Chamomile tea may lower the risk of thyroid cancer according to researchers whose work appeared in the European Journal of Public Health.
News service Reuters reports a study of residents in Athens, Greece suggests that people who drank chamomile tea over long periods of time were less likely to develop both benign and malignant thyroid growths. Researchers do not claim the tea prevents cancers but it does appear to offer health benefits in addition to those found in the Mediterranean diet, according to co-author Dr. Athena Linos, an environmental health researcher at Prolepsis, Greece.
“Our findings suggest for the first time that drinking herbal teas, especially chamomile, protects from thyroid cancer as well as other benign thyroid diseases,” writes Linos.
“The finding was not surprising to me because many aspects of the Mediterranean diet have been shown to be protective towards cancer in general,” Linos told Reuters.
Many people in Greece follow a Mediterranean diet. Out of every 100,000 people there, about 1.6 are diagnosed with thyroid cancer every year, Linos said. That compares with average rates of 13.2 and 5.2 per 100,000 people in the U.S. and Europe, respectively, “suggesting that it may be something in the Greek diet – such as tea – which accounts for this difference.”
“Linos and colleagues examined cancer rates and dietary habits in 113 patients admitted to two Athens area hospitals for thyroid cancers between 1990 and 1993. They compared those patients to 138 people without thyroid cancer who were either healthy or had other unrelated diseases, and also to another 286 people with benign thyroid disease,” according to the report.
People who drank chamomile tea two to six times a week were about 70 percent less likely to develop thyroid abnormalities. Thirty years of regular consumption reduced the risk by about 80 percent, according to researchers.
The researchers also looked at the connection between thyroid cancer and consumption of two other types of herbal tea popular in Greece – sage tea and a blend known as mountain tea – and found that these also reduced the likelihood of malignancies, though the association wasn’t as strong as it was for chamomile tea.
Source: Reuters, Business Insider, European Journal of Public Health (posted April 4, 2015)