Chamomile tea may relieve a wide range of health problems, including colds and menstrual cramps.
"There have been many studies on the effects of individual ingredients of chamomile in animal models, but there have been very few studies on the effect of chamomile on human metabolism," says Elaine Holmes, a chemist at Imperial College in London.
Holmes and her team enlisted 14 people to drink five cups of German chamomile tea (also called manzanilla) daily for two weeks, to determine if it really lives up to its reputation as an effective folk remedy.
After analyzing urine samples, the researchers found that chamomile tea increased the level of hippurate, a compound that helps fight infections. This may explain why the tea seems to combat colds.
Drinking the tea was also linked with an increase in urinary levels of glycine, an amino acid that has been shown to relieve muscle spasms. This higher level of glycine might explain why the tea seems to ease menstrual cramps, the researchers theorize. Glycine also can act as a nerve relaxant, perhaps explaining the tea's sedative value.
In addition, Holmes found that the levels of both hippurate and glycine remained elevated for up to two weeks after drinking the tea, suggesting a long-lasting benefit.
The research was sponsored by a company in the United Kingdom that sells alternative therapy remedies. "Other types of tea may work as well," says Holmes.
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