Chamomile Tea Seems Snoozy, but It Could Actually Be a Sick-Day Secret Weapon

If matcha's considered the cool teen of the tea family tree, then chamomile is most definitely the grandma who goes to bed at 8 p.m. But don't get it twisted—although this seemingly mild herbal brew isn't the most exotic in the bunch, it's got quite a few unexpected health benefits up its cardigan sleeve.

Okay, so chamomile is quite literally a tea that puts you to sleep, says herbalist and Urban Remedy founder Neka Pasquale, LAc, MS. "In Western herbalism, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and Ayurveda, chamomile is mainly known for its wonderful relaxation effects," she says. But the daisy-like plant's wellness cred doesn't stop there. "In TCM, chamomile is mainly used to move the qi and treat stagnation, or stuck energy. It's used in support of the lungs (colds and flu), heart (nervous disorders), and stomach (digestion). In Ayurveda, chamomile is used for gas, bloating, painful menses, insomnia, and to calm the nervous system."

Modern-day scientists, too, are finding some of these assets to ring true—making chamomile tea a good multipurpose pantry staple for those times when you're feeling not-so-hot.

What are some chamomile tea benefits?

1. It might help you sleep

This is probably the number-one thing you think of when it comes to chamomile tea benefits. "It's [anecdotally] known for supporting a healthy night's sleep, reducing anxiety, and overall calming," says Pasquale. There isn't much data that backs up this commonly held belief, although one recent study did find that the beverage helped reduce insomnia in a sample of 40 postpartum women—and the effects were reversed when they stopped drinking the tea. This may be due to the fact that chamomile tea includes a flavonoid called apigenen, which binds to receptors in our cells that help us relax.

2. It could help keep your blood sugar in check

Another small study found that chamomile tea was beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes. By drinking it three times a day after meals for eight weeks, a group of 32 patients had lower insulin and cholesterol levels than a control group who drank plain water. Yet another reason to consider adding this drink to your bedtime (and morning and lunchtime) routine?

3. It may have antibacterial properties

Keep this one in mind for cold and flu season—after drinking chamomile tea daily for two weeks, a study group was found to have increased levels of a compound in their urine that's associated with antibacterial activity. Another study found that inhaling chamomile steam can help relieve cold and flu symptoms, so it can't hurt to linger over your cup if you feel like you're coming down with something.

4. It could ease PMS symptoms

After drinking chamomile tea twice a day during the luteal and menstrual phases of their cycles, a group of 40 college students reported fewer cramps and anxiety than a control group. That's totally worth swapping out a few cups of coffee for.

5. It could help soothe an upset gut

Chamomile is considered a remedy for digestive distress in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, although there isn't much research that proves its prowess in this area. However, one animal study showed that chamomile extract has antidiarrheal properties, while another found that chamomile extract may help protect against stomach ulcers.

chamomile tea benefits
Photo: Getty Images/Westend61

Is there anyone who shouldn't drink chamomile tea?

Most people can drink chamomile tea safely, but if you suffer from seasonal allergies, proceed with caution. "Chamomile is a relative of ragweed, so some people can have an allergic response if they are allergic to the ragweed or daisy family," says Pasquale.

Chamomile can also interact with blood thinners, sedatives, over-the-counter painkillers, and other herbal supplements. So if you're on any of these meds and drinking large amounts of chamomile tea every day, check with your doctor to make sure it's safe.

Anything else to know about drinking chamomile tea?

Experiencing chamomile tea benefits couldn't be easier—simply heat up a mug of water and dunk in a tea bag. If you don't like the taste of straight-up chamomile, you can always opt for a tea that blends it with other herbs. Pasquale's a big fan of  Celestial Seasonings' Sleepytime and Traditional Medicinals' Nighty Night teas, which she recommends drinking before bed with some honey. (And maybe avoid having it before a big meeting—it can make you a little drowsy.)

If you want to get the freshest infusion possible, Pasquale says it's crazy simple to make chamomile tea from scratch. Just like grandma used to do, right?

Urban Remedy’s Chamomile Tea

Yields 2 servings

2 Tbsp chamomile flowers
2 cups filtered water
1 tsp raw honey

1. Rinse chamomile flowers in cool water.
2. Boil  water in a small pot. Turn off heat and add the chamomile.
3. Cover and steep for three to five minutes.
4. Strain the tea into two cups and add honey.

Originally published November 2, 2018. Updated August 7, 2020.

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