Chamomile tea has long been used, as a traditional folk remedy, for a wide range of health issues. Nowadays, researchers are increasingly exploring its effectiveness in managing illnesses, including cancer and diabetes. So far, research into the potency of chamomile tea has shown promise. However, studies vary with some research proving clear benefits compared to alternative remedies, and others merely pointing to possible ones. For most people, chamomile tea is safe to try as a supplement to other treatments, but it should not replace mainstream medical treatments when people have serious illnesses. Fast facts about chamomile tea: Dried chamomile flowers are used to make chamomile tea. Researchers are interested in the benefits of consuming chamomile tea. Similarly to any other herbal remedy, it is not safe for everyone. The more potent the tea, the more likely it is to offer health benefits. What is chamomile tea? Chamomile tea is a traditional folk remedy made from dried chamomile flowers. The potency of various chamomile teas varies, with some containing significantly more chamomile than others. The more potent teas are also more likely to cause side effects in people who are vulnerable to them. Consequently, it is safest to start with a low dosage and work up to larger doses slowly. Chamomile contains chemicals called flavonoids. These flavonoids are a type of nutrient present in many plants, and they play a significant role in chamomile’s medicinal effects. Researchers are not sure yet what other chemicals are present in chamomile specifically and account for its benefits. Benefits of chamomile tea The potential benefits of chamomile tea, for which there is the most evidence, include: 1. Reducing menstrual pain Several studies have linked chamomile tea to reduced severity of menstrual cramps. A 2010 study, for example, found that consuming chamomile tea for a month could reduce the pain of menstrual cramps. Women in the study also reported less anxiety and distress associated with period pain. 2. Treating diabetes and lowering blood sugar Again, some studies have found that chamomile tea can lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. Research does not show that chamomile is a viable substitute for diabetes medications, but it may be a helpful supplement to existing treatments. Similarly, a 2008 study of rats found that consistent consumption of chamomile tea might prevent blood sugar from increasing. This effect reduces the long-term risk of diabetes complications, suggesting that chamomile could improve diabetes outcomes. 3. Slowing or preventing osteoporosis Osteoporosis is the progressive loss of bone density. This loss increases the risk of broken bones and stooped posture. While anyone can develop osteoporosis, it is most common among post-menopausal women. This tendency may be due to the effects of estrogen. A 2004 studyTrusted Source found that chamomile tea might have anti-estrogenic effects. It also helped promote bone density, but the study’s authors caution that further research is needed to prove this apparent benefit. 4. Reducing inflammation Inflammation is an immune system reaction to fight infection. Chamomile tea contains chemical compounds that may reduce inflammationTrusted Source. However, long-term inflammation is linked to a wide range of health problems, including hemorrhoids, gastrointestinal pain, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, and even depression. 5. Cancer treatment and prevention Some studies suggest that chamomile tea may target cancer cells, or even prevent those cells from developing in the first place. However, research so far is inconclusive, and scientists say more work is needed to prove chamomile’s anti-cancer claims. Also, most research has looked at clinical models in animals, not humans. A 2012 studyTrusted Source compared the cancer-fighting powers of marigold and chamomile teas. Both were able to target cancer tumors selectively, but the effects of marigold tea were more potent. 6. Helping with sleep and relaxation Chamomile tea is widely thought to help people relax and fall asleep. Few clinical trials have tested this, however. In one review of the current evidence, 10 of 12 cardiovascular patientsTrusted Source are quoted as having fallen asleep shortly after consuming chamomile tea. A handful of other studies looking at clinical models also suggest that chamomile tea may help people relax. In a study using rats, chamomile extract helped sleep-disturbed rodents fall asleep. Many researchers believe that chamomile tea may function like a benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs that can reduce anxiety and induce sleep. Some research suggests that chamomile binds to benzodiazepine receptors. A review looking at the ability of chamomile tea to reduce anxietyTrusted Source is inconclusive. Some studies show a modest anti-anxiety benefit, but others do not. 7. Treating cold symptoms Anecdotal evidence and some studiesTrusted Source suggest that inhaling steam with chamomile extract can relieve some of the symptoms of the common cold. But this benefit is not proven yet. 8. Treatment for mild skin conditions A small 1987Trusted Source study found that applying chamomile extract directly to a wound assisted healing. Likewise, a few studiesTrusted Source have found that chamomile ointments may help with eczema and mild inflammatory skin conditions, although they are not as effective as hydrocortisone cream. Who should avoid chamomile tea? The following groups should avoid chamomile unless advised otherwise by a doctor: People with a history of severe allergies, particularly to pollens: Chamomile may be contaminated with pollen from other plants so can cause an allergic reaction. People who have previously had an allergic reaction, even mild, to chamomile products: They should avoid chamomile, as allergic reactions can get worse with time. Infants and very young children: Chamomile tea, similarly to honey and some other natural products, may be contaminated with botulism spores. Most healthy adults can fight off the infection, but infants may not be able to. Many doctors recommend infants and young children avoid honey, and they should also avoid chamomile products. It is also not safe to use chamomile as a substitute for proven medical treatments. If someone is taking any medications, they should ask their doctor about potential interactions with chamomile tea. Takeaway Chamomile tea has been used in folk medicine for thousands of years, often with encouraging results. For now, however, it remains a supplement and not a medication. People interested in trying chamomile tea should use it as a supplement to, and not a replacement for their usual medication regimen. In regular doses, such as 1 to 2 cups a day, it is possible to see incremental health improvements.
Artemisia absinthium L., commonly known as wormwood, is a perennial shrub from the Asteraceae family of plants. It has deeply lobed, grayish-green leaves and small yellow flowers that bloom in July and August. It is an aromatic plant with a potent sage odor and bitter taste. Herbalists and manufacturers use wormwood leaves and smaller stems to make medicines. There are many artemisia species, but people often use Artemisia absinthium L. and Artemisia annua L., or sweet wormwood, for medicinal purposes. Chemical properties Historically, people have used wormwood to treat a wide range of ailments. According to a 2020 article, wormwood’s confirmed biological activities include: stimulating digestion and appetite being antiparasitic inhibiting the growth of protozoan infection having antibacterial properties being antifungal being anti-ulcer preventing damage to the liver being anti-inflammatory having antioxidants stimulating the immune system having the ability to damage cancer cells being a pain reliever protecting nerve cells against damage being an antidepressant reducing mental confusion stabilizing cell membranes Wormwood has numerous compounds responsible for its biological activities, including: essential oils bitter sesquiterpene lactones absinthin isomers bitter compounds, such as artemisinin phenolic acids flavonoids coumarins The most well-known active ingredient in wormwood is thujone. Wormwood contains two types of thujone called alpha thujone and beta thujone. The alpha form is more toxic than the beta form. Animal research investigating wormwood’s neurotoxicity shows that alpha thujone could cause convulsions and death at higher doses. Potential benefits and uses of wormwood Wormwood has the following potential uses and benefits: Absinthe drink Wormwood is the active component in the alcoholic drink absinthe. The U.S. government banned absinthe in 1912 because it believed it was hallucinogenic. Since 2007, retailers can sell the beverage, provided its thujone level is below 10 parts per million, which they label as thujone-free. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows manufacturers to use wormwood as a food additive, provided it has no thujone content. Treating parasites and digestive disorders People in Asia and Europe used wormwood traditionally for treating gastrointestinal disorders and expelling worms and parasites. Today, herbalists use wormwood to improve digestion and hypoacidity or lack of appetite. A 2018 review explains that the bitter compounds in wormwood can stimulate gastric juices and bile and improve blood flow in the digestive system. It also suggests that the herb can force out parasitic organisms and act against several pathogens. Treating inflammatory conditions and immune disorders A 2017 studyTrusted Source indicates that topical treatment with wormwood is comparable to piroxicam gel for knee osteoarthritis. Study participants had no pain after 2 weeks of treatment with wormwood ointment. Another animal study found that wormwood has significant pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects due to its flavonoids. According to a 2017 reviewTrusted Source, studies indicate that wormwood may also be beneficial for treating inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease. Furthermore, wormwood may inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells. Scientists have also examined wormwood’s effects on the immune system and cells, and they suggest it may be effective for treating immune disorders, intracellular viruses, and bacterial infections. Treating tuberculosis In 2019, researchers investigated wormwood’s effects on tuberculosis (TB) in animals. The authors found that extracts may be effective against mycobacterial infections that cause TB and are not toxic to animals. Offering antidepressant and brain-protective effects A 2020 review indicates that wormwood supports the formation of the body’s antioxidant glutathione and is protective of the brain. It notes that animal studies suggest wormwood has an antidepressant effect and may increase serotonin. Another review suggests that wormwood may benefit those with neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, and may have properties that reduce confusion, delirium, and disorientation. However, researchers need to conduct more human research to confirm these effects. Balancing blood sugar Research suggests that wormwood may be beneficial for balancing blood sugar and insulin. Additionally, some research suggests that wormwood may prevent the accumulation of lipids in the blood and reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes and hyperlipidemia. Risks and cautions Studies indicate that thujone in wormwood may cross the blood-brain barrier and affect the nervous system. In animal experiments, thujone causes convulsions and affects fertility. Studies warn that people should avoid it during pregnancy. According to a 2021 review, wormwood may cause allergic reactions, including rhinitis and dermatitis, through contact with the skin, digestion in tea, or pollen. However, another reviewTrusted Source suggests that wormwood is only toxic when used long term, and short-term use shows low toxicity. If a person has a health condition or takes medication, they should speak with a healthcare professional before consuming wormwood products. People should not take wormwood during pregnancy. Dosage and how to use There is no expert advice about wormwood dosages, and the FDA prohibits its active ingredient, thujone. People can take wormwood as a liquid tincture, tablet, or dried herb. It is also available as a tea and an ingredient in absinthe. A person should speak with a healthcare professional before taking wormwood, particularly if they have a health condition or are taking medication. Summary Wormwood has a long history of traditional use, and scientists today are interested in investigating its potential. Its herbal properties are wide-ranging, and its potential clinical benefits include supporting digestion and expelling parasites. It may also be beneficial for inflammatory or immune conditions. However, its active ingredient, thujone, is toxic, and there is no guidance on how much is safe to use. Additionally, the FDA prohibits thujone in foods and beverages, so people must seek medical advice before taking wormwood.
Lemon balm may be a common-or-garden plant, but it's also a valuable source of essential oil, writes ethnobotanist Susanne Masters I'm helping to revive and replant the ethnobotanical garden at the University of Kent. One of our tasks is to revamp the garden's plant catalogue to make it interactive, as well as more useful for a range of disciplines. One of the plants in the catalogue - lemon balm - stands outs as an ideal plant for people to engage with and learn about. One plant of lemon balm in a garden quickly turns into many, as it self-seeds readily in flowerbeds or even gaps between paving. It is a common but underappreciated garden plant, possibly because it is easy to grow - it is tolerant of a range of conditions, including drought, and isn't affected by many pests and diseases. Lemon balm has a scientific name - Melissa officinalis - that came to life with bees. Blooming plants attract scores of bees, which feed on the tiny white flowers, and the genus name Melissa is derived from the Greek word for bee. It has square stems and leaves in pairs, which are characteristic of the Lamiaceae (mint) plant family. These are easy features to look for without any equipment, making it a simple plant for botanical beginners to get to grips with. Lemon balm exudes a strong lemon scent when the leaves and stems are crushed, and this is a readily detectable feature for initiating discussion of phytochemistry: investigating compounds made by plants, what their function is in plants, and how they can be useful to people. Best of all, even a small scrap of stalk will readily root in a glass of water, making it a plant for garden visitors to take home and grow on a windowsill or in their own garden. Lemon balm produces an essential oil that is one of the most expensive to buy; production costs are high because yields are low. Although the lemon scent can be replicated using cheaper citrus and lemongrass essential oils, pure lemon balm essential oil is valued for its properties in aromatherapy where it is considered to be uplifting and calming, and in skincare as an anti-inflammatory. Lemon balm is one of those plants with a long history of medicinal use. Small laboratory trials report antiviral, antioxidant and calmative properties. But the results are not good enough to turn it into a prescribed medication. Some folk remedies may never be wonder drugs. Perhaps lemon balm is best appreciated on a sunny morning as a cup of tea in hand while watching and listening to bees on its flowers, or at dusk with a few stems crushed underfoot to keep mosquitos at bay and a glass of lemon balm wine. Below, courtesy of Pauline Pearce from the National Guild of Wine and Beer Judges, who has won many awards with this particular recipe. Lemon balm wine (ingredients for 1 gallon) Advertisement 2 quarts lemon balm 2 large oranges large (juice and rind) 1lb sultanas 1 lemon (juice and rind) 1kg sugar 1 tsp nutrient 1 tsp tartaric 1 tsp pectic enzyme Gervin or any general purpose wine yeast Campden tablets Strip the leaves from the stalks (discard the stalks) then wash leaves in cold water. Drain and put into a clean container and pour over 4 pints of boiling water, add one Campden tablet, stir, cover and leave for 48 hours. Strain the liquor from the leaves (discard theleaves) into a sterilized bin, add rind (no pith) and juice of the oranges and lemon, the washed and chopped sultanas, acids, pectic enzyme, nutrient and yeast. Ferment on the pulp for four days, stirring twice daily, keep well covered. Strain into jar, add sugar and stir, top up to shoulder with cold boiled water, fit air-lock and leave to ferment out. Rack in the usual way. This wine can either be served dry as an aperitif, or sweeten to taste and drink as a social type wine. Can be drunk within three months but improves with keeping for a further three months. Susanne Masters is an ethnobotanist who writes for a number of magazines, and is doing PhD research on edible wild orchids in Turkey. This is the latest in a series of posts about the redevelopment of the ethnobotanical garden at the University of Kent. … we have a small favour to ask. Millions are turning to the Guardian for open, independent, quality news every day, and readers in 180 countries around the world now support us financially. We believe everyone deserves access to information that’s grounded in science and truth, and analysis rooted in authority and integrity. That’s why we made a different choice: to keep our reporting open for all readers, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. 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