Sleep is one of the most deeply healing and revitalizing experiences known. When we can get enough restful sleep each night, the entire world looks brighter. Insomnia is a lack of healthful, restful sleep and is a common problem experienced by as many as 20% to 30% of American adults at various times in their lives. Statistics report a fifth of American adults and half of American seniors have difficulty falling asleep on any given night (Reiter and Robinson, 1995). The most prevalent sleeping disorder is chronic insomnia, which is experienced by 15% of adults.
Insomnia can be based on or aggravated by a neurotransmitter imbalance. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that allow nerve impulses to travel from one nerve cell to another, and include serotonin, acetylcholine, GABA, and the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. Sleep disorders and such symptoms as depression are especially linked with an imbalance in the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is manufactured by the body from the amino acid tryptophan. Herbs and foods high in tryptophan that help restore proper serotonin levels in the brain are St. John’s wort, quinoa, spirulina, and organic soy products.
Holistic treatment for insomnia is multifaceted and incorporates many techniques including herbal medicine, vitamin and mineral supplements, lifestyle changes, improved sleep hygiene, massage therapy, behavioral therapy, meditation, diet, exercise, hypnosis, acupuncture, relaxation, guided imagery, and homeopathy. A treatment approach is aimed at precluding all the potential causes of insomnia rather than simply providing symptomatic relief.
Some of the major herbs for insomnia are discussed below.
Herbs for Insomnia
The following herbs can be used during the day, or try using 20-30 minutes before bedtime.
Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis): Chamomile is a time-honored sedative herb which can be safely used by children and adults alike. Chamomile tea is commonly used in Europe, South America, and Mexico for insomnia and restlessness combined with irritability, particularly in children. Chamomile oil can also be put in bath water (5-6 drops) to soothe overwrought nerves, diluted to 2% to make an excellent massage oil, or used as an inhalant.
- Dose: Tea, 1 cup 2-3 x daily; Tincture, 30 drops 3 x daily.
Hops (Humulus lupulus): In the early 1900s, Eclectic physicians used hops as a sedative specifically for insomnia due to worry or nerve weakness (Bell, 1925; Ellingwood, 1983). Hops, a major flavoring component of beer, has a long history of use for sleeplessness, nervousness, and restlessness. Hops pillows are sometimes used for mild insomnia.
- Dose: Tea, 1 cup 2-3 x daily; Tincture, 30-40 drops 2-3 x daily.
Lavender (Lavandula officinalis): Lavender is a gentle strengthening tonic for the nervous system. A few drops of lavender oil added to a bath before bedtime are recommended for persons with sleep disorders. Additionally, the oil may be used as a compress or massage oil or simply inhaled to alleviate insomnia.
- Dose: Tea, 1 cup 2-3 x daily; Essential oil–oil may be inhaled, massaged into the skin (use 10 drops essential oil per ounce of vegetable oil), or added to baths (3-10 drops).
Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata): Herbalists consider passion flower an important herb for insomnia caused by mental worry, overwork, or nervous exhaustion. In England it is an ingredient in forty different commonly-sold sedative preparations. Passion flower is used for minor sleep problems in both children and adults (Bruneton, 1995). It is an excellent sedative with no side effects even when used in large doses (Spaick, 1978).
- Dose: Tea, 1 cup 3 x daily; Tincture, 30-60 drops 3-4 x daily.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis): In the United States, herbalists use valerian extensively for its sedative action against insomnia, nervousness, and restlessness. It is recommended for those type of people who have a hard time falling asleep, because it shortens sleep latency. It also reduces nighttime waking. Valerian is an excellent herbal sedative that has none of the negative side effects of Valium and other synthetic sedatives. It works well in combination with other sedative herbs, such as California poppy, skullcap, hops, and passion flower.
- Dose: Tea, 1 cup as needed; Tincture, 2-5 droppersful 2-3 x daily.
Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa): Wild lettuce is a mild sedative and nervine used for restlessness and insomnia. It may be found in a variety of formulas for the treatment of acute and chronic insomnia. It is used homeopathically for restlessness and insomnia (Boericke, 1927). Because of its safety of use and calming effects, wild lettuce is a good children’s remedy.
- Dose: Tincture, 2-3 drpfls 3-4 x daily.
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica): California poppy is my favorite sedative and sleep-promoting herb which can currently be found in a variety of herbal remedies sold in the United States for promoting sleep, helping one to relax, and easing mild anxiety. Because of its mild sedative and analgesic properties, it can be given safely to children. Clinical and laboratory work on California poppy has clearly demonstrated the plant’s sedative and anti-anxiety properties; it has been shown to improve both sleep latency and quality (Bruneton, 1995).
- Dose: Tea, 1 cup 2-3 x daily; Tincture, 30-40 drops 2-3 x daily.
- Note: Since the tea is mild, a tincture is recommended when a stronger dose is desired.
Kava kava (Piper methysticum): Kava is the national drink of Fiji and is popular throughout the South Seas. It imparts a calm feeling, relaxes the body, and sometimes enhances communication and dreaming. This sedative herb is often used for sleeplessness and fatigue.
- Dose: Tea, 1 cup 2-3 x daily; Tincture, 3-4 droppersful 2-3 x daily.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum): This common yellow-flowered weedy herb from Europe is quickly becoming an important part of modern herbal therapeutics. It has a long history of use dating back to ancient Greek times. Modern scientific studies show that it can help relieve chronic insomnia and mild depression when related to certain brain chemistry imbalances. Because this herb can sensitize the skin to sunlight, if you are taking a full dose, avoid direct skin exposure to bright sunlight.
- Dose: Tincture, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon 2-3 x daily; powdered extract, 1-2 tablets or capsules 2-3 x daily. Allow 2-3 weeks for the full therapeutic effect to develop. If you experience light sensitivity or other unpleasant symptoms, reduce or discontinue the St. John’s wort and consult a qualified herbalist for a total program.
Melatonin: Melatonin is a human hormone that is increasingly popular as a supplement to promote sound sleep, especially in people who travel between time zones or who work odd hours. People report mixed success with this product; some people find real benefit and others feel nothing from its use, while a smaller percentage of users experience side effects such as nervousness and increased insomnia. Whether you have benefited from the use of melatonin or not, one or more of the sleep hygiene tips, as well as safe and natural herbs and formulas covered in this article are likely to help you get a deep refreshing sleep, without side effects.
Herbal Formulas for Insomnia
A Calming Tea Blend: Linden flowers (1 part), Hawthorn flowers & leaves (1 part), Chamomile (2 parts), Catnip (1 part), Lemon balm (1 part), Wintergreen (1 part), Stevia herb (1/8 part).
Bedtime Tea: Valerian (30%), Linden (20%), Kava kava (20%), Chamomile (20%), Catnip (10%).
For either formula, blend the loose herbs, place in a quart jar for future use, and store out of the direct sunlight in a cool place. Use 1 tsp/cup to make a tea. Make 1 quart at a time, adding 1 extra tsp ‘for the pot.’ Add the herbs to boiled water and cover. Let steep for 20 minutes, strain and store in the quart jar in the refrigerator. This blend will keep for 3 days. Pour out 1 cup, warm it, and drink several times daily or before bedtime as needed.
A few drops of essential oil of lavender added to a foot bath or regular bath can have a nice, calming effect. Finally, sleep pillows made of equal parts of hops, lavender, and chamomile and bath salts containing relaxing essential oils both help promote sleep and are available in some health food stores
(Recap & Additional) Natural Herbs for Insomnia
Kava Kava (Piper methysticum)
Kava kava is often used as an herbal insomnia remedy. This particular herb is extremely popular throughout the South Seas, and is quickly growing in popularity throughout the United States. When used as natural sleep aids, kava kava can impart a natural calm feeling, as it helps relax the body, as well as enhance dreaming. This herb for insomnia is also often recommended for chronic fatigue. Long term use should be avoided due to the possibility of liver damage.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
This is another herb that has been used for a long time as an herbal sleep aid. Valerian is the most popular herb for insomnia and it is the natural source of Valium. It eases nervous tension, muscle tension and anxiety. It can be used as an occasional treatment for restlessness, but may be most beneficial for insomnia treatment over the long term. It works well in combination with other sedative herbs. Valerian root does not have the harsh side effects of many pharmaceutical treatments, like Valium, but in high doses this herb can cause nausea, headaches, dizziness, weakened heartbeat and even paralysis. Taken in recommended dosages it is considered safe. Due to the tonic and relaxant effect it should not be taken when driving or when reactions and mental acuity are needed. It should not be combined with pharmaceutical medicines that have similar effects.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
Chamomile has been used for centuries as an herbal sleep aid. It is a very gentle herb and is considered safe both for adults and children. As an herb for insomnia is most often drunk as a tea, which has a mild, pleasant flavor. It has a mild soothing effect which aids sleep and reduces restlessness. It also has a positive effect on digestion. The active ingredients in chamomile include a volatile oil and a falconoid, apigenin, with other components helping as well. Science has not yet determined the exact mechanism by which this herb aids sleep. Chamomile is a very mild herb and does not lead to dependency. It has not been shown to have any side effects. Individuals with allergies to plants such as ragweed or daisies may have a reaction to this herb. It may increase the effects of other sleep aids and should be used with caution when combined with other drug therapies.
Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata)
This herb, used by the Aztecs as a sedative, has a calming, sleep inducing effect. This herb is commonly found in the list of herbs to help you sleep. This is a gentle, non habit-forming herbal sleep aid. This is a very safe herb and has been used by both adults and children to counter the effects of stress and tension. It helps relax the mind and body to induce restful sleep. The active ingredient, harmine, and related compounds help inhibit the breakdown of serotonin. This herb can be taken as a tea, tincture or as capsules. The only noted side effect of this herb is sleepiness, which in this use is a very positive effect.
California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
Another natural herb commonly used as a herbal insomnia remedy. California poppy can be found in many herbal sleep aids sold in the United States today. This natural herb can help promote sleep, relaxation and ease mild anxiety. Because of this herb’s mild sedative properties, it is also safe to give to children who have trouble sleeping.
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
Traditionally used for restless leg syndrome and other causes of insomnia. Skullcap reliefs nervous tension and renews the central nervous system.
Hops (Humulus lupulus)
This common flavoring for beer also has a calming, sedative effect. It is a nervous tonic and helps relieve pain, as well. It can be taken in tea or tincture form. Pillows are sometime made of hops to help induce relaxation and restful sleep. This herb should be avoided by individuals who have depressions due to its depressant effect.
Other natural herbs that have been used as herbal sleep aids.
- Cowslip – (Primula veris)
- Great Mullein – (Verbascum thapsus)
- Mugwort – (Artemisia vulgaris)
- Bugleweed – (Lycopus europaeus)
- Jamaica Dogwood – (Piscidia erythrina)
- Mistletoe – (Viscum album)
- Lemon Grass – (Cymbopogon citratus)
- Lavender – (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Vervain – (Verbena officinalis)
- Heather – (Calluna vulgaris)
- American Ginseng – (Panax quinquefolius)
- Common Mallow – (Malva sylvestris)
- Sweet Basil – (Ocimum basilicum)
Home Remedies For Insomnia
Grapefruit juice: Drink 1/2 cup of yellow grapefruit juice with pulp every night before you go to bed.
Valerian root: One of the best herbs for insomnia is Valerian Root. Take 2 tea spoons of Valerian root, add 1 cup of boiling water and boil it for 5 minutes. Drink 1/2 cup of the warm extract mixed with 1 tea spoon of honey, every night before you go to bed.
Dill (seeds or herb): In the morning, take 1 table spoon of dill seeds (or cut dill into fine pieces and take 1 spoon of dill) and add 1 cup of boiling water. Leave it for a day in a thermos, then filter the extract and drink 1 glass of it every night before you go to bed.
Apple cider vinegar and honey: Mix 1 cup of honey with 3 tea spoons of apple cider vinegar. Take 2 tea spoons of the mix every night before you go to bed.
Water with lemon juice: Drink 1 cup of water mixed with juice of 1/2 lemon every night before you go to bed.
Beetroot juice with honey: Mix 1 cup of raw beet juice with 1 cup of honey. Keep it in a glass jar in your refrigerator. Take 1 table spoon of the mix 34 times a day until you finish the jar. By that time you will fall asleep with no problem.
Water with honey: This is one of the best remedies for insomnia. Take 1 cup of warm water mixed with 1 tea spoon of honey every night 1 1/2 hours before you go to bed.
Herbal baths: Boil pine cones or pine needles for 10 minutes. Add the extract to water in your b Snoring Remedies How to Sleep Insomnia Remedy Insomnia
Cocktail with almonds and pumpkin seeds: scientific researchers found that people suffering from insomnia have reduced levels of tryptophan in their blood. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which means your body can’t synthesize it and you have to get it from your diet. To increase tryptophan level in your blood, drink the following cocktail: take 20 raw almonds and 1 tea spoon of pumpkin seeds with no shells, grind everything, add 1 cup (240 ml) of cool boiled water and let it sit for 8 hours. Drink it every night before you go to bed.
Extract with Valerian root and hops: Mix 1 part Valerian root and 1 part hops. Take 1 table spoon of the mix, add 1 cup of boiling water and let it sit for 20 minutes. Drink 1/2 cup of the extract every night before you go to bed.
Curative wine: Take 50 g of dill seeds, add 0.5 L of port wine and boil it for 15 minutes on low heat. Let it sit for 1 hour. Drink 1/4 cup of the wine every night before you go to bed.
Motherwort (Leonurus Cardiaca): Take 2 tea spoons of motherwort herb, add 200 ml of cold water and leave it for 24 hours. Drink 1/2 cup of the extract 34 times a day.
Lemon balm (Melissa): Take 2 table spoons of melissa and add 2 cups of boiling water. Drink the whole amount during a day.
Herbal mix: Mix 20 g of Lemon balm (melissa) leaves, 30 g of motherwort herb and 30 g of Valerian root. Take 1 table spoon of the mix, add 300 ml of boiling water and let it sit for 2 hours. Drink 1/4 cup of the extract 3 times a day.
Milk and honey: Dissolve 1 table spoon of honey in 1 cup of very hot milk (the results will be especcially great, if you use real gout milk). Drink it every night before you go to bed.
Massage: Try to massage the tip of your left pinky finger.
Things that can help you sleep
Sure, you can try to take sleeping pills in order to sleep, but these pills come with their own host of complications including dependency and other health problems. Here are some things that you do to get yourself to sleep without resorting to a pill.
Stick to a sleep schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every single day. Even if you have a wild night out, do your best to get up at the same time you usually do to keep your schedule intact. This will help train your body and mind to sleep.
Develop a ritual: Every time you go to bed, try to follow the same routine. For example, have a light snack, listen to some music, drink something warm, watch half of Conan. Let your body know that it is soon time to settle down,
Do not overstay your bed time: Get out of bed once you are awake. Spending to omuch time in bed just relaxing and not sleeping might cause disruptive sleep in the future.
Lay off the heavy late night snacking: Eating a heavy meal at night can really interfere with your sleep. Instead east something light, preferably with tryptophan (milk, turkey) which can naturally induce sleep.
Limit the coffee, cigarettes and booze: Coffee and cigarettes are both stimulants that can end up keeping you up. Alcohol might knock you out, but it could also cause you to wake up too early. Alcohol can also make you snore which leads to a poor night’s rest for both you and your partner.
Lay off the fluids: Nothing can disturb your sleep more than a full bladder. Lay off the mental and physical activities: Do not get yourself all amped up before going to sleep.
Make your bedroom more sleep friendly: Keep your bedroom well ventilated and at a proper temperature. Also, keep it dark and free of the blinking lights of computers, fax machines and other equipment.
The bed is for sleeping: Do not watch television or read in your bedroom. Doing so may end up causing your brain to link your bedroom with other things than sleeping.
Wait until you feel tired: Do not go to bed if you are feeling restless. Go into another room and do something else (not too stimulating) until you feel tired then go to bed.
Light: your brain works better at creating the chemicals that induce sleep when it is dark. Keep the lights off and take the brightly lit things out of the bedroom.
Avoid napping: Napping after work will make you less sleepy at night.
Avoid clock watching: Looking at your alarm clock to see how much sleep you are not getting will only make it harder to sleep.
Exercise regularly: While it is unwise to get all amped up before bed, exercising early in the evening can make it easier to get to sleep.
Relax: Find ways to wind down before bed time. Take a bath, read a book, listen to some music.
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