Chamomile (also spelled camomile) has a long history of use as medicinal herb, revered by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans for its soothing, relaxing properties. Chamomile tea is still enjoyed today to reduce stress, ease muscle tension and lower blood pressure.
Chamomile is a rich source of antioxidant polyphenols; these have anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic actions which can help blood vessel walls relax and dilate. Some studies have found that daily intakes of chamomile extracts can produce a significant reduction in blood pressure within eight days, partly through an effect similar to that of diuretic drugs.
An early study involving 12 people in hospital who needed a pressure-measuring catheter placed within their heart ventricles (as part of their standard treatment) agreed to drink a cup of chamomile tea beforehand as their only premedication. The tea was made by placing two bags in 6 ounces of hot water for no more than ten minutes.
After drinking the tea, their blood pressure and heart function were assessed. The workload of their heart did not change significantly. Although their brachial blood pressure did rise as part of the anxiety of having the catheter fitted, the blood pressure within their left and right ventricles did not rise. Within ten minutes of drinking the tea, however, ten of the patients fell into a deep sleep. They could be aroused but immediately fell asleep again, until the end of the cardiac catheterization procedure, which lasted around 90 minutes. This hynotic effect was described as ‘striking’ as it is unusual for patients to fall asleep before a heart catheterisation procedure due to the high anxiety involved.
Drinking chamomile tea is likely to be particularly helpful at night as its sedative action reduces anxiety and promotes sleep.
Usual intakes are between one and three cups of chamomile tea per day.
If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.
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