teaIf you’ve ever sipped a cup of chamomile tea, then you know its mild sweetness and delicate aroma can be instantly soothing on its own.

Now researchers have discovered this popular herb is also rich in compounds that can make every menstrual cycle better.

That’s because it…

1. Eases menstrual cramps
If period pain is bothering you, try sipping one to two cups of chamomile tea. According to a 2005 study from the U.K.’s Imperial College London, chamomile boosts your body’s level of glycine, an amino acid that calms uterine spasms, quieting menstrual cramps. 

2. Helps you sleep
There are several points in your monthly cycle when it can be more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, for instance, during your Week 2 when high estrogen is revving energy, which can spur anxiety or racing thoughts, and during the first half of your Week 3 (approximately Day 15 to Day 18 of your cycle) and throughout your premenstrual Week 4 due to a drop in estrogen, which can trigger insomnia.

If you want to avoid over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids, try chamomile instead. This herb has been used for centuries as a way to get better sleep. Now researchers think they know why it works: According to the British study cited above, glycine is a nerve relaxant exerting a mild sedating effect that can make it easier to drift off and stay asleep. Chamomile also contains chrysin–a bioflavonoid that could have a slight anti-anxiety effect when ingested, research shows.

For the best results, sip one to two cups of chamomile tea at least two hours prior to bedtime, giving yourself plenty of time to empty your bladder before turning in.

3. Boosts your mood
Get blue or anxious in the week or two leading up to your period? The problem could be descending estrogen, which brings down levels of mood-regulating serotonin. Or it could be due to progesterone, which can trigger sadness in women who are sensitive to this hormone. Whatever the cause, chamomile may be useful for perking up a dour premenstrual mood and ushering in soothing calm. That’s the word from University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine researchers whose small study found that patients who were given daily doses of chamomile extract for eight weeks experienced a “clinically meaningful” reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms compared to those who took a placebo.

Tip: To brew chamomile tea, steep one teabag or one tablespoon of dried chamomile in a covered cup for 10 minutes in boiled water that has been allowed to cool for one minute.

Note: Avoid chamomile if you have ragweed allergies or are taking blood thinners. Visit Drugs.com for more drug interaction information.

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