Chamomile – Bringing Rest to the Weary
Chamomile is one of the oldest known herbs, with a unique history that dates all the way back to the Egyptians, who used it for medicinal purposes as well as for embalming the dead. Its name means “ground apple,” which aptly describes its slightly fruity aroma and white circular flowers that grow close to the ground and sport protruding, yellow centers. Chamomile is often associated with a hot cup of relaxing tea, since its calming properties can soothe the nerves; however, this versatile herb is also used for aromatherapy, as a fragrance in various cosmetics and beauty products, as an anti-inflammatory, a fabric dye and even to highlight blonde hair! Due to its popularity, chamomile can be found in almost any health enthusiast’s herbal toolbox – from the novice herbalist, to the most skilled practitioner.
One of chamomile’s most coveted health benefits is its ability to calm an anxious soul and bring rest to the weary. Perhaps it is because of the alarming rate at which practitioners are witnessing increasing trends of stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia that chamomile has been extensively utilized. Regardless the reason, recent studies confirm what has been proposed for centuries – chamomile effectively helps to decrease mild to moderate anxiety and it influences GABA receptors to produce a sedative effect. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 57 outpatients with mild to moderate Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) were given 220 to 1100mg of German chamomile extract, standardized to 1.2 percent of its key constituent apigenin, or placebo. After 8 weeks, chamomile reduced mean Hamilton Anxiety Rating (HAM-A) scores by greater than 50 percent.
It is proposed that the psychiatric effect of chamomile is due to the flavonoid, apigenin (and perhaps others), which works by reducing GABA activity. These same constituents may also effect noradrenalin and dopamine receptors and may also modulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis, all of which are intricately involved in the stress response of humans. This complex network of hormones and neurotransmitters is responsible for our myriad of moods, attitudes and emotions that ultimately influence sleep, anxiety, depression and other psychological functions. This may easily explain why chamomile positively influences all of these interconnecting conditions.The safety and tolerability of chamomile are excellent, making it a viable choice for assisting with calming the nerves and promoting rest and sleep.
Chamomile is historically best known and used to promote sleep, and research backs this up in both human and animal trials. In a randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study of 34 adults with chronic insomnia, 560mg of Matricaria recutita (German chamomile) given for 28 days resulted in improved daytime functioning and modest, favorable effects on sleep behavior. Chamomile’s main flavonoid, apigenin, has been shown to elicit benzodiazepine-like activity and to significantly decrease sleep latency in mice. This may, therefore, provide an explanation for chamomile’s efficacy as a sleep-promoting agent.
At the very least, chamomile should be considered in regimens purposing to induce rest, relaxation and good sleep. It also possesses additional benefits such as soothing the digestive system and helping with a healthy inflammatory response. Chamomile can be consumed as a hot tea, or taken as a tincture or in capsule form. Its history bears witness to the undeniable position it holds in the world of botanical therapies as it has certainly earned its standing as a familiar and useful herb known and enjoyed by people all over the world.
- David Brady