Chamomile is a centuries-old medicinal herb which has been used to treat numerous health conditions, and today is widely used for the relief of insomnia and sleep issues. The plant’s flowers and buds are usually what are harvested and dried for chamomile tea.
Chamomile’s effectiveness for sleep is due to its chemical structure. Its’ extract contains apigenin, a chemical compound which induces sleepiness when it binds to the GABA receptors in the brain, resulting in a sedative and relaxing effect. In addition, the dry flower of chamomile contains approximately 120secondary metabolites, comprising terpenoids and flavonoids, which contribute to its medicinal properties.
Most well-known commercial varieties are the German chamomile - Matricaria chamomilla, and Roman chamomile - Chamaemelum nobile. These are cultivated and used for herbal tea and other herbal applications. Currently, much of the commercially grown chamomile comes from Egypt, and both varieties are also cultivated in other temperate climates around the world, including India, SouthAmerica, South Africa and Australia.
Chamomile originates from Europe and West Asia, and since ancient times, it has been highly valued by the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks for its medicinal properties, as they found that chamomile preparations proved highly beneficial for many human ailments. The Egyptians considered the plant sacred, and believed it was a gift from the God of the Sun.
For the most effective sleepy tea, use dry flowers, rinse with cold water, and add these to a pot of boiling hot water. Cover the pot for 5 minutes to get the tea extracted; other herbs or fruits can be added for additional nutritional/medicinal value. Honey may be added to the tea to sweeten it.
Chamomile tea should always be prepared in a covered vessel, in order to prevent the steam escaping, as the medicinal value of the flowers may be impaired by evaporation.