Can't Sleep? Some Natural Remedies & Herbs That May Help With Insomnia
Have you been having trouble sleeping lately? If so you are certainly not alone, insomnia is a major sleep problem these days. There's nothing worse than tossing and turning in bed all night, only to hear the alarm clock ringing once you've just managed to drop off to sleep! Or maybe you do manage to fall asleep at a reasonable time, only to wake a few hours later and not able to get back to sleep, leaving you feeling scatty and bleary eyed the following day. The amount of sleep a person needs a night varies, as everyone is different and need different amount of hours that enables them to wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and awake.
Some Causes of Insomnia
There are different causes of insomnia, sometimes it can be due to psychological problems such as stress or depression, as we all know how stressful life can be. Whatever the stress is caused by it has a major effect on our lives, causing muscles to tense and the brain to go into overdrive, making it much harder for you to relax, and therefore, fall asleep. It is crucial to get the necessary help if you are feeling depressed, or low, by talking to a Doctor or a family member or friend. The ' stresses' of your life need to be delved into and try to be eliminated or at least look at ways of simplifying the problems, as it is important to look after yourself, and long term stress is certainly not beneficial to your health or well being.
Insomnia can also be caused by medical problems, such as chronic pain, Parkinson's disease and asthma. If this is the case then it is crucial you seek the relevant medical advice from a certified Doctor, as prescribed medication may be needed. But certain medications can also have an effect on your sleeping pattern, such as pain killers that contain caffeine, some anti-depressants and also diuretics, and many more. So if you have recently been prescribed medication and have suddenly started having trouble sleeping, have a look at the side effects or talk to a Doctor regarding this matter.
Insomnia can also be caused simply by diet, such as too much caffeine in your diet, drinking coffee too late in the day, a lack of vitamins and minerals, or drinking and smoking before bed. Also acid reflux can be a cause of disruptive sleep, and this is mainly caused by diet, such as too much alcohol, greasy foods, caffeine and smoking.
All of these things should be considered if you suffer from insomnia, as it is more beneficial to sort out the cause of your lack of sleep rather than just swallow a couple of sleeping pills that will knock you out, but also leave you with the 'hungover' effect the next morning. Some sleeping pills can also be addictive, so if this is your only option then they should ideally only be taken for the shortest amount of time possible.
If, like me, you would rather steer clear of prescribed sleeping pills, than here are some natural remedies that may help you sleep:
1. Valerian Root- (Valeriana officinalis) - this herb has been used for hundreds of years in China, India and Europe to treat insomnia. It's found on dry heath land and on high pastures in the wild, and flowers in late spring. It is usually the roots which are used for medicinal purposes. These are normally harvested in September and then dried ready to be used. Other names for Valerian Root include Vandal Root, Set Well, Sets Wale, St. George's Herb, Red Valerian, Phu, Garden Heliotrope, Fragrant Valerian, English Valerian, Cat's Valerian, Capon's Trailer, Bloody Butcher, Amantilla and All-Heal. It is not quite understood how valerian works, but some studies may suggest it has something to do with the effect that it has on GABA, which is a calming neurotransmitter to the brain. This has a similar effect to sleeping pills, but unlike conventional sleeping pills Valerian Root doesn't give you that 'hungover' feeling the following morning. It is non addictive, non toxic, and a powerful natural sedative said to not only promote sleep, but also improve the quality of sleep. It is said to be particularly useful to those suffering from insomnia caused by anxiety and stress, as it works to calm the central nervous system and relaxes muscles. It is also said to be helpful in eliviating symptoms such as spasms, pain, cramps, menstrual pain, wind, tension and over excitabilty. It's also been reported to help with calming the digestion system, and lowering blood pressure. Valerian Root is a slow working remedy, usually taking around 2-4 weeks of continuous use to fully appreciate the full benefits, and it's advised not to take a course of Valerian Root for more than 3 months. But, like anything, it is not guarenteed to work for everyone. Experts warn that people taking sedatives, antihistamines, or any other medication that depresses the nervous system should consult a Doctor before taking Valerian Root. Studies have shown that Valerian Root can also have a delayed stimulant effect on a small percentage of people, especially women, depending on body chemistry. If this is the case you may find that you will have a calming effect initially, only to have a rush of energy a few hours later. Some professional herbalists suggest that using fresh Valerian Root instead of dried can eliminate this problem. But Kavaand Hops are god alternatives to use for insomnia if you find using Valerian Root a problem. It's also advised to start with small doses and work your way up to larger doses if no problems arise. Other side effects may include mild indigestion, headaches, palpatations and dizziness. It shouldn't be taken with alcohol, before or after surgery, before driving or while operating machinery. And if you suffer with liver disease or are a pregnant or nursing mother it is always advisable to consult a Doctor first. Not suitable for children.
Ways Valerian Root Can Be Used:
You can brew Valerian Tea using fresh or dried herb. Take a either 2 teaspoons of dried herb, or 1 teaspoon of fresh, add a cup of hot water, let it steep for around 15 minutes, strain and sip before bed. It is possible to buy Valerian Root teabags too for less fuss.
You can also get it in tincture form and you can add around 20 drops of tincture to a cup of warm water and drink around 45 minutes before bedtime.
Valerian does have quite a pungent flavour and taste though, and is more favoured taken in capsule form. Usual recommended dosage is 1-2 450mg capsules about an hour or 2 before bed. The capsules can also be opened up to use the dried powder as a tea. You can get them from most health food stores and online. Always follow manufacturers directions.
2. Melatonin- (N-acetyl-5-methotryptamine) - this is a natural hormone found in the body. Melatonin is converted from Serotonin, which is a natural hormone made by a pea sized organ called the pineal gland in the brain. When light decreases Serotonin is turned into Melatonin, which is the hormone essential for a good night's sleep. Even though the pineal gland is capable of producing Melatonin throughout our lives, some research suggests that Melatonin production slows down as we age. This may be why sometimes youngsters find it easier to sleep than older people. It is said to be useful in helping people regain a sleeping pattern, and has been used for treating many sleep disorders withmuch success. Good for delayed sleep-phase disorders, and jet-lag related insomnia, and it's also a great antioxidant. Dosage varies from person to person so it is advised to start with a low dose of approximately 1 mg, taken around 30 minutes before bed, and increase up to 3 mg if necessary. Taking over 3 mg a day can increase your risk of unwanted side effects such as headaches, nausea, grogginess, irritabilty, hormone fluctuations, vivid dreams or nightmares, or reduced blood flow. Like Valerian Root it is advised to take in short intervals of 3 monthat a time. There is a lack of research concerning it's interaction withother medication, but it is suggested that it should not be used by people with an auto-immune disease, diabetes, a depressive disorder, epilepsy, leukemia, or a lymphoproliferative disorder, or if you are taking a MAO inhibitor. It is also for adult use only, Melatonin is not suitable for children or teenagers or pregnant or nursing mothers. Take note that it does not have to be approved by the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) since Melatonin is found naturally in some foods, and therefore it's safety cannot be guarenteed.
Ways Melatonin Can Be Used:
Melatonin comes in dietry supplements in tablet form, and dosages will vary, so always read and follow the manufacturers directions.
It is said that high levels of Melatonin are found in bananas and grapes, rice and cereals, herbs, olive oil, wine and beer, so maybe you could try including these foods into your daily diet to increase your levels of Melatonin (maybe not so much of the wine and beer though!).
It is also available in liquid form and even transdermal patches.
3. Kava- (Piper methysticum) - this is a fantastic anti-anxiety herb that has been used for many years to treat anxiety and stress related insomnia. Kava is a tropical tribal remedy used also for nervousness in general because of its compounds called kavalactones, found in the root of the plant, which depress the central nervous system and are muscle relaxants. It can be found in Samoa and Tonga, and most of Melanesia, including Fiji. It is also found in Pohnpei Island in Micronesia, where it is often used to mark celebrations, the same way alcohol is used in the West. Unlike alcohol Kava doesn't promote aggression or a hangover or grogginess the following day. It is a potent sedative and quick acting. In small doses Kava can eleviate your mood and energy, and taken in larger quantities it will act as a strong natural sedative. It is calming for the nerves, creates a feeling of general well-being, and enhances concentration and mental alertness. It has also been reported to eleviate back pain. It is thought to be non addictive, but an advisory has been issued by the FDA about a potential risk of liver damage after taking large doses of Kava, although it has been argued that this was due to some manufacturers using the top of the Kava plant which is poisinous, instead of the root, which is not, and that Kava Root has been used safely for years. So it's important to get your Kava from a trusted source.
Ways Kava Root Can Be Used:
Kava can be bought in many forms including capsules, tinctures, sprays, tea, and just as a loose dried herb. Kava is naturally bitter in taste, so capsules and tablets seem to be the prefered choice of consuming this herb. A dosage of around 150-200 mgs taken approximately 20-30 minutes before bedtime should promote a restful sleep. But follow manufacturers directions as they all come in different dosages.
You can make Kava Tea by dissolving 1-2 teaspoons of Kava Powder into hot water, cover and let it steep for around 10 minutes, strain and sip before bedtime.
Kava Tincture is available that you can use in water, milk or tea, but it's not to everyone's taste, so people tend to stick to the tea or capsules.
You can even get Kava spray, which is available from some health food online shops. It is generally used as a quick convenient method of anxiety relief. 1-2 sprays under the tongue eleviate stressful moments and calms the mind.
4. Chamomile- (Matricaria Camomilla) - This is a common flowering plant that originates from various parts of central and Southern Europe. It is now widely cultivated in USA, Argentina, Australia, Egypt, and Northern Africa. It has been used for centuries as a popular drink before bedtime with mild sedative properties. It is good for insomnia caused by anxiety or stress, mild insomnia, or transient insomnia. The chemical that is found in Chamomile is a flavonoid component called Chrysin, and it is this that contributes to relieving stress, promoting sleep, and restoring the balance of the central nervous system. It also eases digestion, relieves spasms, inflammation, catarrh, nightmares, and it's a pain relieving antiseptic which is very beneficial to healing wounds. Unlike some herbal remedies, Chamomile doesn't have to be taken for a substantial amount of time to see results, it is quick acting and can be used when needed. It is also safe for children and adults, and no side effects have been reported.
Ways Chamomile Can Be Used:
Chamomile can be used as a tea, a tincture, a sachet under your pillow, in your bath or as an essential oil.
Chamomile Tea is very popular as it tastes lovely and is very effective at relaxing the body and mind. Tea is made from the dried flowers and leaves of the plant, and is most effective when drunk 30-45 minutes before bed. You can make Chamomile Tea by bringing 1 cup of water to the boil in a small saucepan, take 1 teaspoon of dried Chamomile flowers and add it to the water, boil for 30-45 seconds with the lid on. Remove the tea from the heat and allow to steep for another minute or so. Strain and drink. Can be served with honey and lemon juice if prefered, or for an extra calming effect a few leaves of Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) can be added instead. The relaxing effects usually take effect within half an hour of drinking. Chamomile teabags are readily available from most health food stores and supermarkets if you would prefer.
Having a sachet full of Chamomile underneath your pillow can help to promote sleep, as the flower is widely used in aromatherapy as a calming and soothing fragrance. These are easily made. All you need is a hanky, dried Chamomile flowers, leaves and stems, a needle and thread or an elastic band.Fold the hanky in half, either sew around the edges, leaving a pocket for you to fill with the dried flowers, and then sew the remaining edge. Or you can just fill the hanky with the dried flowers, secure with an elastic band, and pop underneath your pillow. Either way will be just as effective.
Take a warm relaxing bath and add some Chamomile Oil or bath lotion for a way to unwind and ease the tension in your muscles. Or you can apply Chamomile oil or products to your skin, or even just dab on a tissue and inhale.
Get some Chamomile Oil and an oil burner, which you can pick up relatively cheaply, and burn a few drops of oil to create a relaxing atmosphere.
Chamomile tincture can be used in warm milk or warm water too for the same effects.
5. Lavender- (Lavandula) - another flowering herb that is now commonly grown in gardens around the world, it has been popular for helping insomnia throughout the ages. Indigenous to mountainous regions of the western Mediterranean, it is thought to have been first domesticated by the Arabians, and then bought over to Europe by the Romans at a later date. It is then believed to have been bought to North America by the pilgrims, and it was possibly one of the first garden plants imported to Australia in the 19th century. Lavender is used to depress the central nervous system similar to that of conventional sedatives. It has been shown to be a very effective sleep aid that relaxed the muscles. The only side effect reported has been that of allergic contact dermatitis when Lavender has been used topically. If you are choosing to use Lavender externally, it would be beneficial to do a small spot test first on a small patch of skin, and see if you have any reactions within 24 hours. Also note that some Lavenders, such as Spanish Lavender, have an energising effect, so this should be avoided when using Lavender to induce sleep. Lavender is also safe to use with children as a relaxing aid.
Ways Lavender Can Be Used:
Lavender Essential Oil is fantastic for topical use. It can be rubbed over your skin to relax muscles, added to a tissue and inhaled, added to a bath for relaxation, dispersed in a vapouriser, or used in an oil burner to give off a sweet spicy floral aroma. You can also rub Lavender Essential Oil into your feet, as the feet absorb the liquid quickly and it's an effective efficient method for quick results.
You can make Lavender Tea which tastes really nice, using either fresh or dried flowers. Put 1 teaspoon of fresh Lavender flowers or 1/2 teaspoon of dried Lavender flowers, and 1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons of fresh mint leaves or 2 teaspoons of dried mint (optional), into a saucepan. Pour over a cup of boiling water and let it steep for 5 minutes. Strain and enjoy. Rosemary, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena or Rose geranium can all be added if you want an extra kick. Honey can also be added to taste if you prefer. Can drink to suit, ideally before bedtime.
Following the same principles as the Chamomile Sachet, a Lavender Sachet for underneath your pillow can be created the same way, except using dried lavender flowers and leaves, and add a sprinkle of Lavender essential oil before you seal the sachet. Place under your pillow for a soothing aroma to help you sleep.
6. Passion Flower- (Passiflora Incarnata) - good for relaxing the nerves and helping to induce sleep, it was thought to have been used by the Aztecs as a sedative. It is found in the southeast of the U.S. and Argentina and Brazil, and it grows on the same vine that produces the Passion fruit. It has been used throughout history as a sleeping aid, as well as other things, such as a substitute tobacco! Other names for the Passion flower are Apricot Vine, Passion Vine, Grandilla, Maracoc and Maypops. It works by slowing down the breakdown of serotonin and norepinephrine which enables you to have a more peaceful and relaxed state of mind. Passion Flower is full of a flavonoid component called Chrysin ( the same as Chamomile), and this is a chemical that is linked to relieving stress and promoting sleep. Another compound of Passion Flower is Harmine, which was origionally known as telepathine, which was known for inducing a mild euphoria. It is also an anti-spasmodic, giving relief to muscles, cramps and spasms. Therefore it is useful for people suffering from insomnia due to stress, anxiety, asthma, hysteria, cramps and nerve pain. It is also said to be good for the digestive system. No side effects have been reported, it's non-addictive and can be used by both children and adults. It also won't cause any grogginess, or the 'hangover' effect the following morning. When used for medicinal purposes the whole plant is usually used, normally harvested after some berries have ripened, and then dried.
Ways Passion Flower Can Be Used:
Again, Passion Flower is available in several forms, including tablets, dried flower, oil, tincture and tea.
To make Passion Flower tea simply pour a cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried Passion Flower and let it steep or infuse for 15mins. Strain and drink around 30 mins before bedtime. Teabags are also available.
Or if you prefer, 30-60 drops of tincture can be mixed into a glass of warm water or juice and consumed before bed.
You can also get Passion Flower oil which could be used in an oil burner to give off a lovely aroma, or can be added to a hot bath as an effective muscle relaxant.
7. St John's Wort- (Hypericum Perforatum) - This herb works more as an anti-depressant, but can still be effective in helping you get a good night's sleep. A plant with yellow flowers, it is usually found in Europe, North Ameriaca and Asia. It has been used for centuries to help calm nerves and promote relaxation, amongst other things. Active compounds of St John's Wort include hypericin and pseudohypericin, which are both thought to hold anti deppressive and antiviral properties. Hypericin also enhances Serotonin and norepinephrine, which are neurotransmitters in the brain crucial to help us sleep well. It's thought to be effective in treating depression, anxiety, dysthymia (variability in mood), nerve pain, spasms and sleep disturbances. Used externally on the skin, it is thought to help with arthritis, burns and ulcers. It can take time to take effect though, expect to use it for at least a month before you see any improvements. There are many medications that St John's Wort can interfere with, including ciclosporin, warfarin and tacrolimus, and many more. St John's Wort should not be used in conjunction with any other anti depressant. A Doctor should be consulted before taking this herb if you are on any other medication. St John's Wort can also make the contraceptive pill ineffective so other precautions would have to be taken. Research has shown that prolonged use can also make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, and if you find this to be the case, dicontinue use or wear extra sun block to counter act this problem. It's been advised that pregnant or nursing mothers should not take this herb due to the lack of research on the effects of the baby. Even though St John's Wort has been used safely for many years, mild side effects may occur, including a dry mouth, nausea, headache, constipation, dizziness, or light sensitive skin. If you experience any side effects then stop taking St John's Wort and see your Doctor.
Ways St John's Wort Can Be Used:
St John's Wort comes in tablet or capsule form, tincture, tea and oil or lotion.
The recommended dosage of tablets or pills is 300mg 3 x daily with meals, but follow the manufacturers instructions as all herbs come in different dosages.
For St John's Wort tea you need to pour a cup of boiling water over 1-2 teaspons of the dried herb, infuse for 10-15 minutes, strain and drink up to 3 times a day.
Or you can take 1-4 mls of tincture 3 time a day in water or juice.
Can also be used in the bath or as a lotion on the skin, using essential oil.
8. Orange Oil- (Citrus Sinensis) - Although Orange is normally known for its energising and envigorating effects, it has also been known to soothe the mind and help you sleep! Native to China, the trees are now widely cultivated in America. Insomnia is more often than not caused by stress related problems, and Orange has a calming effect on the mind, body and soul, enabling you to relax and feel at ease. It is used as a mild sedative, as well as being effective as an anti depressant, anti spasmodic, anti inflammatory and an antiseptic. It is also very beneficial to the immune and digestive systems. Orange Oil is safe to use with children as it is non toxic and non irritatant. The only precaution to take with Orange Oil is if you apply it externally take care staying in the sun for a long period of time due to it's phototoxic effect.
Ways Orange Oil Can Be Used:
Orange Oil can be burnt in an oil burner or used in a vapouriser for a wonderful sweet smelling aroma that will help to calm nerves and ease stress.
Orange Oil can be used in a bath or as a massage oil, which will again, help greatly in relaxing your mind, and it will also eliminate toxins from your body.
Orange Tea can be made easily by adding the juice of 2 oranges to a cup of hot water and drinkin around 45 minutes before bed.
9. Jiaogulan- (Gynostemma Pentaphyllum) - another herb that is good for calming the central nervous system and helping improve sleep quality. Its Latin name is Gynostemma Pentaphyllum and it belongs to the cucumber family. It has been used as a "cure all" herb for centuries by the Chinese, traditionally being grown in the mountainous region of South Central China, as well as Southern Korea and Japan, where it is also referred to as "Southern Ginseng". Other names for it include Immortal Grass, Poor Man's Ginseng, Miracle Grass, Fairy Herb and Gospel Herb. It is still commonly used in China, and around the world, to treat insomnia, as it is good for nervousness, jet lag, and helps balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves, acting as an adjuster for the central nervous system; calming the brain when it's irritated and uplifting it when it's depressed. It is non addictive and said to have very powerful adaptogenic and antioxident effects on the body that increase longevity. Many vitamins, minerals and amino acids that are essential for good sleep are found in Jiaogulan including selenium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, potassium, calcium and zinc, and many more. It is also reported to increase sexual vigour and improve endurance, regulate blood pressure, lower cholesterol and has been used to treat bronchitis. It is not recommended to be used by pregnant or breast feeding women, or by people taking medications such as Azathioprine, Cyclosporine or Rapamune. The only side effects that have been reported while using Jiaogulan are nausea and an increased number of bowel movements.
Ways Jiaogulan Can Be Used:
Jiaogulan can be used as a herbal tea, pills and capsules, and it even comes available in a food bar.
To make a Jiaogulan Tea you need 1 teaspoon of fresh leaf, or 2 teaspoons of dried herb, pour over a cup of boiling water and let it infuse for 3-5 minutes. Strain and enjoy, ideally before bedtime. Jiaogulan has a sweet, delicate flavour and the tea is enjoyed chilled as well as warm. Also available in ready made tea bags for less effort.
For a decotion you need to boil the leaves for 1-3 minutes (pure distilled water is better for taste as the chemicals in tap water can react with the herbs and change the taste), remove from the heat, cover the pot or you can transfer the mixture into an insulated thermos or flask, with the leaves, and enjoy throughout the day.
if you prefer to take capsules or tablets then you could take between 30-150 mg a day. Or another alternative is to use the dried herb to cook with.
10. Skullcap- (Scutellaria Lateriflora) - Origionally found in North America it can now be found throughout the U.S. and Southern Canada. It is normally found growing in wet ditches, thickets and dense wooded areas. The blue flowers of the Skullcap bloom between May and August, and this is the time to collect the flowers, stems and leaves (anything above the ground) to dry and use. Another name for Skullcap is 'mad dog', as it was once used as a treatment for rabies. It was believed to have been popular among the Cherokee and other Native American tribes. It is still very widely used today as a successful treatment of insomnia, especially sleep deprevation that is caused by nervousness, muscle spasms, menstrual cramps, pre menstrual syndrome, hysteria, and stress. It is also an anti-spasmodic, and is said to be good for treating epilepsy, neuralgia, nervous headaches, Parkinson's disease, and ADD. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can help to lower a high blood pressure. It can also be used with other herbs including passion flower, oats, St John's wort, valerian, kava and chamomile. It is NOT suitable for pregnant women as research has shown that it can induce a miscarriage. Overdosing on Skullcap can cause some unwanted side effects such as nausea, giddiness and confusion. It is not suitable for children either as not enough research has been done.
Ways Skullcap Can Be Used:
Skullcap comes in essential oil, tea, tincture or liquid extract.
To make Skullcap tea take 1-2 teaspoon of the dried herb, pour over a cup of boiling water, let it steep for around 10 minutes, strain and drink before bed. Can be sweetened with honey to taste. Only drink 2-3 cups a day. Teabags are also available.
To use the tincture or liquid extract you can add 1/2-1 teaspoon (2-4 ml) to a cup of warm water and drink before bed.
Or you can take 500 mg of capsules twice a day as a supplement.
You could also try making a Skullcap sachet using the leaves and put it under your pillow to help you sleep. It would be made the same way as the lavender and chamomile sachets.
11. Lemon Balm- (Melissa Officinalis) - this herb is part of the mint family and originates from Northern Africa, Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, although it can now be found around the world. It is normally the leaves of the Lemon Balm plant that are dried and used for medicinal purposes, and they have a lovely lemony scent. The chemicals found in the leaves include tannin, terpenes and eugenol, which all contribute to its relaxing effects. Lemon Balm has been used since the middle ages as a sedative and an antispasmodic. It is good for calming nerves and reducing anxiety and stress, as well as soothing muscles. It is also said to help with improving appetite, healing wounds and it is used as a cream to treat cold sores, as it is an antiviral. There have also benn studies done that have shown Lemon Balm to be effective in decreasing agitation in people suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Lemon Balm is normally used in conjunction with other calming herbs such as valerian, chamomile and hops to promote sleep. It is thought to be avoided by people on thyroid medication, such as thyroxine, and it is not suitable for pregnant or nursing women, but it is sfe to use with children.
Ways Lemon Balm Can Be Used:
Lemon Balm is available in the form of capsules and pills, essential oil, topical cream, tea, tincture and extract.
For a good night's sleep you could take 300-500 mg of capsules, or dried herb, 3 times a day.
To make Lemon Balm tea you need either 1 teaspoon of dried herb, or 2 teaspoons of fresh Lemon Balm leaves, pour over a cup of boiling water, let it steep for 10 minutes and then strain. Drink up to 4 cups a day. Lemon Balm teabags are also available.
2-3 ml of Lemon Balm tincture or liquid extract can be added to a glass of warm water as an alternative.
Can also be used as an essential oil, in a hot bath or mixed with a carrier oil and massaged into the skin.
Lemon Balm pillow sachets can also be made using fresh leaves, following the same instructions as the lavender and chamomile sachets.
12. California Poppy - (Eschscholtzia Californica) - cousin to the Opium Poppy, it is said to have effects of a mild version of morphine, although it doesn't contain the narcotic form like the Opium Poppy. Therefore the California Poppy is not addictive like the Opium form, and is very safe to use. It is found throughout western America, and the colours range from yellow to orange. The California Poppy flowers between February and September, and is easily grown in gardens. It is California's official flower and they hold an annual California Poppy Day on April 6th, so this plant is help in high regards, it has been used by Native Americans for years. It is the compound protopine that is found in the plant that is helpful in promoting sleep, and easing anxiety,nervousness,and pain, as well as improving the quality of your sleep. It can stabalize your mental state and has tranquilising properties. It is often combined with other herbs such as hawthorne, magnesium, kava, lavender, valerian, St John's wort and passion flower. It is non addictive and is even safe to use with children. Even though there are no known side effects, it is not suitable for pregnant or nursing women. It is advised not to use before driving or operating machinery.
Ways California Poppy Can Be Used:
California Poppy tea can be made by mixing 1 - 2 teaspoons of dried herb with 1 cup of boiling water, infuse for 10 minutes, strain and drink before bed. Sweeten with honey if necessary.
You can mix between 1-4 ml of tincture to a cup of warm water as an alternative. This seems to be more popular than the tea as it is stronger and more effective.
The recommended daily dose in supplement form is between 500-2000 mg, but you should always follow the maufacturers guidelines.
The dried herb as even been known to be rolled up in a cigarette and smoked as a relaxing alternaitve.
13. Hops - (Humulus Lupulus) - this is a fruit (or strobiles) that is a member of the cannabis family, and was originally found in Europe, Asia and North America. The strobiles are most commonly dried and used in tea, although it can be difficult to find good quality dried hops as the acive ingredients break down rapidly, which is probably why extracts are more popular. Hops have been used for centuries to help those suffering from insomnia, mainly due to a compund found within it called lupulin, which is known as a strong but safe sedative. It is most beneficial to those with insomnia due to stress and anxiety, muscle tension, headaches and indegestion, as it has a depresive effect on the central nervous system. Because of this it is advised not to use if you are prone to suffering from depression. It can be used as a good alternative for women who have had problems with taking valerian, but it can also be paired with valerian, chamomile or lavender. Hops has its other uses such as being the main ingredient in beer and also an antiseptic. It should not be used by pregnant or nursing women although it is said to be safe for children.
Ways Hops Can Be Used:
Hops can be found in the form of dried strobiles, tea, tinctures, extracts and capsules.
To make a tea take 1-2 teaspoons of dried hop strobiles, add 1 cup of boiling water, cover and steep for 15 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey and lemon if desired.
Hops has quite a bitter taste which is why most people prefer the tincture or extract. Take 1/2 a teaspoon of liquid extract or tincture and mix it with a small amount of warm water. Drink before bed.
If you prefer to take herbal supplements you could try taking between 300-600 mg a few hours before bed.
You could also make a hops sleeping pillow following the same instructions as the lavender and chamomile sachets mentioned above. Lavender and chamomile could also be added for an extra kick, adding a sprinkle of essential oil or alcohol over the mixture before closing to release the aromas.
14. Wild Lettuce - (Lactuca Virosa) - related to the common lettuce, wild lettuce is commonley used for its hypnotic and sedative properties which have been described to be similar to that of opium, although the two are not related. Other names for it include Opium Lettuce, Poisinous Lettuce, Bitter Lettuce, Laitue Lettuce and Rakutu-Karyumu-So. It is commonly found in the South and South East of Great Britain, as well as North America and Europe. It was normally smoked by Native Americans to induce a tranquil state of mind. Wild Lettuce contains a chemical called lactucarine, which is known for encouraging relaxation and sleep, and some people have reported vivid dreams after use. It is helpful for insomnia that is related to anxiety, muscle or joint pain, headaches, or cramps. Research has shown its effectiveness for those suffering with restless leg syndrome. It is non addictive and an antioxidant. It is said to be useful in the treatment for hyperactive children. It is advised not to take Wild Lettuce before driving or operating machinery in case of drowsiness. It is also advised not to take while pregant or nursing because of the lack of research.
Ways Wild Lettuce Can Be Used:
To make Wild Lettuce tea you can either use fresh leaves or dried herbs, 1-2 teaspoons, add a cup of boiling water, steep for 10-15 minutes and drink, up to 3 times a day.
You could take 2-4 ml of tincture mixed in warm water up to 3 times a day as an alternative.
Wild Lettuce leaves can be added to meals, although they are more bitter than conventional salad leaves.
In supplement form it is usual to take approximately 600mg 2-3 times a day, at mealtimes with water.
Lettuce juice mixed with a little lemon juice is an effective sleep inducing drink.
To make a resin to smoke, take 1 ounce of wild lettuce leaves and simmer for up to 8 hours, stirring often. Remove from heat and sift and squeeque water out of the leaves. Put the dark liquid in a pan and allow to evaporate. Yopu could place the pan of resin into a bigger pan of boiling water to avoid burning it. You will be left with a gummy resin which can be smoked to induce relaxation and sleep. If this is too time consuming you could also try smoking the dried leaves, but this is less effective than the resin.
15. Rauwolfia - (Rauwolfia Serpentina) - this herb has been used for centuries for it's strong hypnotic roperties, and also for the treatment of insanity, and insect bite and stings. It is sometimes known as Sarpagandha or Serpent Wood, and it belongs to the Apocynacea family, generally found growing in tropical regions of the world. It is a powerful sedative due to an alkaloid substance which is found in the herb called resperine. It is commonly used to treat insomnia, nervousness and hypertension, fevers, and can help to reduce a high blood pressure. It can also be beneficial to those unable to sleep due to phlemg or gout. It is usually the root of the plant that is used for medicinal purposes, but they have a very bitter taste so they are more popular in tablet form. Rauwolfia Serpentina is sometimes combined with Licorice, Gotu Kola, Brahmi or Jatamamsi, for extra effect on calming the nerves. It is not advised to take while pregnant or nursing, and is also said to be unsuitable for people suffering from asthma, depression, or ulcers. If you take too much Rauwolfia it may result in some common side effects such as nausea or diarrhea. If this is the case then discontinue use. It is advisable to consult a doctor before taking this herb due to it's potential toxicity in large doses. It is not suitable for children.
Ways Rauwolfia Can Be Used:
If you choose to take the herb as a dried supplement, you can mix it with honey or milk to drink before bed, or make it into tea using 1-2 teaspoons mixed in cup of boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. There is no recommended daily dosage to follow, but it is thought between 500-1000mg should do the trick.
For the tincture you could start off taking between 2-12 drops 3 times a day, and increase the dosage if needed.
Capsules are also available for any easier form of supplementation, and all dosages and guildlines will be different, so follow the manufacturers instructions.
16. Jatamansi - (Nardostachys Jatamansi) - also sometimes known by Muskroot or Indian Spikenard, Jatamansi is part of the valerianaceae family and has been used for centuries in Indian (Ayurvedic) and ancient Greco-Arab (Unani) systems of medicine. It can be found growing naturally in the Alpine Himilayas and northern parts of India and Nepal, and is a very useful herb that is in danger of extinction. It is known for the ability to calm the mind while also increasing awareness, as it is a powerful sedative but doesn't dull the mind like some herbs such as valerian. It is also good for treatment of tension headaches, stress, restlessnous and anxiety. Jatamansi helps maintain healthy heart function, and can also be used to regulate papitations. It is also known to be an antispasmodic, which bodes well forn those suffering from cramp related insomnia, or muscle tension, or it could even help with such ailments as epilepsy and convulsions. Not advisable to use if you Jatamansi if you are a pregnant or nursing woman, or taking any antihypertensive or antidepressant medication. It is thought to be safe to use with children in small doses, as over dosing can cause nausea, colic or urinary problems.
Ways Jatamansi Can Be Used:
Jatamansi can be used as a very effective essential aromatic oil, or as a dried herb in cooking or tea, or in capsule form.
For Jatamansi tea take 1-2 teaspoons of dried herb and pour over a cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes and enjoy. Teabags are also available.
You could use the essential oil in the bath, in an oil burner, or mix it with an organic carrier to make a relaxing massage oil.
Taking between 300-600 mg of Jatamansi capsules or dried herb 3 times a day should be enough to induce sleep, but follow the manufacturers instructions.
17. Brahmi - (Bacopa Monniera) - This is another herb used in the Ayurvedic system that has been used for centuries in India. It is not to be confused with Gota Kola though, as this is also called Brahmi in North India. Brahmi is traditionally found in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, China and Taiwan, and has been used for many years to treat insomnia and anxiety, and promote relaxation. It is a mild sedative that soothes the central nervous system, but it increases mental clarity and awareness at the same time. This herb is gentle enough to use on children, they have been using it on infants in India for many years with no adverse side effects. It is also said to be good for treating memory loss, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy and ADHD. Brahmi is also said to increase intelligence and decrease ageing due to its protein activity and synthesis in brain cells.
Ways Brahmi Can Be Used:
Brahmi can be used in the form of tea, capsules, tincture and oil.
You could mix 1-2 teaspoons of Brahmi dried herb with a cup of boiled water and let it infuse for 10 minutes, strain or sieve and then drink. Or you can buy Brahmi teabags for more convenience. You could try mixing it with milk or juice too if you prefer. Can be drank throughout the day, and around 2-6 grams a day should be enough to help you get a good night's sleep.
You can also take the around 2-6 mls of the tincture in milk, juice or water too. Again it can be enjoyed throughout the day.
You could try rubbing Brahmi oil into your scalp or on the soles of your feet as an effective way to help you relax. Or it can be used in a nice hot bath, or in an oil burner.
Capsule form is also available and the manufacturers gudelines should be followed, although there is no recommended dosage of Brahmi as there are no side effects reported.
18. Catnip Leaf - (Nepeta Cataria) - This herb originates from Europe, and is part of the mint family, also sometimes known as Catmint. The active compound of Catnip Leaf is nepetalactone, and it is used as a sedative, an antispasmodic and for anxiety. While the flower is in full bloom, the flowers, leaves and stem are cut and then dried for medicinal purposes. It is grown easily as a houseplant and can be used safely by both adults and children. As well as being used traditionally as treatment for anxiety and insomnia, it has also been used to treat upset stomachs, indigestion, colnic, colds and flu, diarrhea and decongestion. Catnip Leaf is a great source of antioxidants and flavonoids, as well as Vitamin C and E. Catnip should be avoided while pragnant due to it's ability to induce menstruation. Also if you suffer from epilepsy, liver or kidney damage, or cancer, see a doctor before consuming, although no serious side effects have been reported up to date. This herb can also be used in conjunction with other herbs such as Chamomile or Lavender.
Ways Catnip Leaf Can Be Used:
Catnip Leaf is available in various forms, such as dried, tea, oil, capsules and tincture.
To make Catnip Tea take either 2 teaspoons of dried herb, or 1 teaspoon of fresh leaves, and pour over a cup of boiling water. Let it steep for around 10-15 minutes, strain and sweeten with honey and lemon if necessary, as Catnip does have quite a pungent taste and smell. Also available in ready made teabags for convenience. Drink 2-3 cups a day to help induce sleep.
Catnip tincture is also readily available and can be used 3 times a day mixed in warm water, milk or juice. The usual dosage is between 2 and 6 mls.
Up to 600 mg of Catnip Leaf capsules 3 times a day should be sufficient enough to help you relax and dose off.
Catnip essential oil is also available to use as a massage oil on the body, in a hot bath before bed, or in an oil burner to release a soothing aroma.
19. Jamaican Dog - (Piscidia Piscipula) - This is a tree that can grow up to 50 feet high, and it can be found in the Caribbean, and central and South America. The bark of the root is the part that is used for medicinal purposes, and there is a compound present within this bark called tannin, which is helpful for healthy sleep. Jamaican Dogwood is used as a natural remedy for insomnia, anxiety, and muscle spasms. It is also useful for any nerve pains, such as toothache, as it has a sedative effect on the central nervous system. Due to the antispasmodic properties it is also positively used for menstrual pains and cramps, and back pain. Good for insomniac's deprived of sleep due to nervous tension, menstrual pain or tension headaches. This herb can also be used in conjunction with Valerian root and hops for a more powerful sedative effect. Jamaican Dogwood is not suitable for nursing or pregnant women, or if you suffer from heart disease. Also not suitable to use on children as not enough research has been carried out relating to this matter. Unwanted side effects of Jamaican Dogwood could include numbness, tremors, salivation and perspiration.
Ways Jamaica Dogwood Can Be Used:
To make Jamaican Dogwood tea you need 1-2 teaspoons of the dried root and mixed in with a cup of boiling water, and leave it to steep for approximately 15 minutes. It can then be strained and taken before bed. Jamaican Dogwood is extremely bitter in taste though, so some prefer to take the tincture in small amount of water.
To take Jamaican Wood tincture or liquid extract, mix 2-8 mls daily in water, milk or juice. It can be broken up into 3 ndrinks, morning, afternoon and nighttime, if you prefer.
Essential oil is also available for the choice of massaging, burning or using in a hot bath.
They do come as capsule form, but it is important to follow the manufacturer's guidelines, as all strengths and dosages will vary.
20. Calcium And Magnesium- A deficiency in either of these two important minerals can cause restlessness and nervousness, which will contribute greatly to insomnia. Low levels of magnesium can cause you to have a disruptful, light sleep, waking often, and low levels of calcium can cause wakefulness. Calcium and magnesium are both necessary for restful sleep and have a calming effect on the brain. Calcium can have a sedative effect when taken with food, and magnesium helps you to stay asleep once asleep. Calcium also helps build strong teeth and bones, regulate the rhythm of the heart, and assists in blood clotting, as well as maintaining proper nerve, muscle and kidney function. Magnesium also assists in regulating the rhythm of the heart, converting blood sugar into energy and metabolizing calcium and vitamin c properly.
Ways Calcium And Magnesium Can Be Used:
Calcium and magnesium can be obtained through taking supplements, or eating foods rich in these minerals.
The recommended amount of calcium supplements per day is 1500-2000 mg, taken in approximately 600 mg doses. It should be taken with food and it can be combined with a magnesium supplement. Adults can also try 600 mg of liquid calcium for a soothing relaxing effect. Or eat foods rich in calcium such as green leafy veg (Spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts), almonds, dairy products, salmon and rhubarb and many more.
The recommended daily amount of magnesium is 1000 mg, broken up into 250 mg doses. It can be combined with a calcium supplement. Magnesium rich foods include kelp, wheat bran, almonds, peanuts, and cashews, blackstrap molasses and kelp.
21. B Vitamins- deficiencies in B vitamins, such as vitamin B5, B6 and B12, and also folicacid can also have an effect on your sleep. A balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and nuts and grains will help in getting you all the vitamins and minerals you need for healthy sleep.
a) Vitamin B1 - (Thiamine) - this is vital for healthy, strong nerves. A deficiency of viatmin B1 after a long period of time will cause you to be unable to relax and fall asleep naturally. The usual daily supplement dosage is 50mg. Foods rich in viatmin B1 are wholegrain cereals, pulses and nuts.
b) Vitamin B3 - (Niacin) - essential for sleep as vitamin B3 is involved in the production of serotonin, which is converted into melatonin which is the hormone needed for sleep. Deficiencies can cause depression, anxiety and tiredness. The recommended daily dosage when taken as a supplement is 100mg. Good sources of vitamin B3 include legumes, peanuts, nutritional yeast and fish and poultry.
c) Vitamin B5- (Pantothenic Acid) - this is needed to promote sleep as low levels can cause disturbed sleep, and fatigue. A recommended supplement dosage of 100mg a day will help relieve stress and anxiety. Eat foods containing vitamin B5 such as beef, eggs, mushrooms, pork and royal jelly.
d) Vitamin B6- (Pyridoxine) - Vitamin B6 helps in the production of Serotonin, which converts into the sleep triggering hormine melatonin. A deficiency can cause mood swings and depression, which could make it more difficult for you to sleep. There is a recommended dose of 50-100mg a day if you choose to take supplements, or another great source of vitamin B6 is 1-2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast which can be stirred into a glass of fruit juice or a yoghurt. Other foods containing vitamin B6 are eggs, chicken, walnuts, fish, liver, kidney and peas.
e) Vitamin B8- (Inositol) - good for the calming the central nervous system and promoting general well-being. A lack of vitamin B8 can cause insomnia, confusion, dizziness and depression, amongst a range of other ailments. The usual dosage is 100-500mg a day when taken as a supplement, or you can eat foods that are high in vitamin B8 such as cauliflower, whole brown rice, nuts, legumes, milk, fruits and many more.
f) Vitamin B12- (Cobalamin) - if you are deficient in this vitamin then you may suffer from confusion, fatigue, loss of memory and anxiety. To combat insomnia you can take a daily dosage of 25mg in supplements. Foods rich in vitamin B12 include meat, eggs, sunflower and vegetable margarines, breakfast cereals and dairy products.
g) Folic Acid - low levels can definitely contribute to insomnia. It has been reported that the body reacts better to the over-the-counter synthetic form of folic acid rather than the natural form. The recommended dosage of daily supplements is 400mg, but folic acid can be found naturally in orange juice, breakfast cereals, beans and leafy green veg. B Vitamins and Folic Acid can also be found in the bedtime drink Olvatine.
h) Copper- this is mainly for the concern of pre-menopausal women, as studies have shown that a low intake of copper can cause pre-menopausal women to have trouble falling asleep and having a peaceful rest. A case study was carried out, the results showing that the women who received a copper supplement of 2mg a day fell asleep faster and felt more refreshed in the morning when waking. If you were only getting 1mg of copper each day, it may not be enough of a deficiency to cause any other serious problems, but it may be enough to disrupt your sleep. Other symptoms of a deficiency include anemia, bone and joint problems, loss of hair or skin colour, difficulty breathing or an irregular heartbeat. If you think you may have a deficiency and that it may be contributing to your insomnia, you could choose to take 2mg a day of copper supplement, or you could try eating foods such as calf's liver, oysters or lobster, crimini mushrooms and blackstrap molasses, which are all good sources of copper.
If you choose to add some of the above supplements to your diet, take them for a short period of time, and if you don't notice much difference then maybe stop taking the supplements and concentrate on receiving more vitamins and minerals through your diet instead.
22. Tryptophan - this is a substance found in certain foods that is then converted into L-tryptophan, which is an animo acid crucial for the development of serotonin in the brain. Eating foods rich in tryptophan can help with insomnia. You could try incorporating the following foods and drinks into your diet:
a) Milk - This is an old remedy that has been used for many years. Not only does milk contain tryptophan, but also lots of calcium, which is also helpful for calming nerves and restlessness. Try drinking a glass of warm milk before bed. Honey and a pinch of cinamon,nutmeg, crushed almonds, or a drop of vanilla extract, could be added for taste if prefered.
b) Bananas - take a ripe banana and mash it in a bowl. Mix in a pinch of roasted cumin seeds and consume after dinner to help you sleep easily.
c) Oats - Eating oats can help with depression, jet-lag and insomnia. You could try eating porridge in the evening to help you relax.
It is thought that food high in complex carbs are more likely to help with insomnia which can be implemented, but it is important to remember to still eat a balanced diet. More food and drink to try which may help with insomnia are; turkey, figs, dates, yoghurts, crackers, lettuce juice (mixed with a bit of lemon juice for taste), nutmeg, honey, nuts, beans, seeds, cherries, and cheese. Marshmallow Root, Spearmint, Reisni Mushroom and Red Clover are also said to have mild sedative properties with no reported side effects.
23. Aromatherapy - If, for whatever reason, you are unable or choose not to take herbal supplements, then aromatherpay is a great way to enhance or subdue our moods. Essential oils can be massaged onto the body, used in the bath, or used in an oil burner, and are great for creating an atmosphere of your choice. Here are some more essential oils to try which are known to help with insomnia that haven't been mentioned above; Clary Sage, Neroli, Sandalwood, Ylang Ylang, Rose, Jasmine, Patchouli, Rosewood, Marjoram and Frankincense. There's a few to choose from so you should be able to find one that suits you.
24. Herbal Teas - Another great alternative if you would prefer not to take supplements. Most are safe to drink at any time of day and make a nice change from conventional tea, as well as helping you to sleep. Here are some more tea's you can try that aren't mentioned above, which have sedative properties and are safe to drink at any time. Most are also found in teabag form for more convenience; Lemon Verbena and Lime Flower, Fennel, Anise, Cowslip, Strawberry Leaf, Linden Leaf, Licorice Root, Young Pine or Fir Needle, and Calli tea.
25. Herbal Painkiller Alternatives - As I've already mentioned, many prescribed painkillers contribute towards insomnia often due to the high levels of caffeine, which is a stimulant. The five top herbal painkillers are St. John's Wort, Valerian and California Poppy, which are mentioned above, and also White Willow Bark and Feverfew. If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping due to painkillers, it could be beneficial to try a herbal alternative.
If you are pregnant or breast feeding, or taking any prescribed medication, I would strongly recommend seeking your Doctor's or a herbalist's advice before taking any natural herbs or remedies.
I hope you have found this hub useful, as often suffering from insomnia myself, I know how it can feel after a couple of sleepless nights. There are many more herbs that could be listed, but these seem to be the most popular and most studied. Because of the many different chemicals found in today's prescription medication, more and more people are opting for herbal alternatives. But, like anything, what works for one person isn't necessarily going to work for another, as we are all unique and will react differently. If one herb doesn't work for you then try another until you find one that helps you. Also remember that some herbs may take a while to take effect, so some patience is needed. You could also try other things along with the herbs for extra effect such as meditation and breathing techniques to help you relax, yoga, or even the ancient art of feng-shui, which concentrates on the energy flow within your home. Whatever you decide to try I hope you find something that works for you, and I wish you good luck in your quest for a good night's sleep.
Here are some of my other hubs that you may find interesting:
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