Belonging to the daisy family, the chamomile herb offers a bouquet of health benefits through its white and yellow flowers. The volatile oils in the flowers carry a range of compounds that mean your nervous and digestive systems well.
The compounds α-bisabolol, chamazulene, and apigenin are given the most credit for chamomile’s health benefits.
Why It’s So Great
1. Induces Sleep
With addictive gadgets, lengthy to-do lists, and the perpetual need pick up the pace, your nervous system is constantly bombarded with external stimuli (like lights, sounds, smells). It’s easy to get distracted. No wonder so many of us struggle to fall asleep!
Chamomile can help calm your mind and initiate sleep. It pumps the brakes on the central nervous system.
When falling asleep, a sleep-favoring chemical called GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) sits at tailor-made seats (GABA A receptors) on brain cells. This opens up adjoining chloride channels, welcoming in negative chloride ions from the outside. Becoming too negative on the inside, the cells then refuse to react to external stimuli. You feel calm and relaxed and sleep easily.
Chamomile’s compound apigenin can sit on GABA A receptors, too, alongside GABA, opening up the chloride channels more often. Even more negative ions move into the brain cells, and you drift into a slumber even sooner!
The best part about this herb is that it’s not addictive – unlike conventional sleeping pills.
2. Reduces Anxiety
Chamomile can be the deep breaths you need if you’re generally an anxious or nervous person. Given the rate at which we pressurize ourselves these days, it won’t be an anomaly if you are one.
When the brain’s pleasure and reward system, the dopamine system, is out of whack, all kinds of aberrant behaviors come into play like depression and extreme thrill seeking. Restore the balance in this system and you will feel less anxious.
Chamomile’s apigenin can help you do this by sitting on dopamine receptors on brain cells and exerting control there. It also modulates the stress response and, as mentioned, relaxes the central nervous system.
You won’t even have to worry about side effects that come with anxiety relieving drugs.
3. Relieves Digestive Distress
When you have a stomach ache, diarrhea, or indigestion, or feel bloated, allow chamomile to work its magic. It’s power-trio – α-bisabolol, chamazulene, and apigenin – helps to gently regulate your bowels:
- Reduces intestinal spasms and inflammation: Chamomile soothes the walls of the intestines and prevents intestinal spasms. This, in turn, prevents sudden bouts of sharp, intense pain and expels gas.
- Stimulates the liver: By doing so, chamomile gives bile production a nudge, ensuring your digestion is on point.
4. Stabilizes Blood Glucose and Cholesterol
Chamomile may help you manage your blood glucose and cholesterol better. It pulls a couple of tricks to help achieve this.
- Increases insulin sensitivity: A lot of people struggle to respond to insulin in their system. Chamomile’s flavonoids may be able to help by controlling certain genes in liver and fat cells.
Small chamomile molecules sit in large pockets of intracellular “boats” called PPARs (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors) that park themselves on DNA and decide which genes will be expressed. This tells your body how to break down and use glucose and lipids, cholesterol included. It works in your favor.
- Reduces blood glucose: Chamomile’s compounds esculetin and quercetin inhibit the intestinal enzyme α-glucosidase so that fewer complex carbs are split into glucose.
Offering support, luteolin and quercetin inhibit the liver enzyme glycogen phosphorylase so that lesser glycogen is broken down into glucose.
- Slows down glucose absorption: The herb’s chlorogenic acid puts a lid on the glucose being absorbed by your intestines and moving into your bloodstream.
5. Limits Inflammation
Inflammation is an immune system reaction to infection, injury, and stress. With more and more research tracing different diseases back to inflammation, anything that can keep it in check is a blessing for your health.
Chamomile’s chamazulene, α-bisabolol, and apigenin step up to the challenge. They suppress an enzyme COX-2 that synthesizes pro-inflammatory molecules called prostaglandins.
It isn’t surprising that conventional painkillers (NSAIDs) take the same approach, only that they often cause gastric and cardiovascular side-effects as well. Not the case with chamomile.
Chamomile flowers are dried and pounded into a powder for consumption. Have about 2 gm of this powder thrice a day.
For a comforting cup of chamomile tea, pour boiling water over 2–3 teaspoons of the powder and allow it to steep for 10–15 minutes. You may drink up to 3–4 cups a day if you’d like but keep them between meals.
NOTE: If you are allergic to ragweed or chrysanthemums, it is best to avoid chamomile as it contains similar components.