Chamomile for a Sounder Slumber

Man sleeping
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One of the most popular natural remedies for sleep problems is chamomile, an herb long used as an ingredient in teas. Both German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) are said to promote sounder sleep, as well as aid in the treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia.

Why Is Chamomile Sometimes Used for Sleep Problems?

In herbal medicine, chamomile has long been taken for its mild sedative properties.

Some research indicates that apigenin (an antioxidant compound found in chamomile) may produce a sedative effect by affecting certain brain chemicals involved in regulating sleep.

There are several ways that chamomile is used. Some proponents suggest that taking chamomile extract in dietary supplement form can help with insomnia, while others recommend sipping chamomile tea prior to going to sleep. 

In addition, essential oil of chamomile can be used as an aromatherapy remedy. When combined with a carrier oil, it can be added to your bath or massaged into your skin. You can also breathe in the calming scent of chamomile by adding the essential oil to an aromatherapy diffuser or vaporizer.

Although evidence for the possibly sleep-promoting effects of chamomile is very limited, some preliminary studies have shown that the herb may help induce sleepiness. In a study published in Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin in 2005, for instance, tests on sleep-disturbed rats demonstrated that treatment with chamomile extract helped decrease the time it took for the animals to fall asleep.

Research on Chamomile for Sleep

Despite chamomile's long history of use as an herbal sleep aid, few studies have tested the herb's effectiveness in the treatment of insomnia. The available research includes a pilot study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2011, which involved 34 adults who'd been struggling with insomnia for at least six months.

For the pilot study, participants took either chamomile supplements or a placebo every day for about a month. At the end of the treatment period, researchers found no significant differences between the two groups in factors such as total sleep time and sleep quality. However, study members given chamomile did show a slightly greater improvement in daytime functioning (compared to those given the placebo).

Additionally, a small study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2013 found that chamomile-based aromatherapy may help improve sleep in people receiving treatment for heart disease. The study included 56 patients undergoing coronary angioplasty, and found that inhaling an aromatherapy blend containing essential oils of chamomile, lavender, and neroli helped enhance sleep quality and reduce anxiety.

Caveats

Chamomile may trigger an allergic reaction in individuals with sensitivities to plants like ragweed, marigolds, chrysanthemums, and daisies. There's also some concern that use of chamomile may aggravate asthma symptoms.

When using chamomile extract in essential oil form, it's crucial to avoid using essential oils internally and applying undiluted or excessive amounts of the oil to your skin. You can go here to get more tips on using essential oils.

If you're considering the use of chamomile (or any other form of alternative medicine), it's important to consult your doctor first. 

Alternatives to Chamomile for a Sounder Sleep

Many other herbs (including kava, valerian, lemon balm, and hops) may help calm your mind and help you sleep more soundly. Mind-body practices like meditation and guided imagery might also help improve your sleep quality.

If you're seeking an aromatherapy-based solution for healthier sleep, there's some evidence that essential oils like lavender and ylang-ylang may be beneficial in the treatment of insomnia as well.

You can learn more about using aromatherapy for sleep here.

Beyond Sleep: More Uses

Along with possibly promoting healthier sleep, chamomile has been found to alleviate anxiety and ease indigestion in some scientific studies.

Sources

Cho MY1, Min ES, Hur MH, Lee MS. "Effects of aromatherapy on the anxiety, vital signs, and sleep quality of percutaneous coronary intervention patients in intensive care units." Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:381381. 

Shinomiya K1, Inoue T, Utsu Y, Tokunaga S, Masuoka T, Ohmori A, Kamei C. "Hypnotic activities of chamomile and passiflora extracts in sleep-disturbed rats." Biol Pharm Bull. 2005 May;28(5):808-10.

Srivastava JK1, Shankar E, Gupta S. "Chamomile: An herbal medicine of the past with bright future." Mol Med Rep. 2010 Nov 1;3(6):895-901.

Zick SM1, Wright BD, Sen A, Arnedt JT. "Preliminary examination of the efficacy and safety of a standardized chamomile extract for chronic primary insomnia: a randomized placebo-controlled pilot study." BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011 Sep 22;11:78.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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