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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 January, 2005, 10:41 GMT
Camomile tea for aches and ills
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Camomile tea produced changes in the body
Drinking camomile tea can fight a cold and banish menstrual cramps, UK researchers believe.

Five cups a day for a fortnight is enough to boost urine levels of substances that can ease muscle spasms and fight inflammation.

The team from London's Imperial College tested the urine of 14 healthy camomile tea drinkers.

Their research will appear in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

A host of ills

For years, people have used camomile as an anti-inflammatory, a mild sedative and as an anti-ulcer remedy.

It has also been reported to have anti-oxidant activity and the essential oil extracted from the chamomile flowers has been shown to possess antimicrobial activity.

Dr Elaine Holmes and colleagues set out to investigate what happens in the body when a person drinks camomile tea.

In the study, the tea was made with the flowers of German camomile (Matricaria recutita), also known as manzanilla.

The researchers tested the volunteers' urine daily, both before and after they had consumed the camomile tea.

There may be something there, but what we need are controlled clinical trials.
Professor Ron Eccles, from the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff

Drinking tea caused levels of both glycine, which can ease muscle spasms, and the anti-inflammatory hippurate in the urine to go up.

After the volunteers stopped drinking the tea at the end of the two weeks, levels of glycine and hippurate stayed elevated for up to a further two weeks, which suggests the effects may be long-lasting.

Professor Ron Eccles, from the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff, said: "This interesting but it really is a very long way off evidence that camomile tea will have effects on colds and menstrual pain.

"There may be something there, but what we need are controlled clinical trials."

He said the best way to avoid colds was to stay healthy by exercising and eating a balanced diet.

"You can try remedies like camomile tea and echinacea, and if they work for you that's fine.

"Also, you can take symptomatic treatments - pain killers and hot tasty drinks," he said.

Maureen Robertson, from the Scottish School of Herbal Medicine, said camomile worked by removing heat from the body.

"It's a very safe herb to use. It's good for inflammation, particularly of the gastrointestinal tract."

She said the high essential oil content of camomile also made it a good antiseptic.

She said camomile infused oil could be massaged over the pubic area as a remedy for menstrual spasms.

But she said pregnant women should be cautious about using camomile because of its action on the womb.

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