together could potentially compound the side effects of both.
A complete list of the known interactions between chamomile and other prescription medication can be found on drugs.com.
Other Benefits of Chamomile
Whether you have sleep-related problems or not, there are still many more benefits to chamomile that could warrant its supplementation into your daily or nightly routine.
Research has shown chamomile components to possess potent antimicrobial properties that could benefit the immune system by improving the balance of gut bacteria. Additionally, this could accelerate the process of wound healing, as noted by additional studies.
Separate research has noted the potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of chamomile, which could effectively alleviate the progression and symptoms of many inflammatory diseases like arthritis and skin conditions like eczema while also reducing the aging effect of oxidative stress.
And finally, some studies have shown chamomile to possess hypoglycemic (blood sugar-reducing) properties that might be beneficial for diabetes.
Even if you don't suffer from any aforementioned conditions, chamomile can be a great way to relax after a stressful day. So long as you are aware of the risk of drug-drug interactions and don't have a pollen allergy, you can make use of this highly respected natural remedy.