Chamomile: Relieves Anxiety (and so much more)

| Oct 31, 2015

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Sometimes it’s the most time-tested and ancient remedies of all that we take for granted. Modern medicine has trained us to view “folk remedies” and plant-based medicine as antiquated modalities developed through superstition and unscientific practices.

Anything that doesn’t receive the seal of approval from conventional Western medicine—a system that’s been in practice for barely over a hundred years, by the way—is to be viewed with suspicion.

But many of us are beginning to awaken from the spell cast by allopathic medicine. We’re beginning to realize that, while Western medicine excels in certain situations, it’s only a piece of a much larger, more ancient system of healing.

And perhaps its worst fault of all is the vehemence with which it ignores the natural world. Guess what percentage of pharmaceuticals are based on or derived directly from natural sources? That’s right: 100%. 74% come from plants, 18% from fungi, 5% from bacteria, and 3% from vertebrate species such as snakes and frogs. [1]  Nevertheless, the industrially-controlled medical system looks with derision upon anything that hasn’t been created in a laboratory.

Now that we’re entering a holistic medicine revival, though, some scientists are finally beginning to turn their laboratory tools toward revealing the benefits of the plants that have been implemented in folk medicine for millennia. One such unassuming plant is chamomile.

Chamomile, a small yellow-and-white flowering plant with a musky-sweet fragrance, is one of the oldest medicinal plants known to man. For thousands of years, it has successfully been used to treat a huge variety of ailments. This fact may come as a surprise, given its reputation as a simple tea preparation for promoting relaxation.

It’s not just a bedtime tea, though

Chamomile’s standing as a relaxing tea ingredient is well-founded—it contains 28 terpenoids and 36 flavonoids, many of which function as powerful antioxidants that soothe and relax the nervous system. This whole-system calming effect alleviates anxiety, quells stress, and promotes restful sleep.

All those healing compounds within chamomile have some other tricks up their sleeves too, though. Preparations of the plant have traditionally been used to treat—in addition to anxiety and insomnia—hay fever, muscle spasms, aches and pains, menstrual disorders, ulcers, wounds, gastrointestinal disorders, rheumatic pain, and hemorrhoids. [2]

The underlying aspect of all of these ailments is inflammation, which is often referred to as “the root of all disease.” Thus, its potent anti-inflammatory action—combined with the antioxidant activity mentioned above—makes chamomile an incredibly versatile healing agent.

One study even suggested that regular consumption of chamomile tea lowers the risk of death from all causes, particularly for adults over age 65[3]  This makes a lot of sense, given that other foods that keep systemic inflammation at bay—like turmeric, raw cacao, and coconut oil—confer similar all-around health benefits.

Chamomile’s other talents

While chamomile is still a minor character on the stage of scientific research into functional foods, the study results so far have been impressive. Scientists have demonstrated its efficacy at treating all of the conditions for which it has been used as a folk medicine, as well as many others. Let’s take a look at some of its healing properties.

Antimicrobial. Chamomile helps combat pathogens both directly (by killing harmful bacteria and other microbes without hurting healthy cells or beneficial bacteria) and indirectly (by calming inflammation and oxidative stress, and thus boosting the immune system significantly).

Anti-platelet. Regular consumption of chamomile tea reduces the risk of blood clotting by exerting a mild to moderate effect on platelet activity. [4] Just remember that herbs can be more potent than you think, and chamomile is no exception—talk to your doctor before combining chamomile with blood thinning medications.

Cholesterol-lowering. Chamomile has also been shown to lower “bad” cholesterol, [5] probably by controlling systemic inflammation and protecting the body from oxidative stress.

Diabetes-healing. Because inflammation plays a huge role in the complications of diabetes, chamomile can be very helpful for diabetics too. A 2008 study showed that it attenuates hyperglycemia, and can even prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes altogether. [6]

Chemopreventive and anti-cancer. Other studies reveals that chamomile tea even has the ability to prevent and fight cancer. It’s particularly good at warding off thyroid cancer[7] (perhaps due to the same compounds that make it hormone-balancing), and it kills cancer cells by inducing apoptosis without harming the body’s healthy cells.[8]

Skin-healing. Chamomile is even excellent for your skin. It effectively treats the many skin conditions associated with inflammation—such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis—and also removes wrinkles, dark circles under the eyes, and dandruff. You’ll receive these benefits just from drinking chamomile tea (since it takes care of inflammation internally), but you can amplify them by applying a tea bag compress (or even the tea liquid) externally.

Curl up with chamomile

You probably didn’t even need an excuse to make chamomile tea a more frequent ritual in your life—after all, it’s delicious, calming, and deeply warming—but now you have even more reasons to get cozy with this ancient herb.

Chamomile is cheap and easy to find (just make sure to purchase from quality sources that you trust). It’s also very easy to grow in your own backyard—after planting one plant in my garden, it reseeded itself the next season, and nearly twenty plants filled in empty niches. Needless to say, I’ve been happily drinking a lot of chamomile tea lately!

By accepting the healing benefits of this wonderful plant, you’ll be reconnecting to ancient practices which—despite the distractions of industrial medicine—are making a serious comeback.

 


References 

[1] http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/publications/papers/Medicinal_Plants_042008_lores.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] http://gerontologist.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/04/29/geront.gnv051.full?keytype=ref&ijkey=1zXJxXK0dDmfa8y

[4] http://bionews-tx.com/news/2015/05/22/chamomile-decreases-risk-death-among-mexican-american-women-according-study/

[5] http://www.thealternativedaily.com/exciting-news-herb-loved

[6] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080915164519.htm

[7] http://www.naturalnews.com/050562_chamomile_tea_thyroid_cancer_disease_research.html

[8] http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/catalog/papers/17939735

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