What is it?

Chamomile is an herb—a member of the daisy family originally native to Europe and North Africa, but also now found in the Americas—with a long, well-documented history of medicinal use. The two most common forms used today are German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), with German chamomile being the better researched and possibly more potent variety.

Use it for:

Easing digestive stress, diarrhea and infant colic; relaxing your body to promote sleep; supporting your immune system; discouraging cancer growth. Chamomile can also help heal wounds and reduce inflammation of hemorrhoids when applied topically.

The science:

Evidence of chamomile’s therapeutic benefits stretches back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, who used it to treat fevers and ulcers. Today, numerous studies suggest that the ancients were on to something. For example, research shows that chamomile squelches a bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers, and a study published in Phytomedicine found that it battles stomach acid in rats as well as (or even better than) commercial antacids. A number of studies, as well as centuries of anecdotal evidence, vouch that chamomile acts as a sedative by repressing the central nervous system. In the past decade, scientists have found chamomile to be a promising inhibitor of certain cancers, and research published in 2015 in The Gerentologist reported that, after controlling for other factors, chamomile tea consumption was associated with a longer life in women of Mexican origin, although not in men.

How to take it:

Drink one to three cups of chamomile tea daily for general health and immune support (it’s safe even for kids), or have a cup before bed to encourage sleep. For higher doses (up to 1,600 mg daily), look for the capsule form. Apply chamomile topical creams to wounds and other skin irregularities. As with all supplements, follow label directions, but reported side effects are minimal: potential drowsiness and possible allergic reactions for people sensitive to plants such as daisies and ragweed.