Tea Time

A review on green tea, chamomile tea, and valerian root

I’m not sure about you, but I find bold health-related claims so alluring. Even if I know it’s just another clever marketing tactic, I desperately want to believe in the magical power of “the miracle product.” It’s part of our nature to want a product to do the work for us. The thought of spending countless hours, days, months, even years adjusting lifestyle habits sounds daunting.  I want to feel better, but it’s difficult to find the time to commit to lifestyle change and the energy to research what is legitimate and what’s a hoax. Does this sound familiar? I’m guessing we’re not the only ones who suffer from the lure of instant gratification… but perhaps it doesn’t have to be this way?

Recently, I’ve noticed myself having this “miracle product” mindset with tea, thinking  “Maybe this green tea will actually help me lose 5 lbs. in a week” or, “I have to drink valerian or chamomile tea or I won’t be able to fall asleep.”  Tea companies are good at making bold claims that can be all too enticing.  Even as a nutrition professional, it’s tempting to believe in grand weight loss and sleep enhancing effects of drinking a certain type of tea. Tea is healthy… people say the variety of herbs and difficult-to-pronounce ingredients in tea are good for you, so the claims on the tea boxes must be true, right?  Not exactly. Don’t get me wrong, tea can positively affect our bodies and overall health; however, it is essential to do your research when making selections.

So, what does the research say? Let’s briefly investigate studies on green tea, chamomile tea, and valerian root (added to several sleep teas)

  • Green tea = A recent meta-analysis investigated the effects of green tea on body composition. The findings show that the catechins in green tea contribute to modest weight loss (around 2.5 lbs. in 12 weeks) and weight maintenance. What’s interesting is that catechins appear to have a lesser effect in Caucasian subjects as compared to Asian subjects. Furthermore, the effects of catechins in green tea were diminished in individuals who regularly consume large amounts of caffeine (>300mg/day). Unfortunately, the amount to which it was diminished is not provided. The analysis mentioned that Caucasian subjects consumed more caffeine than Asian subjects did, so this could help explain the differing results between the two ethnicities.
  • Chamomile tea = A study from 2011 declares what we already know about chamomile being the most commonly used herbal tea for sleep disorders. The study assesses the effects of chamomile on sleep quality (duration and efficiency) and daytime functioning. Participants received either 270mg of Chamomile High Grade Extract or a placebo capsule twice daily for 28 days. The results showed no significant differences in sleep quality between groups; however, the chamomile group did show a slight improvement in daytime functioning.
  • Valerian = A meta-analysis was conducted in 2006 to clarify the effects of using valerian as a sleep aid. The analysis states that extracts of valerian root are commonly used for inducing sleep and improving sleep quality. The overall results identified valerian as a viable option for improving sleep quality, although a strong definitive statement could not be made due to the inconsistencies in the reviewed studies. The results also showed valerian to be a more favorable option than other sleep aids due to its lack of “sleep-hangover effect.”

As we can see, the research does provide suggestions and slight correlations concerning the benefits of green tea, chamomile tea, and valerian root, but the evidence is still conflicting.  Now, let’s compare the claims in popular internet articles with what we found in the research above.

  • Green tea = Healthline online newsletter outlines “10 Proven Benefits of Green Tea.” From its antioxidant properties to its ability to boost brainpower (with caffeine), the article claims that green tea is the healthiest beverage on the planet. Green tea is lauded for its ability to lower risk of many diseases, boost metabolism, and burn fat. As we saw in the research analysis above, green tea does contribute to mild weight loss and weight maintenance, yet the influence of ethnicity and amount of routinely consumed caffeine affect the impact that green tea has on each person. Although the 10 benefits of green tea cannot be proven by evidence, it remains a popular beverage in many cultures and continues to be savored throughout the world.
  • Chamomile tea = Livestrong recently published an article on the benefits of chamomile tea. The author says that small doses of chamomile can soothe nerves and promote relaxation, while large doses can improve sleeplessness and insomnia. She also mentions chamomile aiding with upset stomach. While the above research doesn’t show any significant proof of these claims, I have definitely benefitted from drinking chamomile tea and think it can still be enjoyed, regardless of the lack of evidence.
  • Valerian = Dr. Axe, author of “Eat Dirt” who is a certified doctor of natural medicine, chiropractor and clinical nutritionist wrote an article about valerian root and its role in solving insomnia, anxiety, and blood pressure. He says it can act as a sedative and reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. Dr. Axe also affirms what the research above says about the lack of morning drowsiness after taking valerian! Similarly to chamomile, I have experienced improvements in sleep after drinking tea with valerian.

These comparisons illustrate why it’s important to search for reliable information about health claims. Tea is popular and has a health halo, but the evidence is (unfortunately) scanty.  Regardless, I still love tea and drink it for various ailments all the time. There are certain teas I think work better than others do, but I suggest you experiment to see what works best for you!

Even if something is not directly supported in research, if you enjoy consuming it and seem to see benefits, go for it! There’s no time like winter to cozy up with a cup of tea and a book (or family and friends if you’re not into reading). Let us know if you discover any new favorites, cheers to tea time!

Copyright: All content © 2020 Nutrition Strategy Advisors LLC. Photographs © Donna P Feldman, unless otherwise attributed. Reproduction or use without permission is prohibited.