If you’ve ever searched for natural ways to fall asleep faster, you’ve no doubt come across an article, blog post or video touting the benefits of chamomile tea.
Chamomile is a popular type of herbal tea that’s made using the chamomile flower. It’s believed to offer benefits for relaxation and sleep — benefits that are backed up by a reasonable amount of scientific evidence.
Aside from tea, chamomile is also available as an extract, or in oils, capsules or tablets.
Below, we’ve looked at the science behind chamomile tea’s effects on sleep to explain how it works, as well as how you can use it to relax, unwind and avoid spending more time than you need to awake in bed at night.
As you’ve probably guessed from its name, chamomile tea is a type of herbal tea that’s made using the flowers of the chamomile plant.
Most chamomile teas use flowers from one of two types of chamomile varieties — either Matricaria recutita or Chamaemelum nobile.
Chamomile has been used for its purported effects on human health for thousands of years, dating as far back as ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.
As such, chamomile tea has earned a reputation as a generally safe and effective treatment to help promote sleepiness in those experiencing occasional bouts of insomnia.
Because of chamomile’s popularity, there has been some research looking at whether or not it can help to improve sleep.
A lot of the research has studied chamomile extract, and it’s not known if similar results would be found with chamomile tea.
Overall, the findings have been mixed, with some studies showing that chamomile has real, measurable results on sleep quality — whether taken as a supplement or infused in a tea — and others finding little to no improvement in sleep.
For instance, a study of chamomile as a supplement concluded that it had real benefits for sleep quality in elderly people.
Researchers gave 60 elderly people either a chamomile extract capsule (200mg) or a non-therapeutic wheat flour placebo capsule (also 200mg) twice daily for 28 days.
Sleep quality was recorded using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index just before the treatment, two weeks into treatment, immediately after the treatment ended and two weeks after the treatment had concluded.
Before starting treatment, the two test groups had Sleep Quality Index scores that did not differ significantly. However, after receiving the treatment, the group given the chamomile extract had “significantly better” sleep quality than those in the placebo group.
Another study — this time of chamomile tea, rather than an oral capsule that contained chamomile extract — resulted in a similar conclusion.
In this study from 2015, researchers divided 80 postnatal women into two groups. The first group received regular postnatal care, while the second group received regular postnatal care as well as chamomile tea.
As with the previously discussed study, the sleep quality of the participants was analyzed using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. The researchers also used the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and the Postpartum Fatigue Scale to assess the outcomes of the two groups.
After the two-week experiment, the group that received regular postnatal care and chamomile tea had “significantly lower scores of physical-symptoms-related sleep inefficiency.”
However, within four weeks of the treatment ending, both groups had similar scores for all three tests, indicating that the effects of chamomile tea on sleep may only be short-term.
Other studies have found that chamomile is less effective as a sleep aid.
For example, a study from 2011 involved 34 people with primary insomnia aged 18 to sixty-five. The study participants received either a 270mg dose of a chamomile extraction or a non-therapeutic placebo twice per day for 28 days.
In this study, the researchers found that there were “no significant differences” between the two groups in sleep diary measures, which included the total amount of time spent asleep per night, sleep latency (the amount of time required to fall asleep) and sleep quality.
However, the group that received chamomile did show a statistically insignificant advantage in daytime functioning.
The researchers concluded that chamomile could provide mixed benefits on certain aspects of sleep, although further studies would be required.
Although chamomile is best known these days for its effects on sleep, it has been used for millennia as an herbal remedy in traditional medicine.
Ancient humans used it in various forms to treat a range of health issues and ailments, from skin irritations to digestive problems.
Our ancestors may have been onto something, as there is some evidence out there that chamomile can provide health benefits beyond lulling you into a relaxing slumber.
In a study of 64 people with type 2 diabetes, 32 participants were instructed to drink chamomile tea immediately after eating three times per day.
The other 32 participants followed a control regimen that replaced the chamomile tea with water.
After eight weeks, blood samples of the people in the chamomile tea group had lower serum insulin levels, total cholesterol, triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL, or the “bad” cholesterol) than those in the control group.
Animal studies indicate that chamomile may play a role in helping maintain good digestive health.
In a study using rats, researchers found that a chamomile decoction extract protected against castor oil-induced diarrhea.
Another study using rats also found that a product containing chamomile with a variety of other herbs had noticeable gastro-protective effects.
While these studies are interesting, it’s important to remember that they weren’t conducted on humans.
This means that while their findings indicate potential for chamomile, there isn’t yet a sufficient amount of clinical evidence to stay that chamomile improves digestive health.
There will need to be well-designed studies in humans to determine whether the same effects will occur.
There is some evidence that chamomile has beneficial effects for humans’ digestive health.
In a meta-analysis of the therapeutic effects of chamomile, researchers analyzed 69 studies and found that, based on the information, chamomile (combined with other agents) may be beneficial for gastrointestinal issues.
Chamomile tea has been consumed by humans for centuries and is largely safe for most people. However, it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to chamomile.
An allergic reaction is more likely if you’re allergic to plants related to chamomile, like ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, or daisies.
If you take medications, you should talk to your doctor before consuming chamomile — especially if you plan to take a chamomile supplement — to see if it will react with your medication.
There have been reports of chamomile interacting with drugs like cyclosporine (a drug used to prevent organ transplant rejection) and warfarin (a blood thinner).
While the science behind chamomile tea’s effects on sleep isn’t extensive, research indicates that it can be helpful for enhancing sleep quality and reducing sleep latency (the amount of time it takes for you to fall asleep).
If you find it difficult to fall asleep, or if you occasionally find yourself waking up during the night, a cup of chamomile tea 30 minutes to 60 minutes before bed could be a simple but effective way to enjoy a deeper, more refreshing night’s sleep.
Interested in sleeping better? Our guide to science-backed ways to get better sleep lists a range of tactics that you can use to fall asleep easier, stay asleep longer and wake up ready to take on the day with vigor.