Can Chamomile Benefit Your Health?

The buzz about chamomile has been going on for centuries. Through the years, this plant has been heralded for its medicinal uses from Europe to Asia and beyond. If you're considering taking chamomile in the supplemental form or as a tea, there are some things you should know about its use. Chamomile does have some medical backing for its reported uses, but not all experts agree on its benefits. The plant also does come with some potential side effects, so it is not always suggested for use. All in all, the buzz about chamomile is fairly positive, as evidenced by its widespread and varying uses.

About the Plant

The practice of using chamomile and chamomile tea dates back to ancient times. The ancient Greeks, Romans and even Egyptians believed the plant had properties that could help heal fevers, stomach complaints and even assist stroke patients. Medical science now backs up some of these claims. It is even viewed as an official drug in some 26 different countries around the world. The United States, however, is not one of those countries. Its use is legal in the US, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not oversee it. This means that there isn't a federally backed guarantee of strength, purity or safety of chamomile products and that the effects of different supplements might vary.

Chamomile tea and supplements come from a plant that has its origins in Europe and Asia, but it is now growing in other locations around the world, like North America. The plant is considered fairly small, growing between eight to 16 inches in height. Small white and yellow flowers characterize it. The flowers themselves and the plant both are used in remedies and for a variety of other applications.

Chamomile has two main varieties that are often used to reap the potential health benefits. The varieties are the German and Roman chamomile plants. The German variety is believed to be stronger and is the most common one for use in medicinal treatments in most locations except for England.

Gardeners tend to use it both in their regular flowerbeds, as it is an annual, and in herb gardens. Seeds for this plant and even starter plants can be found online, in nurseries and in other locations where plants are sold. It is not at all difficult for fans of chamomile to get their hands on and grow the plant at home for use in a variety of fashions.

Benefits of Chamomile

The actual medicinal benefits of chamomile remain a matter of debate. This plant is generally used in the preparation of chamomile herbal tea, found in tablet form and even as a tincture or oil. It can be located in creams, bath products and in salve form. Chamomile's popularity is evidenced by its easy location in most health food stores, locations that sell supplements and even in grocery store aisles in its tea form.

In addition to medical purposes, the benefits of chamomile extend to the beauty industry. Here shoppers will find chamomile hair-care products, oils and soothing aids. These tend to be big sellers and are offered by most major beauty product manufacturers.

What makes chamomile stand out as a potential healing aid comes down to what the plant contains, which includes a number of oils and flavonoids, such as apigenin, luteolin, and quercetin. Many researchers think these agents are responsible for chamomile's antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and stomach settling effects.

Although MedLine Plus reports, "there is not enough reliable research in humans to support its use for any condition," others believe this herb has a variety of strong benefits. It is commonly used to treat everything from sleeping disorders to inflammation. The Slovakians, for example, have so long relied on the reported benefits of chamomile tea and treatments that they have developed their own folklore about the plant. Slovakian chamomile expert Ivan Salamon once said, "Our folk saying indicates that an individual should always bow when facing a chamomile plant." Additionally, the Germans have called the plant "alles zutraut," which means “capable of anything.”

Other potential benefits of chamomile tea and supplements include an impact on such conditions as bronchitis, coughs, colds, fever, sore throat, infections, and wounds. There have been some studies that have shown the benefits of chamomile in regard to skin inflammation.

One noted study has backed up some of the medicinal uses. Researchers at Imperial College London conducted a limited study of 14 people to gauge the impacts of the ingestion of chamomile tea. Based on urinary analysis, they concluded there is evidence to support the herb's use in treating colds, muscle spasms and a few other conditions.

While some people prefer chamomile tea, Europeans tend to use chamomile beyond its drinkable form. Common uses here include such things as chamomile compresses, rinses and gargles. It has even been used to treat hemorrhoids.

Side Effects are a Problem for Some

Although it has a variety of potential benefits, chamomile tea and other applications are not necessarily for everyone. Chamomile side effects do in fact exist. One of the most serious of chamomile side effects occurs if there is an allergy present. "There are multiple reports of serious allergic reactions to chamomile taken by mouth or as an enema, including anaphylaxis, throat swelling, and shortness of breath," Medline Plus reports. It is also noted that skin reactions, allergic conjunctivitis and other similar problems may erupt if an allergic reaction presents.

Other side effects that are known are mostly less serious. They include such things as drowsiness, vomiting and even potential bleeding. Those who have bleeding disorders are generally advised to avoid using chamomile or ingesting it in tea form.

While chamomile herbal tea is widely consumed around the world, it is generally not advised for consumption by pregnant women. In theory, it seems chamomile could act as a uterine stimulant and might even lead to abortion. It is also generally advised that breastfeeding mothers steer clear of chamomile just to be extra safe.

The benefits of chamomile tea and other applications do remain a matter of debate. Despite this, many believe this naturally occurring plant has applications that go well beyond an evening nightcap. Its use in supplement form and for other medicinal purposes is generally advised to take place only under medical provider supervision. This just helps people ensure they are erring on the side of caution when it comes to potential interactions with other medications. In its grocery store tea form, however, chamomile is typically considered just a regular food product that comes with little or no precautions for users.

Good, bad or otherwise, the potential benefits of chamomile have long been reported and believed. Whether in its tea form or another application, chamomile is widely available around the world.

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