By Jessica Patella, ND abstracted from “A Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Trial of Oral Matricaria recutita (Chamomile) Extract Therapy for Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” in the 2009 issue of Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.
Key words: Chamomile, Anxiety, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Matricaria recutita
The cost of anxiety disorders has been estimated at $47 billion per year in the U.S. (1). Anxiety disorders are some of the most common psychiatric conditions, effecting nearly 26.9 million people in the U.S. (1, 2). Benzodiazepine medications are the main therapy prescribed to patients with generalized anxiety disorder, but these medications often have side effects and result in dependency (2). For this reason, many people seek alternative or natural treatments for anxiety (3). Recent research shows the herbal remedy chamomile (Chamomilla recutita) was effective in reducing anxiety compared to placebo (2).
Research included 57 participants diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (Axis I; DSM-IV). Participants needed a baseline score of 9 or more on the Hamilton Anxiety Rating (HAM-A), which is a scale used to determine the severity of anxiety (less than 17 = mild severity, 18-24 = mild to moderate severity, 25-30 = moderate to severe anxiety) (2, 4).
Participants were randomized to receive either chamomile extract (n-=28) or placebo (n=29) for 8 weeks. Chamomile or placebo was started at 1 capsule per day for the first week and increased to 2 capsules per day for the second week (220 mg chamomile per capsule). After week 2, participants with a 50% reduction or less in total HAM-A score (vs. baseline) were increased to 3 capsules daily for week 3 and then to 4 capsules daily for week 4. After week 4, participants who continued to have a 50% reduction or less in total HAM-A score (vs. baseline) were increased to 5 capsules per day for the rest of the study, up to week 8 (2).
Overall, there was a 52.97% decrease in anxiety based on the HAM-A score in the chamomile group, compared to a 34.92 % decrease in the placebo group (p=0.085) (2). When examining adverse side effects, there was a lower rate of side effects at higher chamomile doses (2/717; 0.3%) vs.lower chamomile doses (11/734; 1.5%; p=0.015), suggesting there is no increase in adverse side effects at higher doses of chamomile (2).
In conclusion, chamomile extract was effective in treating mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder (2). This was the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, trial of chamomile for generalized anxiety disorder (2). Further research with more participants, over a longer period of time, taking a standardized dose of chamomile needs to be conducted to fully understand chamomile’s effect on anxiety (2).
Jessica Patella, ND, is the founder of Sarasota Natural Health LLC and specializes in homeopathic medicine. She offers a holistic approach to health, inspiring and empowering her clients to lead lives of optimal health and wellness. To learn more, visit www.sarasotanaturalhealth.com
1. Economic Cost of Anxiety Disorder. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9160618
2. Amsterdam JD, et al. A Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Trial of Oral Matricaria recutita (Chamomile) Extract Therapy for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. 2009. J Clin Psychopharm 29, 4: 378-382.
3. Mao JJ, et al. Use of complementary and alternative medicine and prayer among a national sample of cancer survivors compared to other populations without cancer. 2007. Complement Ther Med. 15: 21-29.
4. Hamilton Anxiety Rating (HAM-A). http://www.servier.com/App_Download/Neurosciences/Echelles/HAM.pdf