(NaturalHealth365) In Beatrix Potter’s classic children’s story The Tale of Peter Rabbit, the mother rabbit puts young Peter, who had gorged on carrots, to bed with a cup of chamomile tea. Well, research shows that ‘mother rabbit’ was smart – turns out chamomile tea can help eliminate insomnia and mood issues like, depression without the need for toxic drugs.
Chamomile, scientifically known as Matricaria recutita and also called German chamomile, is normally employed by natural healers to treat digestive disorders, colds, muscle spasms, skin rashes, inflamed gums and infections. But it is the herb’s ability to reduce anxiety, elevate mood and combat insomnia that is presently of particular interest to medical researchers.
Why should I consider using chamomile tea?
Researchers have discovered that one constituent of chamomile tea works on the brain in a way similar to that of the benzodiazepines, a group of anxiolytic – or anxiety-reducing drugs – that include Xanax and Valium. Not only can these drugs cause unpleasant side effects such as, headaches, confusion, trembling, dizziness and nightmares – but they can be physically addictive.
Chamomile, on the other hand, helps to soothe jangled nerves and to promote restful sleep – without the risk of harmful side effects or physical habituation.
The ‘$64,000 question’ about chamomile tea
How does a natural, drug-free tea – traditionally sipped at firesides and kitchen tables – perform some of the same functions as modern-day pharmaceutical medications? The secret is in the herb’s abundance of beneficial phytochemicals.
Chamomile’s bluish-colored volatile oil contains 28 different terpenoids – including bisabolol and chamazulene – and 36 flavonoids, among them luteolin and quercetin, which are natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. One flavonoid in particular, apigenin, binds to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain, causing a relaxant effect.
Animal research has supported chamomile’s ability to relax blood vessels and smooth muscle fibers, which may contribute to its mild antispasmodic, sedative and sleep-inducing properties. In one study performed on mice, inhalation of its chamomile oil reduced levels of ACTH, a stress hormone, in the brain. Electroencephalogram mapping revealed substantial improvement in mood and lessening of anxiety, demonstrated by changes in alpha wave activity.
Chamomile tea has been proven to induce a better night’s sleep
Animal research and some limited clinical studies have supported chamomile’s ability to elevate mood, reduce anxiety and promote sleep.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and published – in 2012 – in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, people diagnosed with mild to moderate anxiety and depression were given 220 mgs of chamomile extract daily for 8 weeks. Utilizing both the Beck Anxiety Inventory System and the Hamilton Anxiety Rating, researchers found that 57 percent of the group using the chamomile had a significant reduction in their symptoms.
Even more encouraging was the fact that the beneficial effects increased over time. Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, which can cause tolerance – a situation in which the medication must be taken in ever-increasing dosages to have the same effect – chamomile seemed to work better the longer it was used.
In addition to improving mood and suppressing anxiety, chamomile may make it easier to fall asleep. In one small clinical study cited in Molecular Medicine Reports, ten out of twelve cardiac patients fell into a deep sleep after consuming chamomile tea.
What is the best way to consume chamomile tea?
To make a relaxing cup of chamomile tea, simply pour a cup of boiling water over 2 to 3 heaping teaspoons of dried organic chamomile leaves; allow it to steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Drink between meals, up to four times a day.
Chamomile tea is considered generally safe, but University of Maryland Medical Center recommends limiting consumption to half a cup per day for children under age five.
Like other herbs and supplements, chamomile can interact with prescription drugs. So, be sure to consult a trusted healthcare provider before using chamomile – especially for health-related issues. Here’s to a good night’s sleep.
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