Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) belongs to the Asteraceae or daily family of plants. Chamomile is a plant that is used in traditional medicine as a calmative agent. Chamomile is able to affect the central nervous system and may improve mood and improve sleep quality. This may relate to the presence of flavonoids in the plant which can affect the GABA system in the brain. However, evidence also suggests that chamomile can also reduce cortisol levels. For example, in one study researchers administered chamomile to a group of subjects diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). There was a significant improvement in mood for subjects who consumed chamomile and this correlated with changes to cortisol levels. While morning cortisol levels increased, the cortisol level experienced throughout the day was lower, suggesting that chamomile had affected the stress response of the subjects. Chamomile may therefore function through a mechanism that involves modulation to the cortisol stress hormone system.
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