Chamomile is an ancient folk remedy traditionally favored around the world for its calming properties on both nerves and the gut. Over the last decade, researchers have identified certain beneficial mechanisms of chamomile on the whole body, from digestive function and the nervous system to mood, sleep quality, and even the health of the gut microbiome.
Here’s how chamomile can improve gut health according to the latest research.
Chamomile for Digestive Symptoms
Chamomile has several properties for digestive health. Notably, a study in 2018 demonstrated its potential as an anti-spasmodic agent. That means chamomile has the ability to relax stomach muscles, providing relief from digestive issues like indigestion and abdominal pain. This also makes chamomile especially beneficial for those suffering from menstrual cramps.
Several studies found that herbal mixtures containing chamomile can also prevent stomach ulcers and reduce stomach acidity. This is likely an effect of a compound within chamomile called α-bisabolol, which shows the potential to safeguard the stomach lining, exhibit anti-ulcerogenic effects, and protect against gastric damage.
Chamomile for Diarrhea
Chamomile has been used for thousands of years to treat gastro disorders like diarrhea. Research now shows clear evidence that chamomile exerts anti-diarrheal activities, working to mitigate several factors believed to cause diarrhea in the first place. These include but are not limited to increased motility, gastrointestinal inflammation, and excess secretion in response to microbial toxins in the intestine.
Chamomile not only contains antimotility properties but regulates the inflammatory response by counteracting the oxidative damage that triggers the release of inflammatory agents in the intestines. Chamomile may also exert antimicrobial properties through the α-bisabolol compound, which shows antimicrobial properties that inhibit pathogenic bacteria such as Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Escherichia, and Candida.
Chamomile for IBS Symptoms
Chamomile shows promising results for IBS patients. A 2015 study reported a significant decrease in all IBS symptoms after just four weeks of treatment with chamomile. This included bloating, abdominal pain, and stool consistency.
Chamomile contains two biological agents apigenin and quercetin, two beneficial metabolites found in plants. These agents, especially quercetin, have specific activities that counteract certain symptoms of IBS.
Quercetin is an antioxidant with notable anti-inflammatory actions that was found in an animal model to inhibit the intestinal motor function of IBS rats with diarrhea. Quecetic was also found to reduce abdominal hypersensitivity in IBS-induced rats.
Chamomile & The Nervous System
Apigen, like quercetin, is an effective anti-inflammatory agent that also exerts mild sedative and anti-anxiety effects on the nervous system and relaxes intestinal spasms. This may benefit IBS patients, as IBS intestinal symptoms can be exasperated by the hormonal effects of chronic stress on the intestines.
Apigenin achieves this calming effect by binding to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. It also boosts GABAA receptors responsible for calming the body before sleep. Another flavonoid, Chrysin, found in chamomile, has been shown to have anti-anxiety effects, which may ease stress-related symptoms in IBS patients.
A study focused on chamomile’s long-term effect on GAD patients found a significant reduction in their symptoms when consuming chamomile. As the nervous system and the gut are intricately connected, chamomile may improve specific digestive symptoms that are triggered by stress and anxiety.
Chamomile for a Healthy Gut
Modern medicine is fast embracing the fact that mental health, a regulated nervous system, and good quality sleep make all the difference to digestive function, especially in IBS and IBD patients. Taking this holistic approach into account, chamomile may be extremely soothing for both the gut and the mind, while countering specific digestive symptoms at the root.