- German chamomile
- Hungarian chamomile
- Wild chamomile
- Scented mayweed
For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
Chamomile may benefit those with anxiety disorder and insomnia, but more study is needed.
Chamomile has been used as a medicinal herb to treat various conditions including anxiety, sleeplessness, and gastrointestinal problems. It is also used topically for inflammatory skin conditions.
Laboratory studies show that substances in chamomile can kill bacteria, reduce inflammation, and calm muscle spasms. It has also been shown to inhibit the growth of polio and herpes viruses as well as ulcers. Several chemicals in chamomile leaves might help to prevent inflammation. 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. Studies on whether chamomile mouth rinse can heal or prevent mouth sores from cancer treatment have been mixed. More study is needed to determine whether it can be helpful for this condition.
- To relieve generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) Chamomile may have modest benefits for those with mild to moderate GAD.
- Insomnia 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. A more recent trial did not find benefit with an oral solution that contained chamomile as well as propolis, aloe vera, and calendula. More research is needed.
- 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.
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: Lab studies suggest that chamomile may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs. Therefore, discuss use of this supplement with your treating physician.
- 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 breast milk production 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 chemopreventive effects (15). Bisabololoxide A, another constituent, had additive inhibitory effects in some instances when used with 5-fluorouracil against leukemic cells (19).
Clinical data suggest modest benefits with oral chamomile in chronic insomnia (20) (41) or for moderate cyclic mastalgia (42). Chamomile tea had positive effects on glycemic control in patients with diabetes (33). Several 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 biological markers of stress in people with chronic anxiety (40). In other controlled trials, application of a chamomile compress was effective and superior to hydrocortisone ointment in facilitating healing of peristomal skin lesions following colostomy (21); and a chamomile oleogel affected pain relief in patients who had migraine without aura (43).
In an animal study, chamomile extract showed some protective effects against radiation‐induced intestinal mucositis (1). A chamomile mouthwash reduced 5-fluorouracil-induced mucositis in hamsters (17), but data from human studies are conflicting (8) (9). More recently, an aqueous solution of propolis, aloe vera, calendula, and chamomile did not prevent mucositis during chemoradiotherapy for head and neck cancer (2).
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). Neuroprotective activity has occurred via decreased lipid peroxidation and increased superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione, and total thiol levels (24).
Topical chamomile reduced the tissue levels of IL-1β and TNF-α in hamsters with oral mucositis (34). In another study, a chamomile extract provided gastroprotection against ethanol-induced ulceration by increasing glutathione levels (25). In an animal model of radiation‐induced intestinal mucositis, apoptotic effects from chamomile occurred via increases in cytosolic cytochrome c, caspase‐3, and depletion of mitochondrial B‐cell lymphoma‐2/ Bax ratio (1).
Apigenin, a flavone component of chamomile, interacts with GABA(A)-benzodiazepine receptors in vitro and inhibits locomotor behavior in rats (5). It also affected 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: In vitro, chamomile inhibits CYP1A2, CYP2C9, CYP2D6, and CYP3A4, and may affect the intracellular concentration of drugs metabolized by these enzymes (29). The clinical relevance has yet to be determined.
Cyclosporine: Concurrent use resulted in increased serum levels of cyclosporine (35).