Mother Earth doesn’t just supply us with the air we breathe and the stunning settings we see. The plants she produces provide us with heaps of health benefits, from turmeric’s brain-boosting properties to echinacea’s immunity-enhancing qualities.

Chamomile doesn’t just fall under this category of healing plants. The herb epitomizes it. There are two different types of chamomile—German and Roman, with the former being the more potent of the two and the one used most often for therapeutic applications. Thanks to the flavonoids, sesquiterpenes, and antioxidants it contains, it’s traditionally been used to treat everything from rheumatic pain to ulcers. Now, chamomile is gaining even more ground as a large body of research shows its varied benefits. Whether you choose to drink chamomile tea, take a chamomile supplement, use chamomile essential oil, or invest in a topical treatment, here are nine ways the herb may bolster your wellness:

1. Improves Sleep. Savoring a cup of chamomile tea before bed is a common habit for many—and not just for the earthy, apple taste it offers (indeed, “chamomile” goes back to the Greek word, khamaimēlon, or “earth apple”). Chamomile contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to certain receptors in your brain that help decrease restlessness and induce sleep.

2. Reduces Premenstrual Symptoms. Bloating, cramping, mood swings—we women are well-aware that PMS can do a number on us. Fewer of us, however, may know that chamomile can be used to mitigate its symptoms. A systematic review of chamomile’s benefits, published by the Journal of Pharmacopuncture, demonstrates that chamomile’s anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and anti-anxiety effects renders it a stellar remedy for alleviating abdominal and pelvic pain, as well as period-related anxiety and irritability.Drink as a tea, one cup twice a day from mid cycle until the period starts. One of my favorites is Organic Chamomile with Lavender tea by Traditional Medicinals containing not only chamomile but two herbs that soothe the nervous system, lavender and lemon balm.

3. Relieves Eczema. Atopic eczema—a dermatological condition that causes the skin to become red, itchy, and inflamed—is often treated with hydrocortisone cream. Data published by the National Institutes of Health show that chamomile is roughly 60% as effective as 0.25% of the over-the-counter remedy. While additional research is needed to evaluate the true efficacy of chamomile’s effect on eczema, present findings show that it may be a promising alternative option. You can reap its skin-soothing benefits in a topical treatment or use chamomile essential oil. How? Dilute with a carrier oil, such as coconut and jojoba, and add to warm bath water or your favorite body lotion. Alternatively, you can make a hot compress by soaking a towel or cloth in warm water, adding one to two drops of diluted chamomile oil, and then applying it to your skin.

4. Helps Inflammatory Conditions. While acute inflammation helps keep you alive—the process is your body’s first line of defense against injuries, toxins, and infections—chronic inflammation tells a different story, and may result in tissue damage, gastrointestinal distress, and skin issues. Chamomile may aid in these consequences. Studies have shown that chamomile inhibits Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers, while its anti-spasmodic effects can help relax the abdominal aches frequently associated with gastrointestinal inflammatory disorders. The herb can also help with inflammation of the skin. Approved by the German Commission E for wound and burn therapy, one of chamomile’s active constituents, levomenol, has anti-inflammatory and naturally-moisturizing properties that can diminish the signs of photoaging, reduce pruritis (itchy skin), and improve skin texture and elasticity.

For gastrointestinal issues, drink the tea (a few cups a day) or take chamomile as a supplement (900 mg/pill, two pills three times a day). For topical issues, the tea can be applied topically by soaking a wash cloth in a warm cup of tea and then apply the compress to affected tissue. Or take a lovely chamomile bath by adding six bags of chamomile tea to a bath. You could also use the bulk herb—which is less expensive—by pouring two cups of chamomile flowers into your bath. A bath provides a special experience with chamomile flowers keeping you company. 

5. …and Osteoporosis. While further studies are needed before chamomile can be considered for clinical use in the treatment of osteoporosis, research on the topic demonstrates great potential: In one study, chamomile extract was shown to stimulate osteoblastic cell differentiation the NIH reports. Translation? It may help protect bones that are prone to depletion due to age and the loss of estrogen. Take chamomile as a tea and drink a few cups a day.

6. Aids in Digestion. Chamomile is chock-full of health-boosting properties, including compounds, called sesquiterpene lactones, that urge the pancreas to produce the digestive enzymes your body needs to break down food. What’s more, stress-related gastrointestinal issues that thwart proper digestion can be helped by chamomile’s naturally-calming effects.Drink a cup of chamomile tea after meals to support your digestion.

7. Lowers Anxiety. That soothing effect isn’t reserved just for sleep or your stomach. Chamomile can help diminish anxiety, period. One study, published in the journal Phytomedicine, found that chamomile extract lessens symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Harvard Health seconds this and suggests it can be a safe and effective alternative remedy for anxiety. (Do note that chamomile is not recommended if you’re taking warfarin, clopidogrel, and other blood thinners.)Drinking a few cups a day of chamomile tea on a daily basis can soothe your nerves.

8. Boosts Oral Health. Chamomile’s anti-septic properties make it a boon for your oral health by heading off infections, protecting your teeth and gums, and warding off gingivitis. It can also help relieve the discomfort of toothaches. “Administering” it is simple too. All you have to do is swish chamomile tea around in your mouth before drinking it. 

9. Bolsters Immunity. Immune health is your health—and chamomile can be used to encourage it. Why? Because the herb boasts a number of phenolic compounds—acids with tremendous antioxidant activities that can help rouse the action of leukocytes and T-cells (cells responsible for safeguarding you against infections and toxins). You can use chamomile tea on a daily basis to support your immunity, or you can take it as a supplement. Most supplement products contain 900 mg of German chamomile extract. Take 900 mg twice a day.

Sip a cup of soothing tea and protect yourself while you’re at it? Now there’s a(nother) reason to start stocking chamomile in your pantry!

Click here to buy Dr. Laurie Steelsmith’s books, Natural Choices for Women’s Health, Great Sex, Naturally and Growing Younger Every Day: The Three Essential Steps for Creating Youthful Hormone Balance at Any Age.

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