The Health Benefits of Roman Chamomile

From soothing your mind to soothing your stomach

In This Article

Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), also known as English chamomile, is one of several variations of the chamomile plant. The other most common type is German chamomile. Each has different growing habits, but they are used to treat the same health conditions. 

Chamomile is the most widely used medicinal plants in the western world. Many people drink chamomile tea for its relaxation properties and calming effects on the digestive system.

The dried flowers of the chamomile plant contain terpenoids and flavonoids, which lend themselves to the plant’s medicinal properties.

Terpenoids are organic chemicals—naturally produced by plants—that are thought to provide the specific strain from which the plant gets its unique smell and flavor. Flavonoids are very strong antioxidants with immune system benefits and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Roman chamomile is used to make tea, creams, ointments, and extracts, which all come from the white and yellow flower portion of the plant. Flower heads are first dried, then used to make powders or tea. They may also be steamed to produce chamomile essential oil, which is thought to reduce swelling and have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties.

Although Roman chamomile is generally safe, there are some contraindications and side effects. In addition, there's no proven safe or effective dose for children.

Health Benefits of Chamomile
Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

Health Benefits

Roman chamomile may be best known for its hypnotic properties, which promote relaxation and may help induce sleep. An animal study found that chamomile offered hypnotic effects, decreasing the amount of time required to fall asleep.

Chamomile also has very strong antioxidant properties that are thought to help strengthen the immune system. Chamomile is said to help fight the common cold and other infections. One study involving 14 volunteers who drank five cups of chamomile tea daily discovered an increase in antibacterial activity and a decrease in blood pressure. 

The other health benefit that Roman chamomile is well known for is its calming effect on the stomach and gastrointestinal (GI) system. One study backs up the claim that chamomile can help alleviate some of the discomforts from GI upset, demonstrating that the herb is effective as an anti-spasmodic agent. This means it can be used in the treatment of disorders of the GI system that involve spasms, such as IBS. The mechanism of action in an anti-spasmodic agent is to relax the smooth muscles.

Main Benefits

• Promotes relaxation

• Boosts immune system

• Soothes gastrointestinal system

Other Conditions

The relaxation and immune-boosting properties may also aid with the following conditions, although different people may experience different effects:

  • Anxiety linked with depression
  • Ulcers
  • Dermatitis
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Eczema
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Esophageal reflux
  • PMS
  • Hay fever
  • Diabetes 
  • Fever

Research on Efficacy

Multiple studies have been conducted on how potent and helpful chamomile actually is.

In one study, chamomile was found to be was found to be approximately 60 percent as effective as 0.25 percent hydrocortisone cream in the treatment of eczema. 

sleep study found chamomile extracts to display a hypnotic activity like benzodiazepines (a class of drugs such as Xanax and Ativan). 

study discovered that inhalation of the vapor of chamomile oil lowered stress hormones.

Preliminary studies suggest that chamomile improves hyperglycemia—helping to prevent complications of diabetes—by lowering blood sugar levels. But more studies are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of chamomile for diabetes.

Protectiveness against stomach ulcers has been reported in studies using a commercial preparation of chamomile and other herbs called STW5 (the mixture also contains lemon balm leaf, peppermint, licorice root, and more) 

double-blind study conducted after dermabrasion found that topical use of chamomile enhanced wound healing.

double-blind placebo study discovered that the use of chamomile improved depression rating scores in study participants with depression and anxiety.

Clinical research studies indicate that chamomile has an anti-inflammatory effect that is similar to that of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Ibuprofen). 

Possible Side Effects

Although Roman chamomile is considered a mild herb and is relatively safe for most people, there are a few side effects and contraindications:

  • When used in large dosages, chamomile may cause nausea or vomiting.
  • Some people experience redness and itchiness when chamomile is applied directly to the skin.
  • Any person with seasonal allergies to ragweed or other seasonal plants, including chrysanthemums, marigolds, or daisies, should avoid using chamomile because these plants are in the same family as chamomile.
  • Some sources say that chamomile may worsen symptoms of asthma, but others claim it helps alleviate an asthmatic attack. People with asthma (or any other health condition) should consult with their healthcare provider before using chamomile.  

Chamomile may cause a mild uterine stimulation, so pregnant women should consult with their physician before using it.

Drug Interactions

Chamomile is thought to be contraindicated for people taking cyclosporine (a medication to prevent rejection after an organ transplant).

Medications that are taken to thin the blood such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), and aspirin should not be taken with chamomile because chamomile may increase the risk of bleeding.

Chamomile should be avoided by those who take any type of medications that cause drowsiness such as narcotics, barbiturates, alcohol, some types of anti-depressants or benzodiazepines.

Chamomile may have an estrogen type of effect and may interfere with hormone therapy.

Chamomile may have a slight blood pressure lowering effect, so it should not be taken with antihypertensive (blood pressure lowering) medications.

Chamomile may lower blood sugar. Those who take medication for diabetes should not drink chamomile tea because it may worsen hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Chamomile is broken down in the liver and may interact adversely with drugs that break down the same way.

Drugs That Chamomile Should Not Be Used With

Avoid taking chamomile if you also take:

  • Anti-seizure drugs, such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and valproic acid (Depakote)
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium)
  • Drugs for insomnia, such as zolpidem (Ambien), zaleplon (Sonata), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and ramelteon (Rozerem)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Other sedative type herbs, such as valerian and kava
  • Coumadin
  • Drugs that are broken down in the liver, such as Fexofenadine (Seldane), statins (drugs that lower cholesterol), birth control pills, and some antifungal drugs

Warnings

The safety of chamomile has not been well established for pregnant or nursing mothers, for children, or for those with liver or kidney disease. 

Chamomile use should be discontinued at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery or dental work because of the increased risk of bleeding.

While some sources report that chamomile can help with asthma attacks, other reliable sources warn against using chamomile for those who have asthma, explaining that it may worsen symptoms.

Chamomile should not be taken before driving or operating heavy machinery because of its hypnotic effects.

Dosage and Preparation

Chamomile is commonly consumed as:

  • Herbal tea
  • An essential oil
  • A dry powder
  • A tincture
  • A capsule

Tips for Use

Always read the label’s dosing information before using chamomile (or any other type of herb) and consult with a healthcare provider if necessary.

Chamomile essential oil is not intended for internal use, but rather, should be used topically (on the skin) or diffused in the air using a diffusing device. 

To ensure a person does not have a skin allergy to chamomile oil, a patch test can be performed by putting a small amount on one area of the skin and then observing for a reaction (such as redness or rash) before applying topical chamomile to the skin.

Dosing Information

General guideline for the dose of Roman chamomile from Penn State Hershey’s Health Information Library vary by age.

Children

Never give any product with chamomile (including tea) to an infant or child without consulting with a healthcare provider first.

Adults

  • For Tea: Place 2 or 3 heaping teaspoons of loose tea in boiling water and steep for 15 minutes. Drink tea three or four times each day, between meals.
  • In the bath: Use 5 to 10 drops of essential oil in a full tub of water to help heal cuts, treat eczema or other skin disorders, or to soothe hemorrhoids.
  • On the skin: Apply a concentration of between 3 percent and 10 percent of chamomile cream or ointment to affected area.    
  • Capsules: Take 400 to 1600 milligrams in divided doses daily.
  • Liquid extract: Take 1 to 4 milliliters three times daily.
  • Tincture: Take 15 milliliters three to four times daily.

The strength of Roman chamomile depends on many factors, such as the form it is used in, whether the product is organic, and how pure it is. The most potent form of chamomile is the dry powder and the least potent is the tea. 

What to Look For

When purchasing chamomile powder, the type extracted from pure chamomile leaves—where the oil is found—is recommended. Avoid selections with stems, roots or other fillers.

Chamomile tea is the most popular way that people choose to ingest chamomile for its relaxation effects. Although chamomile tea can be found in just about any grocery store, it’s important to note that not all brands are equal in quality or strength. Be sure to check the date on the package to ensure the tea is fresh as it will lose its potency over time.  

To ensure a pure and potent product, always purchase organic chamomile. This will also guarantee that there are no pesticides or chemical processing that is involved in growing or packaging the product.

Apigenin—one of the most bioactive antioxidants in chamomile—should be present in extracts in a concentration of 1.2 percent. Many of the clinical research studies discovered that this flavonoid was a primary bioactive substance lending itself to the health-promoting effects discovered.

Don’t rely on consumer reviews alone when it comes to quality and efficacy of Roman chamomile or any other herbal product.

A simple way to ensure the strength and quality of Roman chamomile is to only purchase pharmaceutical grade products. These are the products used in clinical research studies.

Other grades of supplements and herbs (such as therapeutic grade) may not produce the desired effect, because the quality may not be as high as it is in pharmaceutical grade products.

A Word From Verywell

The use of medicinal herbs for healing should always be accompanied by a discussion with your doctor. Herbs, unlike drugs, are not regulated by the FDA. We advise our readers to be very thorough in performing due diligence. In other words, consumers should always do the research to learn about the herb, its safety and contraindications, as well as the company the product it is purchased from. 

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources