Chamomile, The Gift of Nature

Chamomile is known for its calming and relaxing properties, as well as its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It is often used to alleviate anxiety, improve sleep quality, and soothe digestive issues.
Chamomile

Key Takeaways

Chamomile Benefits

1. Reducing Anxiety

Chamomile reduces anxiety by interacting with GABA receptors in the brain and reducing inflammation in the body.

2. Boosting Sleep

Chamomile improves sleep quality by affecting neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, binding to GABA receptors, and influencing sleep-inducing neurohormones like melatonin.

3. Promoting Immunity

Chamomile boosts the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells and reducing inflammation.

4. Supporting Heart Health

Chamomile supports heart health by improving blood lipid profiles and reducing blood pressure. It contains compounds that relax blood vessels and lower oxidative stress.

5. Controlling Blood Sugar

Chamomile lowers blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity and inhibiting alpha-amylase activity.

6. Promoting Cognition

Chamomile has neuroprotective properties that benefit the brain by restoring the expression of BDNF and modulating cholinergic activity.

7. Improving Digestion

Chamomile improves digestion by reducing inflammation in the digestive tract and fighting off harmful bacteria.

What Is Chamomile?

Chamomile belongs to the daisy family, native to Europe and western Asia. There are two types of chamomile commonly used for medicinal purposes: German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile).

Chamomile has been used for centuries as a traditional remedy for various health issues in Greece, Rome, ancient Egypt, and China.

It is commonly consumed as a tea, but we also find it in other forms like essential oils, capsules, and skincare products.

Chamomile is known for its calming and relaxing properties, as well as its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It is often used to alleviate anxiety, improve sleep quality, and soothe digestive issues. [1]

1. Chamomile And Anxiety

Chamomile reduces anxiety because it contains several bioactive compounds, including flavonoids, terpenoids, and apigenin, which have a calming effect on the body. [2]

One way chamomile reduces anxiety is by interacting with the central nervous system. Chamomile can bind to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors in the brain, which helps to increase its levels. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that calms the nervous system, reducing feelings of anxiety and stress. [3]

Chamomile may also reduce anxiety by reducing inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation goes hand in hand with several mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. Chamomile contains anti-inflammatory compounds that can help reduce inflammation in the body, thus reducing stress.

Researchers even explored chamomile as an alternative treatment for depression, specifically oil aromatherapy. They found that it alleviates both physical and psychological discomfort in depressed patients. [4]

One study demonstrated that chamomile tea, made from flower heads, is effective in relieving depressive symptoms and improving sleep in postpartum women, suggesting a potential new approach to depression treatment. [5]

2. Chamomile And Sleep

Chamomile contains phytochemicals that can provide three main effects on the central nervous system:

1. Chamomile can regulate the transmission of neurotransmitters to the brain. The active phytochemicals in chamomile positively affect the monoamine transmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which are associated with enhancing mood, relieving depression, and improving sleep quality.

2. Chamomile can bind to the GABA receptors promoting calmness and inducing sleep in the central nervous system. However, it's critical to monitor chamomile dosage carefully. Excessive consumption can cause sedation. [6]

3. Chamomile also influences neurohormones that induce sleep, such as melatonin. Melatonin is a crucial neurohormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. The pineal gland produces it in response to darkness and decreases it when exposed to light. Chamomile can benefit neurohormones by helping to maintain the sleep-wake cycle. [1] Insufficient production of melatonin can lead to sleep disorders and insomnia.

    One study investigated the effects of chamomile extract on sleep quality in elderly individuals. They conducted a randomized controlled trial with sixty participants aged 60 or older. The treatment group received chamomile extract capsules twice daily for 28 days, while the control group received wheat flour capsules. They assessed sleep quality before and after the intervention.

    Results showed that sleep quality in the treatment group was significantly better than in the control group. These results suggest that chamomile extract can be a safe and effective way to promote better sleep among elderly people. [7]

    3. Chamomile And The Immune System

    Chamomile boosts the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells, including lymphocytes and neutrophils, and reducing inflammation in the body.

    Chronic inflammation can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infections and illnesses.

    Chamomile contains anti-inflammatory compounds, including flavonoids, terpenoids, and chamazulene, that can help reduce inflammation in the body. The mechanism involves the suppression of nuclear factor kappa beta (NF-κB)-driven transcription, which contributes to improving immune system function. [8]

    Additionally, the anti-inflammatory compounds in chamomile inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines, which are proteins produced by the immune system in response to infection or injury. These cytokines include tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-1 beta (IL-1beta), and interleukin-6 (IL-6). By inhibiting the production of these cytokines, chamomile can reduce inflammation in the body. [9]

    Chamomile reduces inflammatory cell activity, such as neutrophils and macrophages. These cells play a crucial role in the immune response to infection or injury but can also contribute to chronic inflammation. [10]

    Chamomile essential oil has antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-urticaria properties [11]. It is also effective against Helicobacter pylori, Candida albicans, and other molds and yeasts, thanks to its ability to increase cell membrane permeability, produce reactive oxygen species, and modulate H. pylori's fermentation capacity. [12]

    4. Chamomile And Heart Health

    Chamomile supports heart health by improving blood lipid profiles. High levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood are risk factors for heart disease, and chamomile helps lower these levels. 

    In one study, chamomile tea significantly reduced LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with type 2 diabetes. [13]

    Additionally, chamomile may help reduce blood pressure, another important risk factor for heart disease. High blood pressure can damage the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

    Chamomile contains compounds that can help to relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure. The antihypertensive activity of chamomile extract is mediated by: reducing angiotensin Ⅱ (Ang Ⅱ) content and oxidative stress and increasing SOD content. [14] [1]

    5. Chamomile And Blood Sugar Control

    Chamomile lowers blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Chamomile contains compounds that can enhance insulin sensitivity, aiding the body to use insulin more effectively and reduce blood sugar levels. [15]

    Chamomile may also lower blood sugar levels by inhibiting alpha-amylase activity. Alpha-amylase is an enzyme that breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars, and inhibiting its activity can slow glucose absorption into the bloodstream, thus reducing blood sugar levels. [16] [17]

    Additionally, chamomile contains antioxidants that can reduce oxidative stress, a contributing factor to type 2 diabetes development. These antioxidants include volatile oil, polysaccharides, and total flavonoids, which have been confirmed to scavenge 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) and hydroxyl free radicals. [18] [19]

    Oxidative stress can damage cells and tissues in the body, impairing insulin sensitivity and leading to insulin resistance. By reducing oxidative stress, chamomile can help to improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels.

    6. Chamomile And The Brain

    Chamomile has neuroprotective properties that can benefit the brain.

    Studies have shown that chamomile extract can restore the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), increase IL1β, and modulate cholinergic activity in the hippocampus. [20]

    In addition, chamomile extract may improve memory impairment caused by formaldehyde by reducing cell death and increasing antioxidant capacity. Its apigenin compound can inhibit hippocampal cell death induced by H2O2. [21]

    Chamomile extract also has anti-Parkinson properties, with studies showing increased vascular proliferation and reactive glial cell count in models treated with chlorpromazine. [22]

    7. Chamomile And Digestion

    The anti-inflammatory compounds in chamomile can reduce inflammation in the lining of the digestive tract. This process can be helpful for conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), both of which are characterized by chronic inflammation in the digestive tract. [23]

    Chamomile may also improve digestion by fighting off harmful bacteria in the gut, thanks to the antimicrobial properties of its compounds. It can kill off harmful bacteria in the digestive tract and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

    One study showed that chamomile protects against stomach ulcers. It helps lessen the acidity in the stomach and reduce the growth of bacteria associated with ulcer development. [24]

    Finally, chamomile has spasmolytic properties, meaning it can relax the smooth muscles of the digestive tract, which can be helpful for cramping and bloating. [25]

    Safety And Side Effects

    It is generally safe for most people, and there have been no reports of severe adverse effects or toxicity from consuming chamomile. 

    However, it is crucial to remember that the safety of consuming chamomile tea in young children and pregnant or nursing women is yet to be determined.

    This also applies to anyone with liver or kidney disease.

    Final Thoughts

    Chamomile is a versatile herb that has been used for centuries for its various medicinal properties. Its therapeutic effects on the human body are attributed to its unique combination of flavonoids and terpenoids.

    Chamomile is commonly used for its calming and relaxing properties, making it a popular natural remedy for anxiety and insomnia.

    Additionally, chamomile has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective properties. It soothes digestive issues and helps with overall heart and brain health.

    While chamomile is generally considered safe for most people, it is also best to consult a healthcare professional before using it as a supplement or alternative treatment.

    Additional Readings

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    References

    [1]Chamomile: A Review of Its Traditional Uses, Chemical Constituents, Pharmacological Activities and Quality Control Studies - PMC (nih.gov)

    [2]Putative Antidepressant Effect of Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) Oral Extract in Subjects with Comorbid Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression - PMC (nih.gov)

    [3]Relaxation and immunity enhancement effects of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) administration in humans - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [4]Putative Antidepressant Effect of Chamomile ( Matricaria chamomilla L.) Oral Extract in Subjects with Comorbid Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [5]Effects of an intervention with drinking chamomile tea on sleep quality and depression in sleep disturbed postnatal women: a randomized controlled trial - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [6]Effects of traditionally used anxiolytic botanicals on enzymes of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [7]The effects of chamomile extract on sleep quality among elderly people: A clinical trial - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [8]Inhibition of neutrophil elastase and metalloprotease-9 of human adenocarcinoma gastric cells by chamomile (Matricaria recutita L.) infusion - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [9]Molecules | Free Full-Text | Determination of Chemical Compounds and Investigation of Biological Properties of Matricaria chamomilla Essential Oils, Honey, and Their Mixture (mdpi.com)

    [10]Chamomile Confers Protection against Hydrogen Peroxide-Induced Toxicity through Activation of Nrf2-Mediated Defense Response - PMC (nih.gov)

    [11]Antifungal activity of essential oils against selected terverticillate penicillia - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [12]The Antifungal Peptide MCh-AMP1 Derived From Matricaria chamomilla Inhibits Candida albicans Growth via Inducing ROS Generation and Altering Fungal Cell Membrane Permeability - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [13]Effectiveness of chamomile tea on glycemic control and serum lipid profile in patients with type 2 diabetes - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [14]Long-term effects of Xuezhikang on blood pressure in hypertensive patients with previous myocardial infarction: data from the Chinese Coronary Secondary Prevention Study (CCSPS) - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [15]The Role of medicinal herbs in treatment of insulin resistance in patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: A literature review - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [16]Acute metabolic actions of the major polyphenols in chamomile: an in vitro mechanistic study on their potential to attenuate postprandial hyperglycaemia - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [17]Green and Chamomile Teas, but not Acarbose, Attenuate Glucose and Fructose Transport via Inhibition of GLUT2 and GLUT5 - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [18]Antioxidant and anticancer activities of chamomile (Matricaria recutita L.) - PMC (nih.gov)

    [19]Antioxidant and anticancer activities of chamomile (Matricaria recutita L.) - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [20]Effects of Salvia officinalis L. and Chamaemelum nobile (L.) extracts on inflammatory responses in two models of human cells: Primary subcutaneous adipocytes and neuroblastoma cell line (SK-N-SH) - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [21]Apigetrin from Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi Inhibits Neuroinflammation in BV-2 Microglia and Exerts Neuroprotective Effect in HT22 Hippocampal Cells - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [22]Effect of M. chamomilla L. tea on chlorpromazine induced catalepsy: A neuroprotective study - PubMed (nih.gov)

    [23]A systematic review study of therapeutic effects of Matricaria recuitta chamomile (chamomile) - PMC (nih.gov)

    [24]Assessment of some Herbal Drugs for Prophylaxis of Peptic Ulcer - PMC (nih.gov)

    [25]Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future - PubMed (nih.gov)

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