Chamomile

Our rating
 Question mark: This treatment has not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.

What is it?

Chamomile is a type of plant with small, daisy-like flowers. It is sold as a supplement in tablet form and the flowers can be dried and used to make herbal tea. 

How does it work?

The way that chamomile may work to relieve depression is unknown. It is thought that chamomile may boost chemicals in the brain that can affect mood, such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. These are natural chemical messengers that are present in the brain, and it is thought that boosting these chemicals can be helpful in depression.

Is it effective?

There is very little scientific evidence on chamomile for the treatment of depression. One study compared the use of a chamomile extract with a placebo (dummy pill) in people who were diagnosed with anxiety, and some patients also had depression. After eight weeks of treatment, people who took chamomile had lower depression symptoms than those who took the placebo. However, the study only had a small number of participants who were depressed. More studies of better quality are needed to understand the effectiveness of chamomile in depression.

There have been no studies which have looked at the effectiveness of drinking chamomile tea to treat depression.

Are there any disadvantages?

Chamomile supplements can have side effects, although they are not associated with any more side effects than a placebo (dummy pill). Dietary supplements, including chamomile, may have negative interactions with prescribed medications or other supplements. As with any herbal supplements, you should ask your doctor or pharmacist if chamomile might interfere with other medications or supplements you are taking.

Where do you get it?

Chamomile tea is widely available at health food shops and supermarkets. Other chamomile supplements, including tablets, may be available from health food shops.

Recommendation

There is not enough good evidence at this stage to recommend chamomile as a treatment for depression.

Key references

  • Amsterdam, J. D., Shults, J., Soeller, I., Mao, J. J., Rockwell, K., & Newberg, A. B. (2012). Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) may provide antidepressant activity in anxious, depressed humans: an exploratory study. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 18(5), 44-49.

Last updated and reviewed: 1 December 2016