How to Use Chamomile: Benefits, Usage, History, & Side Effects

Published on August 08, 2023

By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

Chamomile tea is a popular product for promoting sleep, relaxation, and taming occasional tummy trouble*.

Yet, this common flowering bud has been used for thousands of years across the globe as a tea, tincture, essential oil, homeopathic, and topical to support nearly every aspect of wellness*.

Its long-standing reputation as an overall wellness elixir has made it the subject of several scientific studies.

This article will explore the lesser-known potential benefits of Chamomile tea, tinctures, essential oils, and topical preparations for digestion, immunity, inflammatory response, metabolic function, skin care, and more.

What is Chamomile?

Chamomile is a flowering herb native to temperate regions of Asia and Europe and belongs to the Asteraceae or daisy family.REF#2574

It is one of the world’s most ancient herbs, which dates back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Chinese. 

Chamomile is part of several traditional, Unani (Arabic or Islamic), and homeopathic preparations and is used extensively in modern skin care, cosmetics, supplements, aromatherapy, and oral care products.

There are two main types of Chamomile that go by various names: 

  1. Matricaria chamomilla, also known as M Chamomile, German Chamomile, or False Chamomile
  2. Anthemis nobilis, also known as Chamaemelum nobile, A Chamomile, True Chamomile, English Chamomile, or Roman Chamomile

Chamomile is considered a nervine in traditional herbalism, which means it promotes feelings of calm and relaxation by supporting the nervous system*.

Some documented traditional uses of Chamomile include:

  • Appetite
  • Blood pressure support
  • Cramps
  • Detoxification
  • Digestive function
  • Eye health
  • Herbal baths
  • Healthy inflammatory response
  • Insect repellant
  • Joint health
  • Kidney function
  • Nervous system function
  • Urinary function
  • Skin irritation and cosmetic uses

Chamomile has several active plant compounds, including: REF#2575 REF#2576

  • Coumarins
  • Flavonoids, such as Apigenin, Kaempferol, and Quercetin
  • Organic acids such as linoleic acid, oleic acid, cinnamic acid, caffeic acid
  • Terpenoids
  • Volatile oils
  • And other phytochemicals

These phytochemicals are believed to be responsible for many of Chamomile’s traditional uses and potential benefits*.

9 Benefits Of Chamomile

Today, Chamomile is one of the most popular herbs used in teas, supplements, skin care, oral care, hair care, spa services, and even pet care products.

Let’s explore the science behind the traditional uses and actions of Chamomile tea, tinctures, topicals, and essential oil.

1: Chamomile Contains Antioxidants That May Promote Normal Inflammatory Response

Chamomile contains various antioxidants, such as flavonoids, terpenes, and polyphenols.

Antioxidants are substances found in plants, foods, supplements, and the body that support cell health by scavenging free radicals—unstable molecules that can cause cell damage and inflammatory imbalance if present in large amounts.

Preliminary research suggests the antioxidants in Chamomile may support normal inflammatory response via their free radical scavenging properties.REF#2577 REF#2578

Animal research also suggests Chamomile extract may support normal activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GSH-PX), two antioxidants made within the body.REF#2579

2: Chamomile May Promote Menstrual Comfort

Chamomile supplements, essential oils, and herbal hot packs have become popular for relieving common discomforts of menstruation, such as cramping, changes in temperament, or premenstrual symptoms.

Although much of its popularity is due to traditional use, there is some research behind using Chamomile during menstruation.

For example, a recent review examined twenty-seven studies and found various phytochemicals in Chamomile may be helpful for PMS due to its potentially beneficial effects on inflammatory response, cramping, and emotional well-being as well as its relaxation-inducing properties.REF#2580

The authors also noted more robust research is needed to confirm the benefits and mechanisms of Chamomile for menstruation.

Another review compared the effects of Chamomile versus NSAID and Fennel. Results of the studies suggested Chamomile may be more effective for menstrual cramps than NSAID. REF#2581

Chamomile was also shown to be more effective for abdominal and pelvic discomfort and emotional well-being than Fennel, although Fennel was shown potentially more beneficial for fatigue and lethargy.

Although more research is needed to make a recommendation, many women and menstruating people likely relied on Chamomile for centuries to support them before and during menstruation.

3: Chamomile May Support Normal Blood Pressure

Practicing relaxation techniques and getting a handle on stress is highly recommended for supporting normal blood pressure.

As a nervine relaxant, Chamomile has a long history of use for supporting relaxation, reducing stress, and promoting normal blood pressure for those with levels already within normal range.

Although more evidence is needed, preliminary research suggests Chamomile and its flavonoid, apigenin, may support normal blood pressure and heart rate.REF#2582 REF#2583 REF#2584

Chamomile essential oil and Chamomile tea are commonly recommended to promote relaxation*. 

4: Chamomile is a Natural Digestive Aid

Most health-conscious parents have likely given their children a cup of Chamomile tea to help with occasional tummy trouble.

And many adults still swear by this practice…but does it really work?

In addition to its traditional use as a digestive relaxant, emerging research suggests Chamomile may be beneficial for occasional bouts of digestive trouble such as flatulence, indigestion, or motion sickness. However, more studies are needed.REF#2585 REF#2586

Claims related to Chamomile’s use as a digestive aid have also been approved for use on tea and supplement labels.REF#2587 REF#2588

Finally, emerging research suggests a potential benefit of Chamomile tea REF#2589 and other products containing Chamomile for babies who are fussy due to digestive discomfort.

5: Chamomile is a Natural Stress-Buster

As previously mentioned, Chamomile’s claim to fame is as a relaxation-inducing herbal tea and essential oil.

Many people swear by Chamomile's scent and floral-apple-like flavor for reducing stress and helping them unwind after a busy day.

Chamomile’s time-honored reputation as a natural stress buster has led researchers to study the possible mechanisms behind its purported benefits.

One study of dried flower heads of Matricaria chamomilla found they contained sedative substances that supported the function of specific neurotransmitters, such as GABA.REF#2590

Other research suggests the flavonoids in Chamomile may support normal central neurotransmitter functions, such as normal production and function of serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters and stress hormones associated with stress response and emotional well-being.REF#2591

Finally, preliminary research suggests inhalation of Chamomile essential oil may help promote relaxation and reduce stress. REF#2592 REF#2593

6: Chamomile May Promote Normal Metabolic Function

Emerging animal research suggests the antioxidants in Chamomile may support various aspects of normal metabolic function, including: REF#2594 REF#2595

  • Blood sugar balance
  • Inflammatory response
  • Normal cholesterol
  • Pancreatic function

More research is needed to understand how Chamomile may support metabolic function.

7: Chamomile May Help You Sleep

Chamomile has always been a popular herb for sleep support, with various tea companies making millions from their well-known chamomile brews.

Several studies have noted Chamomile’s possible sedative effects. 

A review of 12 randomized controlled trials concluded Chamomile may be beneficial for sleep quality and relaxation, but more robust research is needed.REF#2596

Another small study showed drinking Chamomile tea may support normal sleep and emotional well-being in postpartum women.REF#2597

A small study also suggests chamomile essential oil may support normal sleep in college students, but more research is needed.REF#2598

Some researchers believe Chamomile’s possible sedative effect is due to apigenin, the flavonoid mentioned above found in Chamomile flowers.REF#2599

Although the research on how Chamomile may impact sleep is in its infancy, its rich history of traditional use and strong anecdotal evidence suggest that a warm cup of Chamomile tea before bed may be beneficial.

8: Chamomile May Soothe Occasional Skin Discomfort

Chamomile is a popular herbal ingredient in many skin care, hair care, and cosmetic products. Skincare experts claim Chamomile is ideal for sensitive skin and can help reduce signs of redness, occasional breakouts, or irritation*.

It’s also been used for thousands of years to promote skin health and help soothe skin irritations.

New research suggests Chamomile’s sought-after effects on the skin may be due to its mast-cell supportive properties, which can have a soothing effect on skin irritations.REF#2600

Research in human volunteers suggests Chamomile flavonoids and essential oils penetrate below the skin surface into the deeper skin layers, where its inflammatory-response support properties may provide various benefits.REF#2601

9: Chamomile May Have Liver-Protective Properties

Dandelion and Milk Thistle are two of the most common herbs associated with liver support properties.

However, preliminary animal research suggests Chamomile extract may possess liver-protective properties. Researchers observed Chamomile extract may support normal regulation of COX-2 and iNOS pro-inflammatory enzymes.REF#2602

It is also possible Chamomile’s antioxidants play a role in promoting normal regulation of SOD and glutathione peroxidase.REF#2603

More research is needed to explain Chamomile’s potential effects on liver function.

Chamomile Side Effects & Possible Contraindications

Chamomile has been granted GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status and has been used internally, as an essential oil, and topically for centuries.

German Chamomile has been granted GRAS status, and the Food and Drug Administration also recognizes essential oil, extracts, and distillates as GRAS.

However, there are some rare side effects and potential contraindications reported.

Firstly, Chamomile is a member of the ragweed family, which may or may not cause allergies or sensitivities in those allergic to ragweed. 

Not everyone with a ragweed allergy or sensitivity will react to Chamomile—some can use it without problems. However, it’s worth discussing with your doctor or healthcare practitioner.

Other rare side effects may include nausea, dizziness, and allergic reactions. Rare cases of anaphylaxis have occurred in people who consumed or came into contact with chamomile products.REF#2604

Little is known about the effects of Chamomile during pregnancy and breastfeeding, although some studies conducted on breastfeeding women suggest a benefit for mother and baby. REF#2605

The Drugs and Lactation Database section on Chamomile notes: “...the smaller amounts [of Chamomile] expected (but not demonstrated) in breastmilk are likely not to be harmful with usual maternal doses”REF#2606

Chamomile may be contraindicated with the drugs cyclosporine and warfarin, and it may theoretically interact with other medications as well and should be used with caution if taking other sedatives. 

Talk to your health care practitioner before taking chamomile if you take any medication.

The Best Way To Take Chamomile

Most studies cited in this article administered Chamomile as a tea or extract. Still, you can also find Chamomile as a homeopathic and in topical products.

The optimal amount to take would depend on your goals, your body, and the concentration of the Chamomile product.

If you’re interested in taking Chamomile to support sleep, for example, you could try drinking a cup of Chamomile tea before bed to take advantage of its relaxation effects.

Although Chamomile is a relaxant that may possess mild sedative properties, most people can take it during the day—after a meal, for example—without becoming overly drowsy (but try it first at night to see how you react).

Chamomile essential oils can be diffused into the air or mixed into carrier oils and applied to the skin, and dried Chamomile flowers can also be used to create a luxurious and relaxing herbal bath or foot soak.

Talk to your healthcare practitioner about Chamomile extracts to determine your best dose.

How To Find High-Quality Chamomile Supplements, Teas, and Essential Oils

Chamomile is a very common herb and thus is easy to find in teas, supplements, essential oils, and other over-the-counter preparations.

However, with so many new herbal supplement companies popping up, knowing how to source a quality and authentic Chamomile product is essential. 

Here’s what to look for when buying herbal supplements and other Chamomile products: 

  • When buying in bulk (if possible), look for fragrant and colorful flower buds which indicate freshness and quality
  • Chamomile is typically added to skincare products for sensitive, irritated, dry, or acne-prone skin. It’s also a common ingredient in all-natural baby care products. When buying skincare products, look for all-natural, non-toxic brands without synthetic ingredients.
  • Chamomile essential oils can be expensive, which is an indication of quality and purity. Look for 100% pure, undiluted Chamomile essential oils extracted without solvents.


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