Chamomile contains approximately 120 metabolites including terpenoids, which are responsible for the aromatic scent, and flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants.
One of these flavonoids, apigenin, is thought to have sedative effects.
It binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain, creating mild tranquilizer and sedative effects. Study participants who took chamomile tea too less time to fall asleep.
This explains why chamomile has been used for thousands of years to treat insomnia.
Most people take it in form of chamomile tea where dried flowers are steeped in hot water to release their oils.
Note that apigenin is just one of the compounds researchers think causes a relaxed feeling. They are still researching exactly how other compounds in chamomile interact with the body.
How effective is chamomile tea as a treatment for insomnia?
Like with most herbal remedies, there hasn’t been a lot of solid research regarding the benefits of chamomile tea.
So it’s hard to say exactly how effective the herb is in treating insomnia. It might react differently in different people depending on a wide range of factors like health, the particular species of chamomile you use and interactions with medication.
But from the few studies that have been done, it is clear that chamomile tea helps with sleep.
It works by lowering the heart rate, relaxing the body and brain, reducing stress levels and reacting with receptors in the brain responsible for sleep. You even don’t need a sound machine for sleep!
How to take chamomile
The easiest way to take chamomile is in form of tea.
You can use fresh chamomile flowers but dried flowers and tea bags are the easiest to find in stores.
Prepare it like any other herbal tea. Add hot water to a cup then put the tea bag inside and let it steep for five minutes.
If you are using dried or fresh chamomile flowers, use an infuser.
Feel free to add some honey to sweeten the tea. If you don’t have honey, slices of apple in the tea works great as well and adds a nice flavour.
Another way to take chamomile is inhaling it. This is especially helpful if you have flu or a stuffy nose. The steam will clear your respiratory tract while also helping you fall asleep faster.
Add some dried flowers to a bowl of hot water and then inhale the infused steam. Cover your head with a towel to maximise the therapeutic effects.
Chamomile for anxiety and depression
Chamomile is not just good for sleep. There’s some evidence that it relieves anxiety and depression.
Both of these can mess up with your sleep and worsen insomnia. So if you are going through a rough patch that’s making you anxious or stressed, a cup of chamomile tea before bed can help.
Chamomile is generally safe to take.
You can drink it as tea, inhale chamomile-infused steam, apply it on your skin or use a chamomile compress on an aching joint or muscle.
But before you use chamomile in any form, check whether you are allergic to it.
If you are sensitive to chrysanthemums or ragweed, you are more likely to be sensitive to chamomile as well.
A skin patch test can help you find out whether you are allergic to it.
If you are taking tea, take just a little bit first and wait to see if it affects you in any way.
As for pregnant and nursing mothers, there isn’t enough evidence on the safety of chamomile.
However, some experts warn that Roman chamomile can trigger uterine contractions and cause a miscarriage. But this has not been completely proven.
To be safe, talk to your doctor if you are pregnant and want to keep taking chamomile tea.