In the search for the fountain of youth, our culture has become obsessed with anti-aging supplements and fad diets touted for boosting longevity. However, the secret to a long and healthy life has been around for thousands of years in an herbal brew. According a recent study published in the journal The Gerontologist, drinking chamomile tea decreases all-cause mortality in older women.

In the U.S., herbal and supplement use has been increasing in the past 10 to 15 years. In 2002, the National Health Interview Survey, reported 20 percent of the U.S. population had used some type of herb or supplement during the 12 months prior, with herb use more common in brewing beverages. Black tea and green tea make up most of the tea consumed in the U.S., since both have been linked to a lower risk of mortality, reduced cardiovascular events, and reduced incidence of some cancers.

Now, researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston believe one tea in particular — chamomile tea — can reduce the risk of death from all causes, and therefore, help us live longer. In an effort to test the effectiveness of herbal products, the research team examined the effects of chamomile on mortality among older female adults of Mexican origin. They analyzed data from over 1,600 women and men from the Hispanic Established Populations for Epidemiologic Study of the Elderly for a seven-year period, during which the researchers tracked the effects of chamomile and the cause of death in older Mexican-Americans. Prior to the study, 14 percent of the participants regularly drank chamomile tea.

The findings revealed consuming chamomile lowered the risk of death from all causes among women by 29 percent. This difference was still found even after demographics, health conditions, and health behaviors were accounted for. The researchers found this effect was not present in men.

"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," said Bret Howrey, study author and assistant professor in the UTMB department of family medicine, in the press release. "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."

Although it’s unclear how chamomile use is associated with decreased mortality, recent studies have shown the effectiveness of this herb when it comes to boosting health. A 2005 study published in the journal found chamomile can serve as an immunity booster. Participants who consumed five cups of chamomile tea for two weeks showed an increase level of hippurate, which is associated with the botanical phenolics that boost immunity and fight bacteria. Moreover, hippurate along with glycine — amino acid for muscle spasms — may remain in the body after quite some time after consumption. This could help explain why chamomile tea boosts the immune system and fights infections linked to colds.

These recent studies warrant further research to observe whether the effects of chamomile tea can be applied to other populations.

Until then, cheers, pinkies up, and sip your tea, ladies, for living better, longer.

Sources: Howrey BT, Markides KS, McKee JM et al. Chamomile Consumption and Mortality: A Prospective Study of Mexican Origin Older Adults. The Gerontologist. 2015.

Holmes E, Gylands PJ, Nicholson JK et al. A Metabonomic Strategy for the Detection of the Metabolic Effects of Chamomile (Matricaria recutita L.) Ingestion. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2005.