The Most Effective Herbal Sleep Aids
The search for effective sleep remedies can be a long, arduous one – especially if you’re heading down the herbal or natural route.
That’s not to say herbal sleep aids aren’t effective – they can be incredibly helpful for helping you get to bed – but there’s going to be some experimentation involved.
It’s also important to note from the start that it’s unlikely a single herb or natural solution will be able to entirely solve your night time issues.
Instead, think of the following eight herb-based remedies as something to be taken as part of a healthier lifestyle, or new sleeping arrangement.
Try each solution around three hours after eating, and in a relaxed environment (no TV, no radio, no blaring lights) before bed, and monitor the results for yourself.
Let’s dive in.
Chamomile has built up a common reputation over the years as being linked with sleep – when you think chamomile, you picture a steaming mug of tea and some cartoon Zs.
There’s some truth to those images – chamomile tea or extract can be great for calming nerves, and relaxing; two of the key players in insomnia’s night time stage play. Chamomile oil can also be used to infuse bath water, which has the added benefit of being an already relaxing, soporific ritual to begin with!
The valerian plant (particularly its root) is often recommended by doctors as an effective remedy for those suffering from insomnia.
Valerian can come in a variety of ways, but the most popular sleeping solution is probably valerian capsules which can be taken four at a time, for adults, around an hour before you head to bed.
As a bonus, valerian manages to create that drowsy feeling needed for a decent sleep, but without any lethargic after effects. However, it does come with a particularly stinky drawback if you decide to use valerian extract/oil/tincture – you’ve been warned!
Lavender is pretty much the poster boy/girl of sleep aid aromatherapy (using plant oils, extracts and scents to encourage psychological results, such as anxiety relief and drowsiness).
Some studies carried out into the effects of lavender and its smelly benefits displayed not only that subjects were more drowsy and susceptible to sleep, but also that their mood improved, resulting in a contented feeling – exactly what you want for a great sleep!
A simple little DIY trick is to create a ‘sleep sachet’: fill a small fabric bag with dried lavender flowers and perhaps some extract/oil, and place it under your pillow at night.
Once looked upon as some majestic cure for all of man’s ails – lemon balm has been used throughout the ages as a solution to problems ranging from breathing difficulties to wild animal bites.
It remains relevant in more modern times by acting as a calming solution to anxiety and depressive symptoms which are often a cause of insomnia.
That said, too much of the balm has been shown to actually enhance feelings of nervousness, so it’s important to get the right amount. The recommended method is to add some dried balm or fresh balm into a mug of tea (2 tbsp of dried or 8-10 of fresh balm), and drink before bed.
Start small and work your way up to the perfect dose for you.
No doubt the first thing you’re thinking is ‘beer’, and how countless other sleep articles have warned you to avoid alcohol at all costs when it comes to curing insomnia. However, hops themselves can be fantastic for combating restlessness and anxiety and are widely available in a variety of forms.
Much like lavender, hops can be used via a scent sachet, as an additive for tea or even taken straight – around 30 to 120 milligrams is recommended.
This being said, hops contain some natural steroids, so very young children and pregnant women should avoid them in favour of something else.
Passion flower is a popular solution to that feeling of not being able to ‘shut your brain off’ when trying to get to sleep. It can help to increase the brain’s GABA level (which lowers the brain’s activity) so as to calm the mind and encourage a quiet night.
This one can be taken in larger doses, and with frequent use throughout the day if you find the effects aren’t helping right away.
This might seem like a strange one; you’ve probably never fallen asleep into your bowl of salad before.
That said, wild lettuce is a recognized mild sedative which can be taken by anyone, of any age, to help with insomnia. It is also used for calming headaches and joint pain; issues which can play their own part in sleep disruption.
Usually this is ingested through the tincture, with a few (three to four) drops a couple of times a day.
St. John’s Wort
Who is St. John and why is his wort so healing? We honestly don’t know. What we do know is that while it might have a disgusting name, this herb has been used as medicine since ancient Greece and is still popular today as a natural remedy for sleep.
It has benefits ranging from helping with mild insomnia all the way to regulating imbalances in brain chemistry.
That said, this herb can increase sun sensitivity of the skin when taken, so be wary of too much direct sunlight during periods of use.