Does chamomile actually make you sleepy?
We at Paru heard this conversation while doing one of our holiday markets:
Girl: I think I'm going to get that Blue Chamomile iced tea.
Guy: Don't get that, it'll make you sleepy.
We decided to clear up some myths about what chamomile really does. Does it make you sleepy, and if so, how much and by what means?
What all's this "chamomile" stuff, anyway?
Chamomile has been used as a traditional medicine in many cultures for thousands of years. It's usually made into a tisane, or an herbal tea made with no actual caffeinated leaves from the tea plant (which is called Camellia sinensis). Folk tales claim it can help with an endless list of conditions, especially insomnia and anxiety.
The science behind it
Studies have shown that the leaf can actually help with insomnia, anxiety, menstrual cramps, and stomach issues, among other things (you'll see different ailments every time you read an article or tea package). However, the science hasn't backed it up significantly—meaning you really could go either way, especially with the power of something like the placebo effect in place. If it's part of your nightly routine and you really feel like it helps you, then it probably does! Thousands of years of tradition probably got something right.
For many , the process of making tea is relaxing in itself—the water boiling, the steeping, selecting the cup, smelling the aroma, and waiting for it to cool to a drinkable temperature. I know I myself have made cups of tea and fallen asleep—just having the tea there, ready for me to drink, was relaxing enough! So, this is another reason why your chamomile tea might make you tired.
Heat makes people feel calmer and more relaxed, since your body expends effort to keep itself cool—a form of heat fatigue. Whether this applies to hot beverages is not clear, but personally, I always find a hot beverage relaxing and calming. Conversely, the jolt of iced tea wakes me up.
The bottom line
Chamomile or another tea like lavender might calm you down or even make you a bit drowsy. But it's not, in any fashion, a depressant, like alcohol or a sleeping pill. It just doesn't have that chemical structure. In fact, it can be a lower risk alternative to depressants. Tea is soothing enough to help you get to sleep, but also mild enough to calm you down while still keeping you alert (during a work or school day, for example). So keep drinking!