Chamomile is an ancient medicinal herb that has stood the test of time. The dried flowers of the chamomile plant contain compounds collectively known as terpenoids and flavonoids that are believed to have wide-ranging medicinal qualities including anti-anxiety effects.
Researchers are not sure yet what other chemicals are present in chamomile that account for its benefits, but chamomile may boost chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline, that affect mood. These natural chemical messengers are present in the brain, and increasing them may help with anxiety and depression.
There are three types of chamomile plants: German chamomile, Roman chamomile, and Egyptian chamomile. German chamomile is believed to be the most potent, and is most widely used for medicinal purposes.
Chamomile is available as a tincture, an extract, in topical creams, and a tea. Chamomile tea is most widely regarded as a mild tranquilizer and sleep aid, and it is one of the world’s most popular herbal teas. It is naturally caffeine-free and gluten-free. The taste and aroma of chamomile tea are apple-like. In fact, chamomile derives its name from the Greek word “chamaeleon,” which literally translates to “earth apple.”
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How much is enough?
No standard dosage for chamomile has been established to alleviate anxiety, but one study found that 1,500 mg/day of pharmaceutical grade chamomile for 8 weeks reduced anxiety symptoms similar to that of common anti-anxiety drugs.
The potency of various chamomile teas varies, with some containing significantly more chamomile than others. Chamomile tea bags generally contain 500 mg to 1,000 mg each, though some contain more. Check Nutrition Facts labels for amounts. Some products, but not all, spell out how much chamomile is contained in each tea bag. If the amount of chamomile is low, use two tea bags in 8 ounces of hot water and steep for about 5 minutes.
Chamomile is classified as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) by the Food and Drug Administration, and it is estimated that about a million cups of chamomile tea are consumed each day — a testament to its safety. However, people who are sensitive to ragweed or chrysanthemums may be prone to develop contact allergies to chamomile. If you have either of these allergies, it is safest to start with a low dosage and work up to larger doses slowly.
(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384. www.EnvironmentalNutrition.com.)
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