How Is Chamomile Used for Social Anxiety?

Characteristics, Dosage, Interactions, Side Effects and Risks

Woman holding cup with chamomile tea
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Chamomile, a flower in the daisy family, is a dietary supplement popular for a variety of uses including sleep problems, anxiety, digestive upset, mouth sores, skin infections, wound healing, colic and diaper rash.

Chamomile has been used for thousands of years, including by the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans. You've probably most often used chamomile in the form of chamomile tea—one of its most popular uses.

While many people find it to be relaxing before bed or when feeling anxious, not much research has been conducted on its effectiveness for these uses.

Characteristics

German chamomile (matricaria recutita) is the focus of most scientific research and is available almost everywhere except for England, where Roman chamomile (chamaemelum nobile) is popular. In North America, chamomile is most often found prepared as an herbal tea to aid in sleep.

How to Take It

Chamomile is available as capsules, liquid extracts, tinctures, teas and topical creams among other preparations.

Dosage Guidelines

Always read the product label for dosing instructions and consult a healthcare provider if necessary.

For adults, the recommended doses are the following:

  • Capsules: 400 to 1600 mg in divided doses daily
  • Liquid extract: 1 to 4 ml three times daily
  • Tincture: 15 ml three to four times daily
  • Tea: 1 to 4 cups of tea per day

    There is not enough scientific evidence to recommend use of chamomile in children.

    Who Should Not Take It

    The following groups of people should avoid the use of chamomile:

    • those with allergies to plants in the daisy family such as aster, chrysanthemum, ragweed, marigold and daisy
    • those with bleeding disorders and those taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding
    • pregnant and nursing women because chamomile may act as a uterine stimulant or lead to the fetus being aborted

    Medication Interactions

    In general, more research is needed to fully evaluate medication interactions for chamomile. There are a number of potential interactions with medications and other dietary supplements. Before using chamomile, consult a medical professional about potential interactions with other products or medications you are using.

    Some common interactive effects include the following:

    • drowsiness when combined with benzodiazepines, barbituates, narcotics, anti-seizure medications, some antidepressants and alcohol
    • increased risk of bleeding if combined with blood thinners, ibuprofen or naproxen
    • risk if combined with medications that affect blood sugar or blood pressure
    • may interfere with the effectiveness of hormone therapy because chamomile is similar to estrogen

    Given the potential for drowsiness, it is not recommended to drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how chamomile affects you.

    Side Effects

    Reported side effects of using chamomile include:

    • serious allergic reactions including anaphylaxis, throat swelling and shortness of breath
    • skin allergic reactions such as eczema

    Effectiveness for SAD

    In general, not enough scientific research has been conducted to support any of the many common uses of chamomile; however, exploratory studies in 2009 and 2012 by Amsterdam and colleagues demonstrated its potential usefulness for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and depression. Research is needed to determine whether there is a significant effect of chamomile for social anxiety disorder (SAD).

    Risks Associated

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the production of herbs and supplements. Most herbs and supplements are not thoroughly tested, and there is no guarantee regarding the ingredients or safety of the products.

    Although a number of potential side effects and interactions are presented here, the risks associated with chamomile have not been adequately studied.

    Sources:

    Amsterdam JD, Li Y, Soeller I, Rockwell K, Mao JJ, Shults J. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2009;29(4):378-382. doi:10.1097/JCP.0b013e3181ac935c.

    Amsterdam JD, Shults J, Soeller I, Mao JJ, Rockwell K, Newberg AB. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) may provide antidepressant activity in anxious, depressed humans: an exploratory study. Altern Ther Health Med. 2012;18(5):44-49.

    University of Maryland Medical Center. German Chamomile; 2015.

    Medline Plus. Roman Chamomile

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH). Chamomile

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