- Hungarian chamomile
- Wild chamomile
For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
Chamomile may benefit those with anxiety disorder and insomnia. It has not been shown to treat or prevent cancer.
Several studies have used chamomile extracts in animals to test their effects. They show that substances in chamomile can kill bacteria, reduce inflammation, calm muscle spasms, inhibit the growth of polio and herpes viruses and cancer cells, and prevent the growth of ulcers. Several chemicals found in chamomile leaves are known to inhibit substances in the body that cause an inflammatory response. Apigenin, a compound isolated from chamomile, binds to brain cells in the same areas as well-known depressant drugs, which could explain chamomile’s sedative effects.
Small clinical trials show that chamomile may have a modest effect on generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, and in healing skin lesions after colostomy, a surgical procedure that brings one end of the large intestine out through the abdominal wall.
- Topically, as an antiseptic and to treat skin ulcers
Studies in animals show that substances in chamomile can kill bacteria and viruses, reduce inflammation, and prevent the growth of ulcers. Clinical trials have not been conducted.
- Topically, to reduce the inflammation of hemorrhoids
Animal studies show that substances in chamomile can reduce inflammation. Human data are lacking.
- To relieve generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
Chamomile may have modest benefits for those with mild to moderate GAD.
It has long been thought that chamomile tea can induce relaxation. However, clinical data are lacking.
- As a mouthwash, to treat mucositis associated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy
Clinical trials show conflicting results for this use. More research is needed.
- To relieve flatulence
No scientific evidence supports this use.
- To alleviate muscle spasms
Animal studies show that substances in chamomile can calm muscle spasms. Human data are lacking.
Do Not Take If
- You are allergic to ragweed or flowers in the Compositae family.
- You take warfarin or other blood thinners: Chamomile may increase the risk of bruising or bleeding.
- You use sedatives: Chamomile may have additive effects.
- You are taking cytochrome P450 substrate drugs: Chamomile may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs.
- You are taking cyclosporine: Chamomile may increase the risk of side effects.
- Hypersensitivity allergic reactions, ranging from redness and swelling of the skin to anaphylactic shock
- Constriction of a small blood vessel that is important for circulation in the developing fetus: Following consumption of chamomile tea by the mother during pregnancy.
- Life-threatening allergic reaction: In a 38-year-old Caucasian man, 1 hour after consuming chamomile tea. Symptoms improved followed emergency treatment with an intravenous antihistamine.
- Multiple internal hemorrhages: In a 70-year-old woman following use of chamomile products along with warfarin. Her symptoms resolved after treatment with intravenous heparin.
- Occupational allergic rhinoconjunctivitis: Runny nose, sneezing, itching of the nose and eyes, and watery eyes caused by inhalation of chamomile dried flowers.
- Increased lactogenesis (production of milk) and breast tension: In a lactating woman after consuming chamomile
For Healthcare Professionals
Chamomile, an aromatic annual herb, has a long history of use in traditional medicine to treat muscle spasms, menstrual disorders, insomnia, ulcers, wounds, stomach disorders, rheumatic pain, hay fever, and hemorrhoids. It is widely used in teas for its relaxing and calming effects. In vitro and animal studies indicate that chamomile extracts have anti-inflammatory (11), anti-hyperglycemic (12), antigenotoxic (13) and anticancer (14) properties. Apigenin, a flavone present in chamomile, has strong chemopreventive effects (15). Bisabololoxide A, another constituent, was shown to reduce the dose of 5-fluorouracil when used together against leukemic cells (19).
Clinical data suggest modest benefits of oral chamomile in improving chronic insomnia (20), and chamomile tea was shown to have positive effects on glycemic control in patients with diabetes (33). Multiple studies have reported that chamomile extracts are effective against mild-to-moderate (16) and moderate-to-severe generalized anxiety disorder (37) (38), and may have antidepressant effects as well (30). Data also show that chamomile can improve the cortisol slope, a biological marker of chronic stress, in people with chronic anxiety (40). In another controlled trial, application of a chamomile compress was shown to be effective, and superior, to hydrocortisone ointment, in facilitating healing of peristomal skin lesions in patients following colostomy (21).
A chamomile mouthwash was found to reduce 5-fluorouracil-induced mucositis in hamsters (17), but data from human studies are conflicting (8) (9). More research is warranted.
Mechanism of Action
The anti-inflammatory activity of chamomile involves the release of LPS-induced prostaglandin E(2) in RAW 264.7 macrophages via inhibition of COX-2 enzyme activity (11). Methanol extracts of chamomile exert anti-allergic effects by inhibiting histamine release from mast cells (23). They also showed neuroprotective activity by decreasing lipid peroxidation (LPO) and increasing superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione (GSH), and total thiol levels (24).
Topical chamomile has been shown to reduce the tissue levels of IL-1β and TNF-α in hamsters with oral mucositis (34). In another study, a chamomile extract was shown to afford gastroprotection against ethanol-induced ulceration by increasing glutathione levels (25). Apigenin, a flavone component of chamomile, interacts with GABA (A) (gamma-aminobutyric acid)-benzodiazepine receptors in vitro and inhibits locomotor behavior in rats (5). Apigenin was also shown to affect alternative splicing of key mRNAs by inhibiting dimerization of hnRNPA2, a factor associated with many cellular malignancies and in mRNA metabolism and splicing (32).
Hypersensitivity reactions including asthma, contact dermatitis, and anaphylaxis can occur following exposure to chamomile (26) (27).
Premature constriction of fetal ductus arteriosus: Following consumption of chamomile tea by the mother during pregnancy (31).
Severe anaphylaxis with generalized urticaria, angioedema, and severe dyspnea: In a 38-year-old Caucasian man, 1 hour after consuming chamomile tea. Symptoms improved following treatment with an intravenous antihistamine (18).
Multiple internal hemorrhages: In a 70-year-old woman following concurrent use of chamomile products and warfarin. Her symptoms resolved after treatment with intravenous heparin (28).
Occupational allergic rhinoconjunctivitis: From the inhalation of chamomile dried flowers (36).
Increased lactogenesis and breast tension: In a lactating woman, a few hours after consuming chamomile (39).
Anticoagulants / Antiplatelets: Chamomile may increase the anticoagulant effects and inhibit platelet activity due to its coumarin content (28).
Sedatives: Chamomile may increase the effects of sedatives (4).
Cytochrome P450 substrates: Chamomile inhibits CYP1A2, CYP2C9, CYP2D6, and CYP3A4, and can affect the intracellular concentration of drugs metabolized by these enzymes (29).
Cyclosporine: Concurrent use resulted in increased serum levels of cyclosporine (35).