Multiple stressors in life may result in the inability to relax, leading to a negative stress response that disrupts sleep and negatively affects physical, mental, and emotional health. There are many diet and lifestyle components that support calming effects on both the body and mind and help to promote a healthy stress response with relaxation and quality sleep. Chamomile has a long history of medicinal use for its calming and relaxing effects to support a normal stress response for quality sleep.*
Research supports the traditional use of chamomile, identifying some of the potential mechanisms that promote its calming and sleep-inducing effects. Some of the compounds in chamomile (including flavonoids and apigenin) can bind to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) subtype A receptors by having a ligand effect on benzodiazepine receptors. This modulates GABA activity, the major inhibitory neurotransmitter also involved in regulating sleep and other neurophysiological processes. The GABA subtype A receptor activation and its inhibitory effect reduce the chance of an action potential in the nerves, leading to anxiolytic and hypnotic effects. Additionally, chamomile modulates key neurotransmitters that may be involved in sleep, including noradrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin. Chamomile may modulate HPA axis activity to support a healthy stress response.*
Clinical studies have investigated the effect of these anxiolytic and hypnotic mechanisms on anxiety, stress, and sleep. One open-label clinical trial on patients with generalized anxiety disorder found that supplementing with chamomile led to improvement in anxiety symptoms. It also improved salivary cortisol and the diurnal cortisol slope, demonstrating the potential for normalizing the stress response. The improved stress response also correlated with an improvement in anxiety symptoms.
A clinical trial was conducted on elderly individuals with poor sleep quality. It was found that taking chamomile extract for 28 days led to a significant improvement in sleep quality compared to the placebo group.
Another randomized, controlled trial found that drinking chamomile tea significantly improved sleep quality and depression in postpartum females. A meta-analysis found that chamomile supplementation supported improvements in sleep quality and anxiety symptoms.
There are many actions an individual can take for relaxation and calmness, whether it’s after a particularly stressful day or when experiencing chronic stress or anxiety. Dietary and lifestyle changes, along with sleep hygiene, may support a normal stress response and promote relaxation and quality sleep. Relaxing herbs, such as chamomile, may provide additional support for relaxation.*
By Kendra Whitmire, MS, CNS