Does Chamomile Tea Induce Labor?

People have been passing along home remedies for inducing labor for as long as people have been having babies. Once you get near, or even past, your due date, you will probably have everyone from your best friend to perfect strangers in the grocery store suggesting ways you can induce labor. While many methods are harmless, if ineffective, there are some that can actually be dangerous. Chamomile tea is often suggested as an easy way to get your labor started. However, there is currently not enough scientific evidence to support that, and some healthcare providers recommend that pregnant women not take chamomile.

In 2013, a study was done in Iran on the effects of chamomile for inducing labor. In this study, 80 post-term women who had low-risk pregnancies were divided into two groups. One group of 40 was given 1,000 milligrams of chamomile every 8 hours for 1 week.  The other group was given a placebo. After a week, 92.5% of the women in the chamomile group started having symptoms of labor. Only 62.5% of women in the placebo group had symptoms of labor. 

However, a systematic review of studies done in 2019 recommended that herbal medicines, including chamomile, be discouraged until more evidence of its safety is available. This review found that chamomile use in the third trimester was linked to increased incidents of babies being born early, being shorter, and having a lower birth weight, although a different study did not show an increase in babies born with a low birth weight.

Health Benefits of Chamomile Tea

Chamomile is a daisy-like plant whose flowers are used in herbal medicine and tea. There are two types of chamomile, German and Roman. People have been using both types for a long time. Chamomile was considered an important herbal medicine in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Today, people use it for a variety of conditions, including upset stomach, anxiety, insomnia, and skin problems.

Since chamomile is one of the most ancient herbs around, it has been used and studied extensively for properties that may help many health conditions, including: 

  • Anti-inflammatory and fever-reducing properties
  • Anticancer activity
  • Common cold
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Colic and diarrhea in children
  • Eczema
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Hemorrhoids 
  • Boosting the immune system
  • Inflammatory diseases such as esophageal reflux, diverticulitis, and inflammatory skin problems
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Osteoporosis
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Diabetes
  • Sore throat
  • Vaginitis
  • Wound healing
  • Quality of life in people with cancer

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A review of these studies found that chamomile may offer some therapeutic effects because of its phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are chemicals found in plants that contribute to a plant's color, taste, and smell. We are just starting to learn about them, but they may help fight heart disease and cancer. Terpenoids like the ones present in chamomile may help slow cancer cell growth and fight viruses. Chamomile also contains flavonoids, another phytochemical that may fight inflammation and tumor growth. 

Chamomile may also help stimulate the immune system, improve cardiovascular conditions, and provide some level of protection against cancer. However, more research is needed to discover if the proper use of chamomile is safe and helpful for these conditions. And improper use of chamomile can be harmful. 

Is Chamomile Tea Safe During Pregnancy?

There is not enough information to determine if the amount of chamomile normally used in tea is safe during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Some healthcare providers advise you to avoid taking chamomile internally but think it is okay to use topically on your skin. 

Since it has been associated with both miscarriage and premature labor, chamomile definitely should not be used in large or medicinal amounts during pregnancy without first talking with your doctor about its use.

Chamomile can cause adverse reactions, particularly in people who are allergic to ragweed or other members of the Asteraceae family. These reactions depend on how the chamomile was taken and can include: 

  • Anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction that can be deadly
  • Skin irritation
  • Stomach upset
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Allergic eye infections from chamomile eye drops
  • Asthma
  • Diarrhea

Chamomile may also be unsafe to take with other medicines you may be on, including: 

  • Blood thinners
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  •  Salicylates like aspirin
  • Thrombolytic agents, which are medicines used to treat blood clots 
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 05, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Beth Israel Lahey Health: "Herbs and Supplements to Avoid During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding."

Drugs.com: "Chamomile."

Harvard Health Publishing: "Fill up on phytochemicals."

IntechOpen: "Herbal Medicine Use during Pregnancy: Benefits and Untoward Effects."

Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal: "Onset of Labor in Post-Term Pregnancy by Chamomile."

Molecular Medicine Reports: "Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with a bright future."

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Chamomile."

Obstetrics and Gynecology: "Herbal Medicinal Product Use During Pregnancy and the Postnatal Period."

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