Chamomile Tea May Help Beat Colds, Cramps

Tea drinkers, rejoice: new research supports claims that chamomile tea can protect the body from a host of ills, including colds and menstrual cramps. During the study, researchers tested the urine of 14 healthy volunteers who drank five cups of chamomile tea every day for two weeks. They found that drinking tea produced changes in the urine that suggest there was an increase in a substance that helps the body fight off colds. Tea drinkers also produced higher levels of a substance called glycine, which can ease muscle spasms. This finding may help support claims the tea can relieve menstrual cramps, the researchers note. The study clearly shows that chamomile tea produces changes in the body. What remains unknown, study author Dr. Elaine Holmes told Reuters Health, is whether these changes are good or bad overall. "There are good reasons why the tea may be beneficial, but these hypotheses require further testing," said the researcher, who is based at Imperial College London in the UK. According to Holmes' report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, chamomile is used as an anti-inflammatory, sedative and ulcer-fighter. Research also suggests that chamomile may act as an antioxidant and antimicrobial. However, so-called "natural" products are not without risk, experts warn. For instance, chamomile tea can cause a severe reaction in people allergic to ragweed. Chamomile can also affect the absorption of iron, Holmes noted. During the study, Holmes and her team tracked urine samples from seven men and seven women who drank multiple cups of chamomile tea every day. The researchers also tested urine samples from the two weeks before and after participants' weeks of tea drinking. The researchers found that when participants drank the tea, their urine showed significantly more hippurate, a substance that can act as an anti-inflammatory. Drinking the tea also increased urinary levels of glycine, which may relieve muscle spasms, perhaps explaining reports that chamomile can ease menstrual problems. After participants stopped drinking the tea, glycine and hippurate stayed elevated for up to two weeks, which suggests the effects of chamomile tea may be long-lasting, the study authors note.

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