Chamomile: Antioxidant, Anti-Inflammatory and Anti-Cancer
Considered to be one of the most ancient and versatile medicinal herbs known to mankind, dried chamomile flowers have numerous, widespread health implications thanks to their high level of disease-fighting antioxidants like terpenoids and flavonoids.
Chamomile’s vital antioxidants are found in the plant’s potent oils and are the main contributors to its natural healing properties. As an effective alternative medicine with almost no known negative side effects, chamomile has been used for nearly 5,000 years in standardized tea, herbal extract and cosmetic forms to promote tranquility, vitality, a youthful appearance and longevity.
Proven Chamomile Benefits
Chamomile plants are a member of the Asteraceae/Compositae family. There are two common types of chamomile used medicinally today: German chamomile (chamomillarecutita) and Roman chamomile (chamaemelumnobile). Chamomile tea and herbal extracts that are now sold worldwide for human consumption are prepared from dried flowers of the Matricaria species.
One cup of chamomile tea has two calories, two milligrams of sodium and no cholesterol. Chamomile is commonly used for improving many different health conditions, including:
How can one herb do so much? Chamomile benefits include being used in dozens of ways to soothe the body, whether it be lowering pain due to sickness or childbirth, or fighting skin irritations and helping reduce anxiety.
The list of ways that chamomile extract can be used is surprisingly long, and some popular all-natural chamomile remedies include: diffusing it in the home to help with falling asleep; applying its oils to skin to heal bug bites, itching and act as anatural eczema remedy; adding it to toothpaste or mouthwash to kill toothaches and inflammation; ingesting chamomile as a liver cleanse and heal digestive issues; and many more.
Top 9 Chamomile Benefits
1. High Source of Antioxidants
The main antioxidant components extracted from chamomile flowers are the terpenoid group of antioxidants, including chamazulene and acetylene derivatives. Because these delicate compounds are unstable, they’re thought to be best preserved in an alcoholic tincture or “essential oil” form. Other major constituents of the flowers include several phenolic compounds, primarily the flavonoids, including apigenin, quercetin, patuletin as well as various glucosides. (1, 2, 3)
These compounds lower inflammation by fighting free radical damage and preventing cell mutation. Chamomile benefits start with antioxidants that are associated with better immune function; lower rates of mood disorders; reduced pain and swelling; and healthier skin, hair, nails, teeth and eyes.
2. Fights Anxiety and Depression
Chamomile, whether in tea, tincture or essential oil form, is one the best medicinal herbs for fighting stress and promoting relaxation, according to research from Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine and Pharmacognosy Review. (4, 5) Inhaling chamomile vapors using chamomile essential oils is often recommended as a natural remedy for anxiety and general depression, which is one reason why chamomile oil is a popular ingredient in many candles, aromatherapy products and bath-soaking treatments.
In extract form, chamomile is frequently used as a mild sedative to calm nerves and reduce anxiety because its vapors travel directly to the olfactory part of the brain, turning off tension and reducing the body’s stress response. This is why practitioners use chamomile to effectively relieve symptoms of chronic anxiety and stress, including hysteria, nightmares, insomnia and various digestive problems. (6)
Smells are carried directly to the brain, and they serve as an emotional trigger. The limbic system evaluates the sensory stimuli, registering pleasure, pain, danger or safety; this then directs our emotional response, such as feelings of fear, anger and attraction. Our basic emotions andhormonal balanceare in response to the most basic smell. Scents are a direct pathway to memory and emotion. Fragrances, like chamomile, relieve pain and generally affect personality and behavior. Research proves that using oil fragrances is one of the fastest ways to achieve psychological results.
3. Improves Digestion
Believed to be a powerful digestive relaxant, chamomile can be used to treat various gastrointestinal disturbances, including gas, acid reflux symptoms, indigestion,diarrhea, anorexia, motion sickness, nausea and vomiting. Chamomile extract can help shorten the course of diarrhea and colic in children as well as relieve symptoms associated with the conditions like pain and anxiety. Chamomile oil also contains anodyne compounds that are anti-spasmodic, reducing cramping, constipationand other stomach pains.
Many of these benefits are due to chamomile’s natural relaxing effects. Because the brain and the gut communicate directly back and forth via the vagus nerve, a more relaxed mind can also help heal leaky gut, which can mean reduced symptoms of chronic conditions like leaky gut,IBS and other gut-related issues. Chamomile benefits include mellowing effects also make it a good choice for pregnant women in order to relax the digestive tract and act as a natural remedy for nausea.
4. Has Strong Anti-Inflammatory and Pain-Reducing Abilities
Chamomile is sometimes called an “herbal aspirin” since it’s been a popular home remedy for lowering pain for centuries. Chamomile flowers are used alone or in combination with other anti-inflammatory foods to reduce pain, congestion, swelling and redness. They’re effective at reducing facial swelling, skin irritations, toothaches, pain from infections and underlying issues of inflammation. This is the reason chamomile extract is commonly added to beauty products like facial or body lotions, toothpastes, and bath soaps.
Chamomile can also naturally lower pain associated with arthritis, injuries, back pain, fevers and pregnancy. In fact, its pain-reducing qualities are even used to soothe the body and mind after giving birth. For example, in some parts of the world like Mexico, chamomile tea is given to women after labor to relax their abdominal muscles and help them rest.
5. May Help Fight Cancer
Recently, several studies dug into the anti-cancer activity of chamomile. Evidence shows positive effects of chamomile stopping cancerous tumor growth and acting as a natural cancer treatment. Inhibition of cancerous cells is believed to be due to chamomile’s antioxidants called apigenin, which are bioactive constituents that appear to help fight skin, prostate, breast and ovarian cancers.
In a recent study published by the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, chamomile extracts were shown to cause minimal growth inhibitory effects on normal healthy cells, but showed significant reductions in human cancer cells, especially androgen-refractory cells that often lead to prostate cancer. (7)
6. Relieves Congestion
Because chamomile benefits include both fighting infections and reducing mucus congestion, it’s added to many nasal sprays. Chamomile tea is also a good choice when you’re sick and want to beat a cold, the flu or sinus infection. Studies indicate that inhaling steam with chamomile extract is helpful in common cold symptoms. Some people even gargle chamomile tea or extract to fight inflammation of the mucous membranes and within the mouth and throat.
7. Promotes Skin Health
Suffering from breakouts or dry, irritated, aged, red skin? Try using chamomile oil mixed into lotion. Chamomile promotes smooth, healthy skin and relieves irritations thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Chamomile’s flavonoids and essential oils penetrate below the skin surface into the deeper skin layers of the skin, preserving its youthful appearance, completion and immune defenses. As a traditional medicine, it’s been used for centuries to treat wounds, ulcers, eczema, gout, skin irritations, bruises, burns and canker sores.
Today, we know chamomile benefits and uses go even further — it’s also useful for getting rid of signs of aging like dark spots and fine lines, reducing dandruff naturally, treating chickenpox quickly, and fading scars. Additionally, it makes a great natural diaper rash treatment and can even be used around the eyes to fight infections and sties.
8. Keeps Gum and Teeth Healthy
In addition to healing skin and the respiratory tract, chamomile benefits include the ability to fight various bacterial infections of the oral cavity, teeth and gums. Chamomile benefits help reduce pain associated with cancer sores, wounds and toothaches, plus they fight harmful bacteria that can live within the mouth.
9. May Improve Heart Health
Recently, chamomile has been associated with providing cardiovascular protection. Because of its high level of flavonoids, chamomile consumed in foods is linked with a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease in elderly men. One study published in The Lancet assessed the flavonoid intake of 805 men aged 65–84 years and found that higher flavonoid intake from foods and herbs was significantly inversely associated with mortality from coronary heart disease. (8)
History of Chamomile
The chamomile plant is native to Western Europe and Northern Africa, but these days it’s grown all around the world in different temperate regions. The main exporters of chamomile today are Belgium, France, Great Britain, Italy, Poland and Germany. German chamomile is most widely available for medicinal uses and biologically is different from the Roman and English types of chamomile. The benefits are similar, but the different types have slightly different tastes.
Records show that chamomile benefits have been recognized for at least 2,000 years, having been used both medicinally and cosmetically. Germans have used chamomile to resolve digestive issues since at least the first century, and records show that Egyptians worshipped the plant and dedicated festivals to its healing properties. Egyptian noblewomen were known to crush chamomile flowers and apply them to their skin to preserve their youthful glow and naturally slow signs of aging.
Chamomile was first cultivated in large quantities to be sold around the 16th century. Some sources show the Romans were the first to cultivate chamomile on a large level, while others give credit to botanists from Great Britain. Romans used chamomile to flavor drinks and in incense, as well as a medicinal herb to fight disease and promote longevity. Its healing qualities spread throughout Europe and eventually the British brought chamomile plants to North America.
Doctors throughout Europe and in the early settlements of America included chamomile in their medicinal bags because it cures pain, inflammation, allergies and digestive issues completely naturally and without side effects. People also used it as a natural deodorant, shampoo and perfume.
How to Buy and Use Chamomile
Today, chamomile is widely available and used in various forms, usually as a tea, essential oil, dry powder or tincture. Which type you want to buy depends on how you plan to use it. Dry powder and extract form of chamomile flowers are usually most recommended by traditional practitioners since these provide the most potent forms of chamomile’s antioxidants. If you come across chamomile powder, look for a kind made with pure chamomile flower leaves (where the oils are held) but not fillers like the plant’s stems or roots.
In most parts of the world, chamomile tea is the most popular way to enjoy the plant’s calming effects. You can find chamomile tea in nearly any grocery store, but look for organic, pure tea leaves to get the most benefits. Because chamomile’s oils aren’t very water-soluble, tea won’t have as strong of an effect as chamomile essential oil uses, powders or tinctures, but it can still help you to kick back and soothe your stomach after a long day.
If you want to use chamomile on your skin, in the bath or combined with other products you already have, look for chamomile extracts that contain about 50 percent alcohol and a standardized extract of 1.2 percent of apigenin (which is one of the most effective bioactive agents).
Chamomile essential oil can also be bought in health food stores and online. It’s an excellent remedy for solving skin issues and reducing pain, plus you can burn chamomile as an aromatherapy treatment to ease tension, relax and fall asleep easily.
DIY Chamomile Recipes
Aside from drinking chamomile tea, here some simple ways to use chamomile essential oil around your home:
Aromatherapy to reduce anxiety: Diffuse chamomile and lavender essential oilsaround your home to reduce feelings of stress and tension. They can also help you fall asleep easily.
Heal irritated skin: Heal blistered skin by mixing two drops of tea tree oiland chamomile, and then apply to the blistered area up to five times per day. You can also make a jar of your own skin-healing oil with my Homemade Anti-Aging Serum; add 20 drops of chamomile oil to this recipe that delivers vital nutrients and hydration.
Soothe a sunburn: Combine lavender or chamomile oil with one tablespoon ofcoconut oiland apply to the skin with a cotton ball to reduce swelling and pain.
Spiritual enlightenment: Diffuse chamomile with frankincense essential oil while praying, meditating or reading to increase spiritual awareness and relax your mind.
Bathtub scrub: Mix a half cup of baking soda, half cup of vinegar and five drops of chamomile and bergamot oiltogether. Rub into your muscles and soak in the tub for at least 15 minutes to calm your mind and help soothe muscle aches. You can also get more ideas from my 10 Detox Bath Recipes; add chamomile oil to any of these bath scrubs for a boost of health benefits.
Nighttime face lotion: Apply two to four drops of chamomile, lavender andpeppermint essential oil to your temples for a cooling effect, immediate relaxation and help staying asleep. Try making your own lotion using soothing essential oils; my Homemade Frankincense and Myrrh Lotion will tone, lift, heal and protect the skin — just add five drops of chamomile for anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits.
Improve depression: To boost mood and relieve depression, add chamomile oil androse essential oil to your baths, or inhale the mix and diffuse it throughout your home to improve your mood.
Calm an upset child: Help soothe and calm children by adding lavender or chamomile oil to their stuffed animals or blankets.
Relieve PMS: Mix two drops of chamomile, sage, basil and rosemary oils, and then apply to a warm, moist hand towel and apply to abdomen.
Relieve motion sickness: Inhale chamomile, peppermint, lavender and ginger oil to reduce motion sickness.
Achy muscle rub: Mix chamomile oil with eucalyptus, wintergreen and cypress oils, as well as an unscented lotion or coconut oil, and then rub it into sore or aching muscles.
Most conventional body washes contain toxic chemicals. Instead, try this Homemade Body Wash recipe. It cleanses your skin and kills bacteria while providing nourishment and vitamins to keep it hydrated and healthy.
BPA-free plastic lotion dispenser or glass bottle with dispenser
Mix ingredients until smooth and store in 8-ounce plastic bottle.
Possible Side Effects/Cautions About Chamomile
If you’re going to use chamomile essential oil, remember that it’s meant to use topically on the skin but not to ingest. Do a patch test first on a small part of your skin to make sure you don’t have any negative reactions to the plant’s oils before using in other applications.
Chamomile oil shouldn’t be used by anyone with existing seasonal allergy symptoms, such as allergies to ragweed or its relatives, since this can bring on allergic reactions. If you suffer from hay fever, frequent hives or dermatitis, it’s also a good idea to stay away from chamomile products or at least to talk to your doctor before using it on your own.
One other thing to note is that chamomile products are thought to be mild uterine stimulants, so if you’re pregnant, speak with a professional before ingesting chamomile extracts (mild chamomile tea shouldn’t cause any problems).