Chamomile has been lauded for its calming and relaxing properties for thousands of years.

It's used in soaps, candles, and teas — but, does it do anything beyond smell nice?

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are trying to find out.

The chamomile used in this study is not your grandmother's tea — it's pharmaceutical strength, ground up and put into pills that participants take three times a day. In three different trial phases, researchers will determine the effectiveness of this substance in treating those with moderate or severe generalized anxiety disorder.

Preliminary results show that chamomile's effectiveness compares favorably with traditional psychotropic drugs, according to Dr. Jun Mao at the University of Pennsylvania who is heading this research.

So far, reported side effects have been mild, and include sleepiness.

Mao says many patients prefer a natural option.

"They always seem to be very eager to participate because either they had side effects with traditional therapies," he said. "Or they are the kind of person who says 'I just want to try something natural' before they try a medication.'"

Mao says people are very interested in alternative medicine approaches, but want solid scientific research to back up claims.

"Consumers still don't have a lot of the information," he said. "I think that's the biggest frustration. They see that the bottles are labeled for this and that, but really, as consumers are becoming more educated, they want scientific evidence to back the use of these therapies."

People who are allergic to ragweed may not be able to use chamomile, as it is in the ragweed family.

Mao says generally speaking, the field of alternative medicine continues to grow, and is becoming more integrated in traditional medicine.

For more information on this study visit the website or call 215-662-3462 or 215-662-2844.