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5 January 2005
New Evidence For Health Benefits Of Chamomile Tea

While chamomile tea has enjoyed a reputation as a medicinal cure-all, evidence for its curative properties has been lacking. But now, researchers in England have found new evidence that the popular herbal tea may actually help relieve a wide range of health ailments, including colds and menstrual cramps. The study appears in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and according to study leader Elaine Holmes "it provides evidence that commonly used natural products really do contain chemicals that may be of medicinal value. The healthcare industry is placing increasing emphasis on functional foods including natural remedies, yet little work has been conducted on the long term effects of such products on human biology."

The plant used in the study was German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), also known as manzanilla, whose flowers and leaves are brewed as a fragrant, tea. The researchers found that drinking the tea was associated with a significant increase in urinary levels of hippurate, a breakdown product of certain plant-based compounds known as phenolics, some of which have been associated with increased antibacterial activity. This could help explain why the tea appears to boost the immune system and fight infections associated with colds, say the researchers.

Drinking the tea also was associated with an increase in urinary levels of glycine, an amino acid that has been shown to relieve muscle spasms. This may explain why the tea appears to be helpful in relieving menstrual cramps in women, probably by relaxing the uterus. Glycine also is known to act as a nerve relaxant, which may also explain why the tea seems to act as a mild sedative, the researchers note.

Levels of both hippurate and glycine remained elevated for up to two weeks after the study participants stopped drinking the tea, indicating that the compounds may remain active for quite some time.


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