(See also Overview of Dietary Supplements.)
The flower of chamomile is dried and drunk as a tea, consumed as a capsule, or used topically as an extract.
Chamomile tea is said to reduce inflammation and fever, to act as a mild sedative, to provide antidepressant activity, to relieve stomach cramps and indigestion, and to promote healing of gastric ulcers. Chamomile extract applied topically in a compress is said to soothe irritated skin. Mechanism is due to essential oil containing bisabolol constituents and the flavonoids apigenin and luteolin.
Limited clinical trial evidence supports any use of chamomile. However, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials using oral capsules of chamomile extract (standardized to 1.2% apigenin) in patients with mild-to-moderate anxiety (1) showed possible modest anxiolytic activity and antidepressant activity (2).
Chamomile is generally safe; however, hypersensitivity reactions have been reported, especially in people allergic to members of the Asteraceae (eg, sunflower, ragweed) plant family and pollen of all flowering plants. Typical symptoms include lacrimation, sneezing, GI upset, dermatitis, and anaphylaxis.
Amsterdam JD, Li Y, Soeller I, et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. J Clin Psychopharmacol 29(4):378-382, 2009.
Amsterdam JD, Shults J, Soeller I, et al. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) may provide antidepressant activity in anxious, depressed humans: an exploratory study. Altern Ther Health Med 18 (5):44-49, 2012.