You don’t have to know me for long to know that I. Love. Tea.
I collect tea pots. I also collect different kinds of “novelty” tea (Downton Abbey and Doctor Who). I’m reading a book right now called For All the Tea in China about how England committed the greatest act of corporate espionage ever: they stole tea plants and professional tea growers from China so that they could end the monopoly China had on tea during the 19th century. The guy who did it was a Scottish botanist called Robert Fortune.
You can’t make this stuff up, right? Robert Fortune? Come on.
Plus, he’s Scottish, so I’m already predisposed to think he rocks.
Anyway, not only is tea the best, it can also have medicinal properties. I’m interested in integrative and functional medicine, especially using food as therapy, so throughout the years I’ve learned a lot about which teas are good for helping with which ailments. And last semester in Intro to MNT, we did a unit on CAM – Complementary and Alternative Medicine – so naturally I wrote my short paper on tea.
If you’re interested in learning some cool facts about chamomile, read on. Did you know it can trigger an asthma attack?
I have often heard that chamomile is soothing and promotes solid sleep. The Sleepy Time tea I have at home has chamomile in it, as does my Tazo Relaxation tea. I was curious about if these claims are true, or if chamomile has more of a placebo effect in calming nerves and putting us to sleep. It turns out there are actually two varieties of chamomile: German and Roman. German is most often used in the US. According to the NIH, “chamomile has not been well studied in people so there is little evidence to support its use for any condition.” While it is a well known component of folk medicine, especially as a tea, there is not any conclusive evidence from clinical trials to prove this. 
There are some risks to using chamomile. Some people can be allergic to it, which of course causes an allergic reaction. You are at risk of an allergic reaction to chamomile if you are allergic to certain flowers: daisies, ragweed, marigolds, etc.1 While the first and third may not be common allergies, ragweed is extremely common, so people should be aware of this. These components of chamomile can also trigger asthma. Additionally, there are herb/drug interactions with the following: if you are on anticoagulants [blood thinners], chamomile may increase the effects of your medication. It may also increase effects of sedatives and cyclosporine.
 “Chamomile.” NCCIH. NIH, Aug. 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2015
 “Sleep Disorders and Complementary Health Approaches: What You Need To Know.” NCCIH. NIH, Apr. 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2015.
 “Chamomile.” Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2015.
I found all this fascinating, because I’ve tried a lot of chamomile blends – Sleepy Time and Tazo Relaxation among them, as I mentioned in the piece – and just never really liked it. I can’t vouch for how sleepy or relaxed it made me because I never drank enough to find out. And I have a pretty severe ragweed allergy and asthma, so I have to wonder if that was my body’s way of keeping me safe.
Do you love chamomile? Does it work for you as a relaxant? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Any specific teas or ailments you’d like to talk about next time?