Chamomile is a herb that closely resembles and is closely related to the common daisy. Scientifically, chamomile is called Matricaria recutita or Chamomilla recutita. There is no reputable evidence that chamomile can induce labor. There are some reports that Roman and German chamomile can cause a miscarriage, which might be the basis for belief that chamomile can start labor. Medical sites urge pregnant women not to use chamomile.
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There are two types of chamomile used to treat disease: German and Roman. In the United States, most chamomile comes from the German form. The flowers of chamomile can be dried and used to make tea, other liquid extracts, or capsules and tablets. Oils extracted from the flowers can be applied to the skin.
To make chamomile tea at home, the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests pouring 1 cup boiling water over 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons of dried chamomile -- or 2 grams to 4 grams by weight -- and allowing it to steep for 10 to 15 minutes. For medicinal purposes, adults could drink this tea up to three to four times per day, between meals. However, large amounts of strong chamomile tea can cause vomiting.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or NCCAM, says German chamomile has been used for thousands of years. Proponents believe it can combat sleeplessness and anxiety, and soothe digestive upsets including diarrhea and gas. Roman chamomile has similar uses. In addition, Roman chamomile tea has been used to treat infections with parasitic worms. Neither the NCCAM, Medline nor the University of Maryland Medical Center reference any use of either form of chamomile or chamomile tea for the induction of labor.
There is no scientific evidence that chamomile tea helps bring on labor; nor do any medical sources list it as a traditional or possible use for chamomile tea. In normal doses, chamomile has an overall relaxing and sedative effect. The relaxing effect on muscles is the basis for its traditional use in relieving menstrual cramps, thought to occur through the relaxation of the uterus. This effect would counteract labor. Opposing this is the concern that chamomile can cause miscarriage by stimulating uterine contractions; this could be the basis for the unproven belief that chamomile tea induces labor.
Although women have used chamomile for morning sickness, Medline recommends that pregnant women avoid it. Taking large amounts by mouth could cause nausea or even miscarriage. Everyone should use caution when taking chamomile because of the possibility of a life-threatening allergic response. Anaphylactic shock can occur, especially in people with a ragweed allergy or an allergy to other members of the daisy family including daisies, marigolds and chrysanthemums.