Chamomile is one of the oldest herbal remedies known to humans, and has been used in various cultures since ancient times to treat a variety of ailments ranging from indigestion to insomnia. In recent years, however, researchers have begun finding a perhaps surprising link between chamomile and longevity.
An increasing body of scientific work suggests that regular consumption of chamomile tea can protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules that can cause cellular damage over time leading to premature aging. Chamomile’s antioxidant capacity may therefore help slow down the normal aging process and reduce the risk of age-related diseases like heart disease and cancer.
The exact mechanisms behind chamomile’s antioxidant power are still unclear, although it is believed that the active compounds present in chamomile—namely apigenin and luteolin—are responsible for this antioxidant activity. A number of animal studies appear to support this.
One study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that chamomile extract significantly increased the lifespan of fruit flies. The study observed that fruit flies fed a diet containing chamomile lived an average of 12% longer than those without it.
Another study, published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, investigated the effects of chamomile on the longevity of worms. The study found that worms treated with chamomile lived an average of 17% longer than those without it.
In both studies, researchers attributed these effects to the activity of enzymes that protect against oxidative stress, thereby promoting longevity.
In the field of aging and metabolism, research has shown that compounds such as apigenin – again, present in chamomile – and quercetin are some of the primary factors promoting longevity. These compounds have been found to inhibit the activity of an enzyme called CD38. CD38 is an enzyme that consumes an important coenzyme called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) as we age. And NAD+ is essential for various cellular processes such as DNA repair and energy production.
One study showed that mice deficient in CD38 have increased protection against age-related mitochondrial dysfunction and are resistant to diabetes. This protective effect is thought to be regulated by a protein called SIRT3, which is found in the mitochondria. These rodent studies have shown that treatment with apigenin can increase NAD+ levels and protect against the negative effects of high-fat diets.
A number of human studies have arrived at similar conclusions regarding chamomile’s impact on longevity.
One study was conducted on a sample of 1,677 Mexican Americans aged 65 and older from five Southwestern states in the United States from 2000 to 2007. The results of the study showed that 14% of the sample reported using chamomile. A regression analysis revealed that chamomile was associated with a decreased risk of mortality in the overall sample, with a 95% confidence interval. This association was found to be even stronger in women. The study also revealed that even after adjusting for sociodemographic variables, health behaviors, and chronic conditions, chamomile remained significantly associated with reduced mortality, particularly in women.
Anxiety, Sleep and Skin Health
In addition to its potential to increase lifespan, chamomile may also have other health benefits. A clinical trial conducted in 2016 found that chamomile extract can effectively reduce symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
The trial involved 179 participants in an open-label phase, in which they were given 1500 mg of chamomile extract (500 mg capsules three times daily) to take. Then, 93 of these participants were selected for a double-blind study, where they were randomly assigned to either continue taking chamomile extract for 26 weeks or to take a placebo.
Results showed that participants taking chamomile extract had significantly lower anxiety levels compared to those in the placebo group. Additionally, the chamomile group also had a reduction in body weight and mean arterial blood pressure.
What’s more, there is now some evidence to suggest that regular consumption of chamomile tea may not only help to improve sleep quality – probably the most well known effect – but also help reduce inflammation and improve skin health.
While these studies suggest that chamomile may confer a variety of health benefits, it is important to note that more research is needed to confirm these findings in humans. Additionally, chamomile is generally considered safe when consumed in moderate amounts, but it can have adverse effects on some people, so it is always best to consult with a doctor before taking any new supplements.
There are also some risks associated with ingesting too much of the stuff, say by drinking large amounts of chamomile tea regularly. Some people have experienced allergic reactions such as rashes or swelling when they ingest large amounts of the herb. Chamomile also has a mild sedative effect and can interact with certain medications, so, again, it’s important to talk to your doctor before incorporating too much of it into your daily diet.
While the benefits of chamomile are plentiful, it’s important to remember that everyone responds differently when using natural medicines. Even a natural remedy like chamomile can cause adverse effects if used incorrectly and could even aggravate a health problem. That being said, as long as your health is in check and you know what works for you, chamomile may be just the elixir to promote the balance you’re looking for – and who couldn’t use more balance?