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Recent clinical and laboratory research has determined that chamomile is not only relaxing, but it can significantly decrease anxiety and even fight depression.
The most recent study, from the UK's University of Nottingham Medical School, found that chamomile significantly relaxed blood vessels and smooth muscle fibers. This effect was indicated specifically with the application of three of chamomile's central constituents, apigenin, luteolin and bisabolol – all hydroxylates.
This effect of chamomile to soothe and calm the system was also showed in a recent study from the Eulji University Hospital in South Korea. Here 56 patients undergoing coronary treatment and surgery were given aromatherapy with a combination of lavender, chamomile and neroli. A control group was given only nursing care.
The researchers found that the aromatherapy group had significantly lower anxiety and improved sleep compared to the control group.
Focused clinical evidence proves Chamomile's effectiveness
The fact that chamomile is an anti-anxiety and anti-depression herb was cemented by a clinical study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. This study was done in 2009, but its data and findings were re-investigated and confirmed last year.
The researchers enlisted 19 people diagnosed with anxiety with comorbid depression, along with 16 people who were diagnosed as having a history of anxiety and depression. These groups were studied along with a control group of 22 people who had no anxiety or depression – past or present.
The study was randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled. The researchers gave the subjects either 220 milligrams of chamomile extract (standardized to 1.2% apigenin) or a placebo study, both in capsules.
The treatment period spanned eight weeks. During the first week the subjects were given one capsule a day, and for those receiving less benefit on their anxiety scores, this was increased to two capsules the second week, three capsules the third week, four the fourth week and five for the remainder of the eight weeks.
The primary means for judging the success of the treatment was the Hamilton Anxiety Rating (HAM-A) scoring system – which utilizes questionnaires to determine ones level of anxiety. The researchers also used the Beck Anxiety Inventory system and the Psychological Well Being system, as well as the Clinical Global Impression Severity system to confirm their findings.
The researchers found that 57% of the group using the chamomile extract had significantly reduced (greater than 50%) anxiety scores using the HAM-A system.
Three years later, the University of Pennsylvania researchers undertook another review of the data in this study to determine whether or not treatment with chamomile for the clinically anxious and clinically depressed could be considered "clinically meaningful." This of course enables medical peers to gauge whether or not chamomile could be used as a prescriptive treatment for diagnosed patients.
After reviewing the study and research data in depth, the researchers concluded that the results were "clinically meaningful" and they pointed out that,
"the research team observed a significantly greater reduction over time in total HAM-D scores for chamomile versus placebo in all participants."
This of course means that the improvement in their HAM-D scores – taken only over an eight-week period - short for an herbal therapy – continued to increase over the period of the trial.
But what happens when Chamomile is used over longer periods?
The study not only confirms chamomile's usefulness for anxiety and depression, but that its effects can increase over a longer duration. Traditional herbalists will typically recommend the use of anti-anxiety herbs such as chamomile, lavender, St. John's wort and others over a period of three months to a year in order for them to reach their full effectiveness. After that, they are often recommended to be continued at least periodically or as needed.
The good news about chamomile, as evidenced by this and other studies, is that it has no known adverse side effects and is non-addictive. This is in stark contrast to anti-depressant pharmaceuticals, some of which are known for being significantly addictive in addition to having numerous other adverse effects.
Roberts RE, Allen S, Chang AP, Henderson H, Hobson GC, Karania B, Morgan KN, Pek AS, Raghvani K, Shee CY, Shikotra J, Street E, Abbas Z, Ellis K, Heer JK, Alexander SP. Distinct mechanisms of relaxation to bioactive components from chamomile species in porcine isolated blood vessels. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2013 Jul 8.
Cho MY, Min ES, Hur MH, Lee MS. Effects of aromatherapy on the anxiety, vital signs, and sleep quality of percutaneous coronary intervention patients in intensive care units. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:381381.
Amsterdam JD, Shults J, Soeller I, Mao JJ, Rockwell K, Newberg AB. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) may provide antidepressant activity in anxious, depressed humans: an exploratory study. Altern Ther Health Med. 2012 Sep-Oct;18(5):44-9.
Amsterdam JD, Li Y, Soeller I, Rockwell K, Mao JJ, Shults J. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy for generalized anxiety disorder. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2009 Aug;29(4):378-82.