Alex Whybrow examines he calming effects of Chamomile for anxiety. He also shares with us one of his favorite recipes for his calm inducing Chamomile tea – don’t miss it below…
There isn’t a person on this planet that doesn’t experience anxiety at one time or another. It’s awful, isn’t it? That feeling of unease and worry, maybe even fear – it can have a paralyzing effect on you, and it can act as a roadblock – stopping you from getting where you need to be.
There are different degrees of anxiety, of course. Some of it is relatively mild and controllable, some of it requires professional help and medication. It can sometimes prevent us from performing well at work, or getting sleep, and it can also isolate us from society and ruin our relationships.
This article is designed for people that suffer from relatively mild anxiety. If you find that your anxiety is affecting your day-to-day life or causing you major distress, you should seek help from a medical professional.
For milder anxiety, there are certain measures you can take to help alleviate feelings of anxiety, and we are going to be taking a look at one of them today – drinking chamomile tea.
Now, as a Brit, I was brought up believing that there aren’t many problems that a cup of tea can’t solve, so this is the article I was born to write! But there is good science behind this, and we are going to be taking a look at precisely why chamomile is an effective antidote to anxiety.
First though, let’s take a look at anxiety.
While anxiety can be triggered by many different external factors, and caused by things that happened to us a very long time ago, it manifests itself in the same way.
When we’re feeling stressed or anxious, our bodies release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which then go on to cause the physical feeling of anxiety. They increase our heart rate, and cause us to sweat. Our breathing will begin to speed up, and we can feel sick. We don’t want to eat, and we may feel like we need to use the toilet.
All of this comes from the release of these stress hormones.
While it is important to look at the triggers of anxiety, and try to address why they make us feel like they do, we can also look for ways to help lessen the impact – to help us calm down so that the physical reaction to feelings of anxiety don’t make situations worse.
So that the one thing we were worrying about earlier in the day doesn’t mean that we don’t sleep at all that night.
Chamomile is a great way to help with that.
Health Benefits of Chamomile
So what is chamomile? It’s a little flower, not too dissimilar to a daisy.
There are plenty of different species of the chamomile plant, but the two main ones from which we get drinks are Chamaemelum nobile and Matricaria chamomilla.
In terms of its use in medicine, chamomile has been used for centuries. In fact, not many herbs or flowers have been used in medicine for longer than chamomile has.
In ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, Chamomile was used to treat all manner of ailments from stomach cramps to skin conditions.
The big thing about chamomile is that it has antioxidant properties, which means that it can help to protect your body against free radicals, which attack your cells.
If you are exposed to radiation, smoke free radicals are produced which can harm your body. They are even produced when your body breaks down food, so it is vitally important that you build up protection against them.
That’s not all, though. As well as being an antioxidant, chamomile has analgesic properties. This means that it can act as a painkiller, whether you are suffering from an injury, a headache or even arthritis. Obviously if you are in a serious amount of pain, the doctor isn’t going to hurry over to the kettle to prepare a cup of chamomile tea for you, but to help ease pain, it can help.
I suffer from migraines regularly, and chamomile is one of the pain reducing techniques that I employ when I am suffering.
It has even been shown to have anticancer properties – in a recent study, chamomile was proven to slightly inhibit the growth of cancer cells, while leaving ‘normal’ cells untouched.
On a more mundane level, it is thought that inhaling steam that has been infused with chamomile extract can help cure the common cold, which obviously isn’t a serious condition, but knowing something that can help is certainly desirable when you are in the midst of a cold and feeling sorry for yourself.
Furthermore, chamomile has been proven to help recovery from diarrhea, particularly in children. And, some great news for parents of very young children, it has been shown to help get rid of colic in children – and nothing in this article will help people get better sleep than helping to remove colic in babies!
While chamomile has been used to help with skin conditions, such as eczema, the results are pretty inconclusive, so chamomile may not have a significant role to play in coping with skin conditions.
What we are most interested in, for the purposes of this article, is how chamomile can help us with anxiety – so let’s take a closer look.
Chamomile as a Cure for Anxiety
Chamomile is known for helping us relax. For centuries it has been used to help us get to sleep – a nice cup of chamomile tea before bed has been recommended by grandmothers all over the world for a very long time!
But there is much more to this than just being an old wives tale. Chamomile has some anxiolytic properties – attributes that help to reduce the impact of anxiety. It has a tranquilizing effect on us, which even though it is incredibly mild, it still helps us stay calm and promotes relaxation.
The main antioxidant that is present in chamomile is called apigenin, which helps to bring together various neuro-receptors in our brains – this has the effect of making us feel more calm and relaxed.
Studies have been undertaken to prove the impact of chamomile on anxiety, and while more research is required in order for us to get a bigger picture on the full impact, participants in the study that took chamomile were seen to have a modest decrease in their feelings of anxiety compared to those that had been given a placebo.
The most common type of anxiety is a variety called generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and a small study in 2016 reported that people that took chamomile over a long period of time reduced their symptoms of GAD “significantly”.
Larger studies are needed, and there are many different types of anxiety that need to be examined too, but this is a clear indication that chamomile could help people that suffer from anxiety.
This is linked to the ability to help us sleep – it is much more difficult to get to sleep if we are feeling anxious. So in another trial, ten patients on a cardiac ward fell into a deep sleep (lasting more than 90 minutes) immediately after drinking a cup of chamomile tea.
Again, more clinical trials are required, but there is plenty of evidence, on top of its use for centuries, to suggest that chamomile can play a significant role in helping people to get to sleep.
How Should You Take Chamomile?
Chamomile is available in many different forms. As with most things these days, you can buy supplements – some will be ‘chamomile flower’, some will specifically be ‘apigenin’. There are many different strengths and doses available, and if you want to go down this route, it could be a good idea to speak to a medical professional to find out what sort of dose is the right one for you.
However, one of the really great things about this is that chamomile tea is genuinely delicious, and the very act of taking the time out to prepare and drink a cup of tea can act as protection against anxiety in itself.
So that is what I would urge you to do. Individual bags of chamomile tea are available from most grocery stores. All you need to do then is put the kettle on, pour boiling water over the bag in a cup, and wait for it to brew.
There is something incredibly therapeutic about tea because it isn’t instant. The brewing process forces you to take a couple of minutes to wait. It forces you to do nothing – don’t miss that opportunity.
Take a seat and try to switch off your brain as you wait for the chamomile to infuse into the water, and for the water to cool enough for it to reach a drinkable temperature.
If you want to step things up a notch, use fresh chamomile. Again, it is widely available, and even really easy to grow yourself if you have the space. Then all you need is a teapot.
You can create your own blends – try adding a little bit of ginger, honey or mint to it – maybe some lemon or lavender? You can experiment with it to find your ideal flavor, and all the while ensure you are making yourself a nice, relaxing drink that will help you switch off for a few minutes. To give yourself time to get your head in order.
Here is my perfect chamomile tea recipe:
Use three tablespoons of fresh chamomile, plus a couple of slices of fresh ginger and a pinch of dried lavender. Pour boiling water over, and leave for around 5 minutes to brew. Then, just before you drink it, add a teaspoon of runny honey, and add a small wedge of lemon.
Are there any side effects of taking Chamomile?
While chamomile is a completely natural flower, in very rare occasions it has been known to cause a few different side effects. These include dizziness, nausea and even (in very rare instances) allergic reactions. Some people have found that they have suffered from eczema after taking chamomile, but again, this is very rare. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical advice.
You should also seek medical advice before taking chamomile if you are pregnant or on medication, especially if they have blood thinning qualities. Chamomile can have an anticoagulant effect, so it should never be taken in conjunction with blood thinners.
So even though chamomile is generally regarded as a harmless flower, it is always better to ask for professional medical advice before taking it regularly if you have any concerns.
Chamomile is a wonderful treatment for anxiety – even if we don’t really know exactly how effective it can be.
Just to clarify, it is clear that chamomile does something to help reduce the impact of anxiety, but to what degree, and which forms of anxiety it is the biggest help for, is not quite clear at this stage. All we know is that it helps.
Of course, if you are suffering from severe anxiety, you are best advised to seek professional medical help – doctors can help you get to the root of the problem with therapy and medication.
If you are looking for things to help you with day-to-day anxiety, though – the sort of anxiety that causes you a bit of trouble falling to sleep at night, or that knocks your confidence a bit during certain situations, then chamomile can play a crucial role in combating it.
The mere act of pouring yourself a lovely cup of chamomile can provide some comfort, but there is plenty of science to back up the theory that the drink itself will help you to relax, and to prevent some of the physical symptoms of anxiety. It can certainly help you sleep better, and provide you with a host of other minor health benefits at the same time.
There are loads of over-the-counter treatments for stress and anxiety out there, but there aren’t many that are as cheap, enjoyable and effective as chamomile. Put the kettle on, and let the tea do what it does best.