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January 2014

Chamomile, Meadowsweet, Willow Bark Beverage May Lack Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Although chamomile, meadowsweet, and willow bark have been studied in a combination beverage for anti-inflammatory benefits, the evidence is inconclusive, a study reports.

Chamomile has been used medicinally for thousands of years and is widely used in Europe. It is a popular treatment for numerous ailments, including sleep disorders, anxiety, digestion/intestinal conditions, skin infections/inflammation (including eczema), wound healing, infantile colic, teething pains, and diaper rash. In the United States, chamomile is best known as an ingredient in herbal tea preparations advertised for mild sedating effects.

Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) is native to Europe and is found as an introduced plant in the northeastern region of the United States. Meadowsweet has historically been used in traditional medicine to treat symptoms of the common cold, stomach complaints, and inflammatory conditions. Herbalists recommend meadowsweet as one of the best digestive herbs for the treatment of ulcers and heartburn. Further research on the uses of meadowsweet is needed.

In the United States, willow bark is used by herbalists as an antipyretic (fever reducer), a mild analgesic (pain reliever), and an anti-inflammatory. There is currently strong scientific evidence that willow bark is effective for osteoarthritis and lower back pain. Early study suggests that willow bark extracts may not be helpful for rheumatoid arthritis, but further study is warranted to confirm these recommendations. Taking willow bark may increase the risk of bleeding; however, this risk may be less than taking aspirin.

In the current study, researchers evaluated the effects of an herbal beverage combining chamomile, meadowsweet, and willow bark (CMW) on inflammation. A total of 20 adults participated in the four-week study, during which they were randomly assigned to consume either the CMW beverage or to a berry extract placebo. The research team looked at the herbs' effects on body-wide inflammation and joint function.

The results suggested a decrease in inflammation in the treatment group, as well as improved joint function and reduced pain in the knee and lower back. However, the authors reported that these improvements lacked significance, and that the placebo group also experienced a small decrease in inflammation.

Overall, the researchers observed a lack of significant anti-inflammatory effects. They emphasized that the evidence is still inconclusive and that further study is needed to determine the possible benefits of CMW for inflammation.

For more information about chamomile, meadowsweet, or willow bark, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements database.


  1. Drummond EM, Harbourne N, Marete E, et al. An in vivo study examining the antiinflammatory effects of chamomile, meadowsweet, and willow bark in a novel functional beverage. J Diet Suppl. 2013 Dec;10(4):370-80. doi: 10.3109/19390211.2013.830680.
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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