If you’ve ever struggled to sleep or felt anxious, chances are someone has told you to sip on some chamomile tea. Whether that be your parent or Dr Google, many people believe that the properties of chamomile tea can help calm you down and whisk you off to sleep. But does it actually help?
I’m always a bit sceptical about how much herbal teas can really do versus how much of it is a placebo effect. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid tea drinker, but I’m just not convinced they can help me to fall asleep.
So for this week’s Ask Lifehacker, we are diving right into the mug and finding out if chamomile tea can actually help you calm down.
How popular is chamomile tea in Australia?
The good and trusty people over at CHOICE surveyed 1,000 Aussies last year to study our herbal tea-drinking habits and there were some surprising results about our good friend chamomile.
The survey found that 35% of respondents drink herbal teas to relax (68% was for general enjoyment and 36% was to reduce caffeine intake), which is a decent chunk of people.
On top of this, at least one in five people drink herbal tea, like chamomile, because of the perceived health benefits – with the most common reason being to better their sleep and relaxation and to lower their stress and anxiety.
It seems that chamomile is a pretty popular choice amongst Aussies. From the survey, it was the third most popular herbal tea (48%) behind mint (64%) and ginger (55%).
So we definitely know that it’s a preferred tea by many, but we still need to take a closer look at what’s going on inside your brew.
What’s in chamomile tea?
Chamomile tea is actually pretty easy to make and not much goes into the production process.
To make the tea, the chamomile flowers are dried and then infused into hot water. Some people add honey or lemon to give it a bit more flavour and sweetness.
How does chamomile tea help calm you down?
How can dried flowers steeped in hot water make you feel so calm?
According to Insider, it’s all because of the chemical structure of chamomile. More specifically, the chemical compound called apigenin.
When consumed, apigenin binds to the GABA receptors in the brain which can have a calming effect and help induce sleepiness.
Because chamomile teas generally aren’t caffeinated and apigenin helps promote sleep, many people choose to drink it at night.
Looking back at the CHOICE survey, 85% of respondents drank the tea in the evening because of the strong association of the herbal brew with sleep and relaxation.
In fact, 82% of those who drank chamomile did so to improve their sleep and relaxation while 58% drank it to ease their stress and anxiety.
There have been a few small studies into the effectiveness of chamomile tea in helping those who suffer from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), too.
A 2016 study gave participants with GAD 500 mg doses of chamomile to take three times a day. They ultimately found that chamomile did in fact reduce some of the symptoms they normally associated with their anxiety. These symptoms included nervousness, rapid heart rate, digestive problems and insomnia.
So maybe chamomile tea does indeed help after all?
What else can it do?
It’s a sore throat aid
In addition to sleep and relaxation, many people believe that chamomile tea helps with their sore throats, too. But as it turns out, it’s not actually the tea that’s providing you with relief but rather the temperature.
Warm teas and soups will help loosen up the mucus in your system and make it much easier to swallow when you’ve got a sore throat.
So yes, chamomile tea does technically provide you with relief from a sore throat, but the same can be said for any hot herbal tea.
Use it for digestive issues
The calming properties in chamomile tea that make you feel sleepy can also help out your digestive system, it seems.
Dr Lindsay Kluge, a U.S. based nutritionist told Oprah Daily that because so many digestive issues, like irritable bowel syndrome, are a symptom of stress, chamomile is the perfect way to gently manage the bodies stress response and thus help ease your upset stomach.
According to Dr Kluge, chamomile is an antispasmodic which basically means that it can help reduce spasms within the body and help with stomach cramps induced by digestive issues.
Soothe period pain
Chamomile tea may also help ease period pains for the same reasons that it can help ease digestive issues.
As the tea has antispasmodic properties, those who suffer from period cramps might be able to find some relief in chamomile tea.
Again, there aren’t many studies to support this but if it helps some people find relief then hats off to them.
There are loads of different hair masks out there but putting chamomile tea in your hair is definitely a new one.
According to Oprah Daily, the cooling and anti-inflammatory properties of chamomile may also help ease dry and inflamed scalp conditions.
Of course, there isn’t any significant scientific evidence to prove this but hey, if Oprah suggests it, I guess it can’t hurt to try.
What can’t chamomile tea do?