Picture this: after a long day, you make a cup of chamomile tea and settle on the couch with a cozy blanket, a distracting book, and that steaming mug. Sounds relaxing, right? It's not just the ritual providing that calming effect. Chamomile actually boasts tons of surprising health benefits, from better sleep and digestion to subdued anxiety and improved skin.
“Chamomile is a very gentle, supportive herb for all ages that you can consume daily,” says Lindsay Kluge, LDN, nutritionist and U.S. herbal educator for Pukka Herbs.
While chamomile tea has few to no side effects on most people, Kluge says those with severe seasonal allergies (particularly ragweed) may not tolerate it well, nor should you drink it while pregnant, or if you’re taking blood thinners. It could also cause slight nausea if you have a sensitive stomach and drink too much, which is why Kluge suggests starting with one cup per day—a tea bag generally has ½ to 1 gram of chamomile, and you should steep with eight ounces of water—and increasing to three cups daily if desired. (Just keep in mind that, like any tea, chamomile is a mild diuretic so you may have to use the bathroom more often.)
Otherwise, once you start sipping chamomile on the regular, you could be steeping in (sorry, couldn't resist!) these health benefits.
Chamomile tea can help you sleep.
It’s a classic nightcap for a reason—not only is chamomile light and subtly sweet, but the caffeine-free herb is "an ideal sleep support because it doesn’t force your body into anything; it doesn’t knock you out, sedate you, or make you drowsy,” Kluge explains. “The effect is like receiving a gentle, slow massage—subtle, comforting, and very effective.”
Science shows it helps, too: a small study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that new moms who drank chamomile tea every day for two weeks slept better (though they weren't able to determine if the effects lasted long-term). Another small study published in the Journal of Education and Health Promotion found that elderly patients who took chamomile extract slept significantly better than those who didn't. The thought is that a flavonoid found in chamomile, apigenin, binds to receptors in the brain that may help someone become sleepy.
Plus, the aroma itself creates an unwinding effect that’s perfect for troubled sleep, says Billy Dietz, manager of tea research and development at DavidsTea. Enjoy it about 1-2 hours before you hit the pillow (to avoid middle-of-the-night bathroom runs) and feel free to add a little milk and honey when you want to shake up the flavor profile. (Chamomile herbs also taste great when mixed with other calming elements, like in Pukka’s Chamomile, Vanilla, and Manuka Honey tea blend.)
It can help with digestion.
Chamomile can be clutch for problems in the digestive region because “it’s antispasmodic, meaning it helps reduce spasms within the body, including the stomach and intestines,” Kluge says. It also contains bitter compounds called cesquiterpene lactones, which trigger the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes needed to break down food, she explains.
And because of its calming effect on the body, chamomile can be particularly useful for stress-related digestive issues, like a nervous stomach (aka irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS). “So many digestive imbalances are a symptom of stress, including IBS, reflux, or diarrhea,” Kluge says. “Chamomile is a perfect herb for gently managing our stress response, so you may not experience the digestive symptoms to begin with.”
Along with your anxiety.
Speaking of stress, chamomile may be helpful for those struggling with anxiety or higher-than-usual stress levels. More research is needed to understand why, but a small study published in Phytomedicine found consuming chamomile extract reduced moderate-to-severe symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Scientists also need to further dig into the risks and benefits, but the Mayo Clinic says limited data has shown short-term use to be generally safe and potentially effective in reducing symptoms. Just keep in mind that chamomile may not work the same for everyone, so it’s always best to consult with your doctor before starting any sort of medical treatment plan.
Chamomile tea can make life on your period easier.
Because chamomile tea is antispasmodic, it could also help ease period cramps. A study published in the Iranian Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Infertility found that after drinking chamomile tea twice a day during the luteal and menstrual phases of their cycles (two weeks before you get your period, along with when you actually bleed), 40 women reported experiencing fewer cramps and lower anxiety than a control group.
It can also help when you’re sick or have a cold.
“Chamomile is a lovely option if you’re feeling under the weather,” Kluge says. “It’s naturally cooling, which helps to balance an overheated state, and is calming to the digestive tract, which can get out of balance when you’re ill or recovering from being sick.”
You also don’t have to ingest chamomile to reap some feel-better rewards. Kluge says the following process may also help your respiratory health: Use 3-4 chamomile tea bags (or 4 teaspoons of loose chamomile flowers) to make up a large bowl of tea with boiling water. Once the tea has steeped for a few minutes, place your head over the bowl and a towel over your head to keep the steam in. Take a deep breath through your nose and mouth; slowly exhale. Repeat for 5-10 minutes so the steam reaches your lungs and provides relief from any discomfort.
Chamomile tea may boost your immune system.
If you want to avoid getting sick in the first place, making chamomile tea a regular part of your routine has the potential to help: a very small study had 14 volunteers drink five cups of herbal tea daily for two weeks (which is more than the average person drinks in a day). Afterward, scientists associated a significant boost in hippurate and glycine in their urine, both of which have been associated with increased antibacterial activity. However, a review of chamomile tea benefits noted "additional studies are needed before a definitive link between chamomile and its alleged health benefits can be established."
And it might indirectly help with weight loss.
There's little-to-no scientific evidence proving chamomile tea can be effective for weight loss in humans, but it is a refreshing, calorie-free drink you can sip on throughout the day (so long as you don't add sweeteners). So while there may be no magical fat-burning substance in the herbal beverage, theoretically it may be a useful pantry item when you're trying to lose weight and want something a little more flavorful than water.
Plus, let's not forget chamomile tea could help manage stress—which, as a reminder, can contribute to weight gain for a variety of reasons—so by keeping your stress levels in check, chamomile may be able to indirectly help you shed pounds.
Sipping regularly may help those with diabetes.
If you’ve struggled with your blood sugar, research has found sipping chamomile regularly could help. A small study published in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation had patients with type 2 diabetes drink the tea three times a day for eight weeks, and found those who did had lower insulin and cholesterol levels than those who drank plain water. (Again, it's best to consult with your doctor before adding to or adjusting your medical treatment plan in any way.)
Applying it topically could benefit your skin.
Because chamomile is helpful in reducing stress and encouraging sleep—two things that can impact your skin—drinking the herbal tea may indirectly provide a one-two punch for your skincare routine. However, it's more likely to have a bigger impact if an extract is applied topically, as Dietz notes research has been done on chamomile’s effects when applied in that manner.
For example, a small study from the 1980s found applying chamomile extract could help heal skin wounds after tattoo removal. And a review of studies in 2011 noted the herb has traditionally been used to treat skin irritations, bruises, burns and conditions like eczema. "It’s also common to see chamomile as an ingredient in skincare to help soothe irritation or relax muscles," Dietz adds.
And maybe even your hair.
Any notion that chamomile can boost the quality of your hair is speculative at best, but given its cooling and mildly anti-inflammatory properties, Kluge notes a chamomile tea hair rinse could potentially help ease dry and inflamed scalp conditions like dandruff or itchiness. There isn't scientific research to definitively prove its effectiveness, but if you've already got some in your pantry, it couldn't hurt to try.
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Samantha Lefave is an experienced writer and editor covering fitness, health, and travel. She regularly interviews pro athletes, elite trainers, and nutrition experts at the top of their field; her work has appeared in Runner's World, Bicycling, Outside, Men's Health and Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and more.
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