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Herbal Sleeping Pills - What's Available?

Updated on September 4, 2016

If you often lie in bed at night thinking ‘why can’t I sleep?’ don’t despair. There are plenty of reasons why people can’t sleep and finding yours is, of course, important in finding a cure. But sometimes we can’t sleep just because we can’t sleep and there doesn’t seem to be a reason.

If insomnia goes on for too long you start to realise the benefits of sleep that you’ve always taken for granted and the health problems that can occur due to lack of sleep.

In this hub we’ll look at some popular herbal sleeping pills and preparations that are available.

First though, a few notes of caution.

  1. Please don’t see the word ‘herbal’ or ‘natural’ and think this means ‘harmless’. Nature has many poisons, just as the pharmacy cabinet does, and if these or any other medication is taken incorrectly or without specialist advice they can be dangerous.
  2. Also, herbal medications aren’t regulated by the FDA in the US or MHRA in the UK for their dosing or quality. So there may not be a recommended dose and brands may vary in their quality.
  3. Talk to a qualified and recommended herbalist before taking these meds.
  4. ALWAYS read the label and don’t exceed the recommended dose.
  5. Just as prescription medications don’t work for everyone, neither do herbal preparations.
  6. Lastly, if you’re taking other drugs prescribed by your doctor or as over-the-counter meds, talk to your doctor or the pharmacist before you take any herbal remedies. They may interact and cause more problems that they solve.


Melatonin is released from a gland in the brain and regulates our waking and sleeping rhythms.

There is some science to suggest that taking melatonin can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep by increasing the feeling of sleepiness and also keep you asleep for longer periods. Some studies have shown there’s a benefit to older people who suffer with insomnia and for those suffering with depression.

How safe is melatonin?

It hasn’t been tested for long term use but up to 3 months’ use is thought to be safe for most people.

Some say they feel groggy in the morning after taking melatonin.

Others say that they suffer with depression while taking it.

What dose should you take?

Web MD says that a dose of 0.1mg to 0.3mg is a good dose and that taking the fast-acting formulation is better than the slower-acting alternative.


  • People taking this supplement that’s often used for stress and insomnia, often say that they don’t have that feeling of grogginess when they wake in the morning – although this isn’t the case for all users.
  • It is more effective when it’s taken over a period of weeks (4 or more) rather than for shorter periods.
  • There are no interactions with alcohol or addiction problems with Valerian but some people say they have problems with thinking and problem solving while taking it.


Tryptophan is one of the components of serotonin. Serotonin is a natural chemical that regulates our moods and helps us fall asleep.

There are a lot of tryptophan-rich foods most of which are protein-based, for example red meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, bananas, soybeans/soy products, tofu, tuna, and turkey and it’s thought that eating plenty of these is a good natural way to help you sleep better.

Tryptophan is/has been available as a herbal supplement but people taking it have suffered with skin, joint and muscle problems as well as depression and anxiety.


5-Hydroxytryptophan is another element in serotonin.

Not all the scientific data has shown a benefit to people with insomnia but some individuals have used it successfully. Other studies show that people with anxiety, pain or appetite problems have an improvement in their symptoms when they take 5-HTP.

Kava kava.

Has been used in the past for insomnia, anxiety and stress but is now not considered safe as it’s been linked to many liver problems.

Also consider:

Catnip/catmint (yes, really). It has the opposite effect on humans to that which it has on cats!

Passionflower has been shown to be effective for those with ‘nervous’ gastrointestinal problems and has a sedative affect in some.

Camomile. Use Roman camomile as a tincture for helping you to better sleep and German camomile as a tea infusion before bed (nice with a teaspoon full of honey to sweeten).


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