I think we’re all familiar with the GI benefits of this wonderful herb, chamomile. This mild-tasting tisane is something that you might want to give another look at. I wouldn’t think of not having some in the house for those occasional stomach upsets. Although my mom kept Pepto Bismol in the medicine cabinet for such a purpose, chamomile tea is far superior in my opinion.

It is believed that the flavonoids in chamomile, which are a type of nutrient present in many plants, play a significant role in chamomile’s medicinal effects. The one I’ve been investigating which is present in chamomile is apigenin. This terrific phytonutrient seems to have a significant impact on anxiety and depression (source).

In a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in 2012, people with mild to moderate depression and anxiety were given 220 mg a day of a chamomile extract for eight weeks. Using well-established universal measurements, such as the Beck Anxiety Inventory System and the Hamilton Anxiety Rating, the team found that a majority of the group (57 percent) experienced significant reduction of symptoms.

One very encouraging finding from the study – which was published in the well-respected journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine – was that chamomile’s therapeutic effects actually increased over time – although the dosage did not. (With some pharmaceutical drugs, tolerance develops – necessitating ever-increasing dosages to bring about the initial result. But, chamomile seems to display the opposite effect).

Scientists believe that a flavonoid called apigenin – which binds to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain – may be responsible for chamomile’s anxiety-reducing and antidepressant effects.

Having been a psychologist for over 25 years, I can tell you that there isn’t a safe pharmaceutical drug on the market that effectively improves symptoms of mild to moderate depression and anxiety in 57% of the people taking it- and that’s without side effects or increased tolerance mind you. With chamomile tea, the improvements seem to increase over time. I think that’s absolutely amazing.

This ancient herb has been used by healers for centuries. We might tend to disregard folklore and the medicinal herbs they employ but I’m coming to understand that these herbal remedies have withstood the test of time. Many are taken in the form of teas, or more appropriately called tisanes. Although they didn’t come with double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, they’ve been passed down through the generations and are finally being proven with stringent scientific testing. I get some real satisfaction knowing that Mother Nature has created countless herbs that are available to fight a huge variety of ills that continue to plague people around the world. Always check to see if there are any contraindications. I found an interesting study about infant colic and the effectiveness of chamomile tea to sooth this form of GI distress although another article noted potential concerns about giving chamomile tea to infants and very young children due to possible contamination with botulism spores. This is a similar concern found in raw honey. When in doubt, check with your alternative health care provider. Unfortunately, traditionally trained medical doctors receive no education about herbs and extremely little about nutrition in general.

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