What’s Chamomile Tea?

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Chamomile tea is a soothing herbal tea with a sweet aroma and delicate flavor. It has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes, including as a sleep aid and for gastrointestinal and women’s ailments. It has low toxicity and is recommended for children, but those with allergies to ragweed should be cautious.

Herbal chamomile flowers, when infused in hot water, make a soothing herbal tea. While not belonging to the “tea” family of plants, chamomile tea has a sweet aroma and a delicate, pleasant flavor. Made famous by readers of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit, many people have found that chamomile tea served at bedtime helps them fall asleep. It has been used over the centuries, however, for other medicinal qualities, such as anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties.

Flavor and aroma

Chamomile tea smells a bit like apples, in fact the name “chamomile” comes from the Greek for “ground apple”. It has a somewhat fruity flavor and is often accompanied by a little honey for added sweetness that complements the flavor of the flowers. Oils and extracts from this flower can have a strong, bitter taste, however, so they shouldn’t be used to make tea.


While several methods can be employed to prepare chamomile tea, loose leaf or tea bags are often preferred. The “leaves” are usually petals from the chamomile flower, which may have hot water poured over them or may be placed in an infuser and then steeped in a cup. Chamomile tea bags can be purchased from a number of companies and shops and make preparation quite simple.

Possible medicinal uses

Chamomile tea often includes a little peppermint to enhance the flavor and aid digestion for the drinker, although lemongrass may be included to help relax the drinker’s nerves. One of its most common uses is as a sleep aid, as it lacks caffeine. The ancient Egyptians cultivated chamomile to treat a variety of ailments. They believed it was a sacred herb associated with the sun god Ra and would make offerings to appease him.

Although many people now associate chamomile tea with drowsiness, the Egyptians used it for gastrointestinal ailments and women’s ailments. In fact, the botanical name for German chamomile, Matrocaria chamomilla, includes the Latin term for “womb.” Many women still drink chamomile tea to ease the discomforts associated with menstruation and pregnancy. Some people also treat liver ailments and kidney stones by drinking tea or taking chamomile extract as a medicine. The steep, rolled up plant material has even been used as a poultice for wounds.

Advantages and disadvantages

Active ingredients include alfabisabolol, matricin and bioflavonoids in the blue flower oil, although the tea itself has almost no calories and very little nutritional content. Because it has such low toxicity, chamomile tea is often recommended for children with colds, insomnia, or upset stomachs. Some people have had allergic reactions to chamomile, however, and the more concentrated oils and extracts shouldn’t be used by anyone who is pregnant or nursing. Episodes of allergic reactions to chamomile seem more common in those with allergies to ragweed and similar plants. Anyone with existing medical conditions or chronic problems should consult a healthcare professional for more information and to ensure chamomile tea is safe with other medications.

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