Chamomile tea may help women live longer, according to new research. Drinking the herbal brew was linked with a 29% lower risk of early death from all causes. But it's bad news for men, as positive effects were not replicated.
Researchers say it's not clear why the tea prolongs women's lives, or why it only works for one gender.
Chamomile is one of the oldest, most-widely used and well-documented medicinal plants in the world and has been recommended for a variety of afflictions.
As part of the study, US researchers tracked 1,677 Mexican-American women and men for seven years, and looked at the effects of chamomile tea on death.
They took data from the Hispanic Established Populations for Epidemiologic Study of the Elderly, a study of Mexican-Americans aged 65 and older from five Southwestern states, including Texas.
They found 14 per cent of the people in the study drank chamomile tea.
The data showed that consuming chamomile was associated with a 29 per cent decreased risk of early death from all causes among women, compared with those who did not drink the tea.
The link was still present even after the researchers adjusted for demographics, health conditions and health behaviours.
Curiously, this effect was not present in men.
Dr Bret Howrey, an assistant professor at The University of Texas Medical Branch, said: 'The reason for a difference in our reported findings between Hispanic women and men is not clear, although women were shown to be more frequent users of chamomile than men.'
'This difference may be due to traditional gender roles whereby women manage the day-to-day activities of the household, including family health, and may also reflect greater reliance on folk remedies such as herbs.'
He added it is unclear how chamomile is associated with lower death rates.
However recent studies of the herb have shown potential benefits in treating high blood sugar, upset stomachs, diabetic complications and anxiety disorders.
Chamomile has also been touted for its cholesterol-lowering, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-platelet effects.
The exact pathway for the reduction in mortality represents an important area for future research, Dr Howrey said.
The findings were published online in The Gerontologist journal.