Chamomile Tea May Have Medicinal Value
Chamomile tea, long touted as a cure-all
for the sick or the stressed, may relieve a wide range of health
problems, including colds and menstrual cramps.
Elaine Holmes, a chemist with the
Imperial College London, and her team used German chamomile, also
called manzanilla, whose flowers and leaves are brewed as a flavorful
tea. Fourteen volunteers each drank five cups of the tea daily for
"There have been many studies on
the effects of individual ingredients of chamomile in animal models,
but there have been very few studies on the effect of chamomile
on human metabolism so far," Holmes said.
Daily urine samples were collected
and tested before, during and after the study. A significant increase
was found in urinary levels of hippurate, a breakdown product of
plant-based compounds known as phenolics. Some of those have been
associated with increased antibacterial activity, and this might
explain why the tea seems to fight infections associated with colds,
the researchers said.
Drinking the tea was also linked
with an increase in urinary levels of glycine, an amino acid that
has been shown to relieve muscle spasms. That might be why the tea
seems to ease menstrual cramps, the researchers said. Glycine also
can act as a nerve relaxant, perhaps explaining the tea's sedative
value, they added.
Holmes' group found that the levels
of both hippurate and glycine remained elevated for up to two weeks
after the subjects stopped drinking the tea, so the compounds might
work their magic for some time. Oxford Natural Products, a pharmaceutical,
nutraceutical and technology company, funded the study.
The report appears in the Jan. 26
issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
In other research, scientists have
found that tea may have anticancer properties and may help lower
cholesterol, among other health benefits.
"Other types of tea may work as well,"
Holmes said. "We don't know as yet." The chamomile appears to be
altering the gut microflora, which leads to an increase in urinary
hippurate and glycine, she explained.
"One of the most interesting findings
was that the effect of the chamomile tea lasted at least two weeks
after the volunteers had stopped drinking the tea," she noted.
The findings are probably a true
reflection of the science, said Hasan Mukhtar, a researcher at the
University of Wisconsin who has studied green tea and its role in
stemming the spread of prostate cancer.
To learn more about tea, visit the
Association of Canada.
Reference Source 101