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Ask the Pharmacist: Chamomile helps arthritis, blood thinning and mouth pain

Suzy Cohen
Columnist
Globe chamomile plants grow at Phoenix Sonoran Preserve March 14, 2020.

About a million cups of chamomile tea are served every single day! The antioxidant compounds in chamomile, including apigenin, have been proven useful for a variety of issues that might concern you.

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Today, I’m going to share the unexpected benefits of chamomile. Here are some benefits of chamomile that you may not have heard of.

Arthritis

You might expect benefits from frankincense for knee pain or other “itis” issues, because that herb has been long associated with strong evidence for inflammation. But it’s unexpected to see chamomile studied for knee pain!

The antioxidant compounds in chamomile, including apigenin, have been proven useful for a variety of issues that might concern you.

Researchers applied chamomile oil topically to the knee. The randomized controlled clinical trial was published in Complimentary Therapies in Clinical Practice. Patients who applied chamomile needed lower doses of their pain medicine.

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You could try adding drops to massage oil or some other pain-relieving cream or gel. Supplements and teas are available as well for oral consumption. Chamomile is known to induce drowsiness.

Blood thinning

Having thick or ‘sticky’ blood is bad for you. Doctors seek to thin the blood to prevent strokes and heart attacks. Warfarin is the most popular prescribed anti-coagulant. There are many plant-derived supplements that work similarly to warfarin, as well as foods with anti-platelet activity. But chamomile wouldn’t normally be something you think of for blood health. It has unexpected blood-thinning properties.

For that reason, I advise caution or avoidance of this herb if you are already taking warfarin (or other drugs) because there will be an exacerbation of the blood-thinning. Gum bleeding might be the first sign of additive anti-platelet activity in your body. Easy bruising is another sign. 

Mouth pain

Have you ever burnt your tongue or mouth on hot coffee, or a super-hot pizza? Fortunately, if you burn your mouth it heals right away, within a week or so. But if you are receiving chemotherapy, there is a type of mouth pain that is unbearable. It can occur with high dose local radiation in the mouth. The term for the pain is oral mucositis or “OM.” Chamomile can help with these oral lesions.

Sometimes a person is able to speak after a chemo treatment, and they cannot tell you of this pain. I worked in nursing home settings and saw this at times.

So, if you’re a caregiver, nurse or family member, please become more mindful of non-verbal cues, so you can determine if someone is dealing with OM.

Of the herbal and medicinal oral rinses tested in a recent study, researchers concluded that certain ones were the most effective.

Chamomile, honey, curcumin or Benzydamine-containing mouthwashes were found to be the most effective. You can make your own soothing mouth rinse using the above ingredients, gargle with a tea, or simply dab on the essential oil to the sores. 

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit SuzyCohen.com.