Herbs and Herbal Therapies
Insomnia can be naturally relieved with herbal teas, infusions and baths.
Professional herbalists do not prescribe herbs simply to treat symptoms such as insomnia but aim to correct the imbalances within the body that cause those symptoms. For example, sedative herbs such as hops and valerian are used to relax the nervous system to that you enjoy natural, restorative sleep. Each herb contains a variety of active constituents and has a main action and several subsidiary actions which determine the conditions for which it is most appropriate.
Numerous plants have sedative action. Plants commonly prescribed as aids in promoting sleep include: passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), hops (Humulus lupulus), valerian (Valeriana officinalis), skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), and chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla).
How Much and When
Unless otherwise specified, for insomnia, take one or two cupfuls of an infusion or decoction in the evening about 30-60 minutes before bedtime. An additional cup can be taken in the night if you wake up. Where a remedy that will not make you drowsy is indicated for conditions associated with insomnia, you can take it three times a day.
Reduce the dosage of herbs taken by mouth by a quarter for children under five years old and by a half for children under twelve. Consult a professional herbalist and your doctor before administering any herbs to children.
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnate)
Passion flower is calming and sleep inducing, relieves pain, and muscular spasms. It is useful for the treatment of general insomnia, insomnia in asthmatics, hysteria, cramps, and nerve pain.
Passionflower was widely used by the Aztecs as a sedative and analgesic. Its constituents include harmine. Harmine was originally known as telepathine because of its peculiar ability to induce a contemplative state and mild euphoria. It was later used by the Germans in World War II as "truth serum." Harmine and related compounds can inhibit the breakdown of serotonin, therefore their use with 5-HTP would have an additive effect.
How to Use: Take 30--60 drops of tincture forty-five minutes before bed.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian is relaxing and sleep inducing, relieves spasms, calms the digestion, and lowers blood pressure. It is useful for severe insomnia and insomnia accompanied by pain, cramps, intestinal pain, wind, menstrual pain, tension, anxiety, and over-excitability.
Valerian can bring on a restful sleep without morning sleepiness or other side effects or dangers of addiction. Studies have shown that valerian has an extremely beneficial effect among poor or irregular sleepers (particularly women), and in people having difficulty falling asleep.
Valerian has been widely used in folk medicine as a sedative and antihypertensive. Clinical studies have substantiated valerian's ability to improve sleep quality and relieve insomnia. In one study, valerian showed a significant effect compared to the placebo, with forty-four percent reporting perfect sleep and eighty-nine percent reporting improved sleep. In another double-blind study of insomniacs, twenty subjects received either a combination of valerian root extract (160 mg) and Melissa officinalis extract (80 mg), benzodiazepine (triazolam 0.125 mg), or a placebo. In the insomniac group, the valerian/melissa preparation showed an effect comparable to that of the benzodiazepines, as well as an ability to increase deep-sleep stages 3 and 4. The valerian/melissa preparation did not, however, cause any daytime sleepiness, and there was no evidence of diminished concentration or impairment of physical performance.
How To Use: Brew valerian tea (recipe below.) or take about 20 drops of tincture in water at bedtime; experiment to find the dosage that suits you best.
Valerian, like any sleeping aid, acts as a central nervous system depressant and should not be used every night. Take the tea about forty-five minutes before bedtime.
Caution: Valerian does not suit every one. Can occasionally cause excitement. Do not exceed recommended dosage.
Jamaica Dogwood (Piscidia piscipula)
Jamaica dogwood is calming, eases pain and disturbing persistent thoughts
Jamaica dogwood is good for insomnia caused by nervous tension, pain, or menstrual pain.
Can take this herb orally (by mouth) or in a herbal bath.
Dosage: In decoction, can be combined with hops and valerian.
Caution: This is a powerful remedy; do not exceed the recommended dosage.
Hops (Humulus lupulus)
Hops is relaxing, sleep-inducing, and antiseptic.
It is good for general insomnia, especially tension or anxiety-related, or associated with restlessness, indigestion or headaches.
Hops can be mixed with chamomile in equal parts.
Use by mouth or in bath.
Caution: Do not take if depressed. Do not take during the first three months of pregnancy.
Californian Poppy (Eschscholtzia Californica)
Californian poppy is sleep-inducing, relieves pain, and quietens disturbed feelings.
It is good for menopausal insomnia, excitable ; and sleepless children, anxiety.
Dosage: In infusion or two to four ml of tincture or two capsules before bedtime.
Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
Chamomile is relaxing, eases digestion, relieves spasm, pain-relieving and antiseptic, helps to heal wounds.
Chamomile is a gentle remedy. It is good for anxiety, indigestion, inflammation, and catarrh.
Chamomile tea is a mild sedative. It can be mixed with hops in equal parts.
Can be taken orally (By mouth) or externally ( in bath).
Balm Balm calms the digestive system, lowers blood pressure, and relieves spasms.
It is useful for: anxiety, depression, digestive spasms, stress.
Can be taken by mouth or in bath.
Oats is an excellent nerve tonic, antidepressant, nourishing.
It is useful for: stress, exhaustion, depression, general illness or weakness, jet lag, and tranquillizer or sleeping pill withdrawal.
Can be taken by mouth (as porridge) or in a bath.
St John's wort (Hypericum perforatum)
St John's wort is sedative, pain-relieving, improves sleep quality.
It is useful for treating: depression, anxiety, tension, insomnia, and hypersomnia, emotional upset during the menopause.
Can be taken by mouth or in bath.
Caution: Prolonged use may increase sensitivity to sunlight. It also reacts with other medications like MAO inhibitors and anti-rejection medications.
Wild lettuce is relaxing and sleep- inducing, relieves pain and destructive feelings.
Wild lettuce is useful for: insomnia with restlessness and excitability. It is also good for overactive children, relieves muscular pains, painful periods, digestive cramps, and irritating coughs.
It can be taken either by mouth or in a bath.
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
Skullcap is relaxing, nerve tonic, spasms.
Good for: insomnia with nervous tension, pre-menstrual syndrome, exhaustion, depression, hysteria, stress.
Take by mouth or as part of a herbal bath.
Herbal baths are a pleasant way to use herbs for the alleviation of steeping difficulties. The relaxing and warming effect of the hot water enhances the sedative properties of the herbs. Herbal baths can be used with herbal infusions. Add a liter of strained herbal infusion or decoction (left to brew for 30 minutes) to your bath water or tie a handful of herbs in a muslin bag and hang it from the hot-water tap so that the water runs through it.
The heat of the water releases the fragrance and activates the properties of the herbs, while opening the pores of your skin. The inhaled scent passes through the nervous system to the brain, while the properties absorbed through the skin pass into the bloodstream. The result benefits for both mind and body.
Fill a muslin bag with chamomile, linden flowers, or lavender, and hang it from the faucet so that the hot water runs through it.
Massage with St. John's wort oil and herbal baths before retiring to calm and relax the body. Add lavender, fir needle, yarrow or valerian infusion to bath water.
Pour one liter (two pints) of boiling water over two handfuls of the dried root of valerian and leave it for twenty-five minutes. Strain liquid and add to bath. Take bathe before going to bed.
Half an hour before bedtime, drink a calming herbal tea made with:
chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum)
passionflower (Passiflora incamata)
Lime blossom tea with a pinch of skullcap
Lemon balm Tea
Lemon balm tea is extremely relaxing and induces sleep. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over one or two fresh leaves of the herb or 1 tsp. of dried leaves, which are not as effective. Steep for ten minutes and sip slowly just before bed.
Prepare valerian tea in the morning by adding 2 tsp. of valerian root to 2 cups of warm water. Let stand until the evening. Strain and warm. Add 1 tsp. of honey and drink 1 cup after dinner and 1 cup before going to bed.
Another Valerian Herbal Tea Recipe
Mix 2 tsp. each of valerian root, hops, lemon balm, lavender and camomile. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tsp. of this mixture and drink a cup in the morning and one in the evening.
Young Pine or Fir needle Tea
This is another useful tea for insomnia. Add 1 cup of boiling water to 1 tsp. of washed and chopped fir needles. Steep for two minutes, then strain and add 1 tsp. of honey and drink slowly.
To calm the nerves and promote sleep, make an infusion of any of the following herbs:
St. John's wort blossoms and leaves
Passion flower blossoms and leaves
Mix together equal parts of the following herbs:
Drink as an infusion when needed, using one ounce to a pint of boiling water. Steep for twenty minutes.