Matricaria chamomilla L., known as "chamomile", has been used as an herbal tea or supplementary food all over the world. We investigated the effects of chamomile hot water extract and its major components on the prevention of hyperglycemia and the protection or improvement of diabetic complications in diabetes mellitus. Hot water extract, esculetin (3) and quercetin (7) have been found to show moderate inhibition of sucrase with IC50 values of 0.9 mg/mL and 72 and 71 microM, respectively. In a sucrose-loading test, the administration of esculetin (50 mg/kg body weight) fully suppressed hyperglycemia after 15 and 30 min, but the extract (500 mg/kg body weight) and quercetin (50 mg/kg body weight) were less effective. On the other hand, a long-term feed test (21 days) using a streptozotocin-induced rat diabetes model revealed that the same doses of extract and quercetin showed significant suppression of blood glucose levels. It was also found that these samples increased the liver glycogen levels. Moreover, chamomile extract showed potent inhibition against aldose reductase (ALR2), with an IC50 value of 16.9 microg/mL, and its components, umbelliferone (1), esculetin (3), luteolin (6), and quercetin (7), could significantly inhibit the accumulation of sorbitol in human erythrocytes. These results clearly suggested that daily consumption of chamomile tea with meals could contribute to the prevention of the progress of hyperglycemia and diabetic complications.