Sept. 12, 2008 -- When you sit down for a meal today, consider drinking a cup or two of chamomile tea, especially if you have diabetes. A new study shows the tea may help prevent the development of diabetic complications, such as loss of vision, nerve damage, and kidney damage.
Chamomile tea, a popular drink in many countries and long considered to have medicinal benefits, has been studied more closely in the past 30 years, according to the report published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Chamomile has been used to treat inflammation, skin diseases, wounds, gout, and ulcers. Recent research shows that chamomile plant extract suppresses the growth of human cancer cells.
Chamomile tea is prepared with dried flowers from a plant called Matricaria chamomilla L. It is considered one of the richest sources of dietary antioxidants.
Researchers from the University of Toyama in Japan and the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research in the United Kingdom added chamomile extract to the diets of diabetic rats for 21 days. Scientists compared the chamomile-treated rats to a group of diabetic rats fed a normal diet without the addition of chamomile extract. The rats that received the chamomile showed a significant decrease in blood glucose levels compared to the diabetic rats eating a normal diet. The chamomile also inhibited two enzymes, both of which have a role in the development of diabetic complications such as diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage), cataracts, retinopathy (retinal damage of the eye), and nephropathy (kidney damage).
"These results clearly suggested that daily consumption of chamomile tea with meals could contribute to the prevention of the progress of hyperglycemia and diabetic complications," the authors conclude.
The findings could also lead to the development of a new chamomile-based drug for type 2 diabetes.