Chamomile has been lauded for centuries as a medicinal herb with a number of different benefits. Whenever I looked around for natural sleep remedies I always came across chamomile.
Many of us are familiar with two of the most popular reasons people drink chamomile tea: to calm an upset stomach and to induce sleep. But is there really any truth to these claims? Research suggests that two types of chamomile, German and Roman, can indeed be used to support our health. And, among the many reputed benefits of the herb is better sleep.
Maybe you’d better decide for yourself – just don’t drink a cup until after you’ve finished reading!
What Is Chamomile?
Unlike other tea herbs, chamomile is derived from a daisy-like plant rather than a tree. Plants in the same family as chamomile are well-known for their calming, sleep-inducing properties. The plant contains a flavonoid, known as chrysin, which is at least partially responsible for the plant’s reported role in sleep support.
When brewed into tea, the herb takes on a fruit-like flavor similar to that of the apple. Many people quite enjoy the taste of the tea in addition to its many therapeutic properties. I personally don’t really like the flavor, but it has certainly grown on me since I started drinking chamomile tea.
The herb has been identified as containing 28 terpenoids and 36 flavonoid compounds. These components are what give the flower its healing power.
The dried flower is known as a potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antifungal, antispasmodic, anti-ulcer, and astringent. It can be steeped and drank as tea, but is also commonly used as a poultice and in other forms.
What Are the Primary Benefits of Chamomile?
Chamomile has been used for all sorts of medicinal purposes. From treating chest colds to slow-healing wounds, inflammation, and more, chamomile has been applied in numerous ways to support overall health. The additional benefits of chamomile are impressive and cannot go unmentioned – they include the ability to regulate hyperglycemia, protect against infection, soothe digestive upset, and even fight cancer. So, a simple cup of tea has benefits far beyond just putting you to sleep.
Here are some more Chamomile health benefits:
How Does Chamomile Support Sleep?
While some are still skeptical, chamomile has been identified as having properties that can effectively treat insomnia and support beneficial sleep. Traditional preparations of the herb, such as tea and essential oil, have been found to have mild tranquilizing and sleep-inducing qualities.
It is believed that the sedative effects of the herb are due, at least in part, to the flavonoid apigenin that binds to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain.
While there have not been many clinical studies done on the effects of chamomile on sleep, a study of 10 cardiac patients revealed that they all immediately fell into a deep sleep lasting for 90 minutes after drinking chamomile tea.
What Do the Skeptics Say?
While chamomile is currently the most commonly used herbal remedy for sleep disorders, there are a few who beg to differ on its value. Skeptics state that too little research has been done, as only a handful of clinical studies have been performed to explicitly identify chamomile as a sleep aid and that results aren’t conclusive.
For example, in one study in which half of 34 patients received chamomile in pills and half received a placebo, no significant differences were found between the placebo and chamomile groups. The study involved evaluating sleep diaries and following up with self-reporting to discern differences in total sleep time, time to fall asleep, wake up, wakeful times during the night, and overall sleep quality.
However, this report does not provide a definitive answer to the question as 34 participants is a relatively limited test group.
Does the Ritual Make a Difference?
While the previous study may have assessed whether chamomile as a supplement supports sleep, what it did not take into account was the ritual. This element is likely what makes chamomile so effective for supporting good sleep. In most cases, individuals who are using chamomile to support sleep are doing so by drinking a warm cup of chamomile tea. This has two primary benefits: (1.) drinking a warm liquid feels good and (2.) thinking the tea relaxes you helps it to do so.
So, in reality, it’s not necessarily even the chamomile that helps induce sleep, but rather the ritual of enjoying a nice, relaxing cup of tea. Many people who drink tea to support sleep do so with a very specific ritual, which may involve turning on the kettle, finding a favorite cup, smelling the aromatic tea, watching it steep, and then snuggling into a comfy chair to enjoy it. The process itself is like a practice in guided meditation. If nothing else, the process is a combination of placebo, memory, and routine that makes you feel good and readies your body for sleep.
Should I Drink Chamomile Tea to Support Sleep?
While simply grabbing a cup of chamomile tea may not have as powerful an effect on your sleep as taking a little melatonin before bed, repeated over time, drinking tea as part of your routine will help relax and calm you. The herbal tea contains no caffeine and has a number of health benefits, so it won’t keep you up but will support your health.
It is important to keep in mind how you take your tea, though. Be sure to:
- Brew the tea to your liking, typically 3 minutes or less.
- Consider the amount of sugar you add, as the added sugar may negate some of the medicinal properties of the herb.
- Don’t overdo it. If you drink too much, you may be awakened by a full bladder, offsetting the benefits of the tea in the first place.
So, whether you’re more of the clinical analysis type or not, consider doing a little research of your own, and I’m sure you’ll find that having a warm cup of tea before bed does just enough to settle your body and calm your mind in preparation for sleep. While it might not be the chamomile itself that helps, that action of sipping a warm, soothing, and possibly even nostalgic liquid definitely does.
Let me know how you get on with your own cup of chamomile tea as part of your sleep routine.