Sweet-smelling chamomile is a member of the Asteraceae family. This plant family also includes daisies, sunflowers, and chrysanthemums. Chamomile flowers are used to make teas and extracts.
Chamomile tea is known for reducing anxiety and helping people fall sleep. It’s also used to calm an upset stomach and other digestive issues. Despite chamomile’s reputation for taming tummy troubles, there’s no scientific evidence to prove that it helps acid reflux.
Chamomile has long been recognized as an anti-inflammatory. Drinking a cup of chamomile tea may offer the same benefits as taking an over-the-counter NSAID, such as aspirin.
The herb may also relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. A 2009 study found that people who took daily doses of chamomile extract experienced up to a 50 percent reduction in symptoms of anxiety. A study published in 2012 found that a daily chamomile supplement relieved symptoms of depression.
Chamomile can also help treat digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, and colic.
Chamomile also has anticancer properties. Apigenin is one of the herb’s primary active components. It has been found to inhibit cancer cell growth and reduce the blood supply to cancerous tumors.
In-vitro and animal studies have shown that chamomile has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial capabilities. Acid reflux causes stomach acid to move backwards into your esophagus. This often leads to painful inflammation in the esophagus. It’s possible that chamomile’s anti-inflammatory effects may help.
According to a 2006 review of studies, an herbal preparation that included chamomile extract lowered gastric acidity as well as a commercial antacid. The preparation was also more effective than antacids at preventing secondary hyperacidity. However, chamomile wasn’t the only herb in the preparation. More study is needed to determine if it would have the same impact on its own.
Stress is a common acid reflux trigger. A 2015 study reviewed the prevalence of lifestyle factors associated with gastroesophageal disease (GERD). GERD is a more severe form of acid reflux.
Study participants reported “feelings of continued stress” as the number one factor that made their symptoms worse. In theory, drinking chamomile tea may help reduce stress. So it may also help reduce or prevent stress-related acid reflux episodes.
Risks and warnings
Most people can drink chamomile tea without experiencing any adverse side effects. Some people have reported an allergic reaction after coming into contact with chamomile.
You may be more likely to have an allergic reaction if you’re allergic to other plants in the Asteraceae family.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include:
- skin rash
- throat swelling
- shortness of breath
In extreme cases, anaphylaxis may occur. If you start having any unusual symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention.
You shouldn’t drink chamomile tea if you’re taking anticoagulant medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin). The herb contains natural blood-thinning compounds that may exacerbate the effects of these medications.
If you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, you shouldn’t use chamomile without your doctor’s approval.
You should see your doctor if your symptoms of acid reflux continue. They may recommend one of several over-the-counter remedies:
- Antacids can help neutralize stomach acid.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) can help reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces.
- H2 receptor blockers prevent your stomach from making acid.
Prescription-strength PPIs may be prescribed if over-the-counter versions don’t work.
Prokinetic prescription drugs are used to empty your stomach faster than normal. The less time that food stays in your stomach, the less chance there is for acid reflux to occur. Prokinetics may have serious side effects. This includes nausea, vomiting, and delayed or abnormal movement.
If medication isn’t enough to control your symptoms, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure called fundoplication. During the procedure, the top of your stomach is sewn to the lower part of your esophagus. This helps reinforce the lower esophageal sphincter and decreases acid reflux.
Research suggests that chamomile tea may help relieve acid reflux symptoms caused by inflammation or stress. Still, there isn’t any medical research at this time to determine whether chamomile tea directly impacts symptoms of acid reflux.
If you decide to try chamomile tea, remember:
- Most people can enjoy chamomile tea with little risk of side effects.
- Chamomile may cause drowsiness. You shouldn’t drive until you know how it affects you.
- If your symptoms worsen or you experience anything unusual, you shouldn’t drink any more tea until you’ve met with your doctor.
- You can purchase pre-made chamomile tea bags or prepare them your own.