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Herbs for Sleep

Sleep is a necessary and unavoidable biological inevitability, but for those of us suffering from chronic or acute insomnia, it is possible to find relief in a variety of natural herbs that can assist in achieving a restful night’s sleep. Scientific research has shown that the following six herbs have proven to induce relaxing and tranquillizing sensations which can encourage sleep:

Chamomile

This delicate white and yellow flower has been cultivated for centuries and to this day, remains a common sleep aide remedy in Europe and South America. As a dietary supplement, chamomile is safe for both adults and children. The chamomile flower is often brewed as a tea and consumed prior to bed to combat restlessness. Extracts are also utilized and available as topical creams, essential oils or pill capsules, all of which can help in achieving a good night’s rest.

It should be noted however, that chamomile may cause an allergic reaction in some individuals, as the flower is a relative of marigold, ragweed and daisy flowers.

Valerian

The root of the valerian plant has been historically used by ancient Greeks and Romans to treat symptoms of insomnia and anxiety, and is still often dried, ground and purchased as pills or teas today. Evidence indicates that the calming effect of Valerian is due to the presence of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). Studies suggest that the sedative properties of GABA can hasten the amount of time it takes to initially fall asleep and will overall improve the quality and duration of a person’s sleep.

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services has noted that while Valerian may be used as a short term sleep aide, there have been no long-term research investigations on the prolonged effects of the plant on the human body.

Ashwagandha

Akin to the tomato and also known as Withania Somnifera or as Indian Ginseng, the dried roots and berries of this plant have be used as a holistic remedy for insomnia across India and have recently been clinically shown in double blind studies, to reduce stress. Ashwagandha, is commonly consumed as 300mg pills, the calming effects of which, can improve one’s ability to ease into sleep at the end of the day.

Lavender

The alluring fragrance of lavender has been added to a multitude of modern day products and is one of the most common scents used in aromatherapy. Lavender extracts promote relaxation through lowering the body’s blood pressure and heart rate and can be applied onto the skin as an essential oil, or brewed into a tea. Once consumed, lavender can alleviate an individual’s anxiety or stress, and as a result can relieve the symptoms of various sleeping disorders, including insomnia.

Passion Flower

Indigenous to South America and the Southern United States, the passion flower has been a natural sleep remedy since it was originally discovered by Spanish missionaries in the 16th Century. This beautiful flower is a powerful sedative loaded with GABA, which, similarly to Valerian, when consumed in teas or as an extract, inhibits the neural activity of certain brain cells, effectively relaxing both the brain and body, encouraging a tranquil state and peaceful sleep.

Hops

Hops is an integral ingredient in brewing beer, but when used as an extract or steeped in tea, it can also minimize nocturnal brain activity and act as an effective sleep aide. Hop extracts induce a hypnotic effect due to dimethylvinyl carbinol compounds present in the plant. When mixed with Valerian the herbal mixture can be an effective remedy for sleepless nights.

Despite the fact that hops are used in brewing beer, it is a common myth that alcohol helps you sleep, when it often in fact disturbs the deep sleep cycle. If you are looking for a sleep aide, a cup of steeped hops tea, and not a pint of beer, might be more successful in curing short term insomnia.

References:

  • Josie Rubio, 2015, What are the best herbs to help me sleep?, http://vanwinkles.com/what-are-the-best-herbs-to-help-me-sleep
  • Christopher Hobbs, 1998, Herbs and Natural Remedies for Insomnia, http://www.christopherhobbs.com/library/articles-on-herbs-and-health/herbs-and-natural-remedies-for-insomnia/
  • Sierra Bright, 2015, 7 Healing Herbs to Beat Insomnia and Get the Best Sleep Ever, http://www.naturallivingideas.com/herbs-for-insomnia-better-sleep/
  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 2016, Chamomile, U.S Department of Health and Human Services, https://nccih.nih.gov/health/chamomile/ataglance.htm
  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 2016, Valerian, U.S Department of Health and Human Services, https://nccih.nih.gov/health/valerian
  • Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J & Anishetty S, 2012, A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults, Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, Jul;34(3):255-62, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798
  • Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, 2014, Passion Flower, University of Maryland Medical Center, http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/passionflower
  • Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, 2014, Valerian, University of Maryland Medical Center, http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/valerian
  • Roger L. Hammer, 2015, Everglades Wildflowers: A Field Guide to Wildflowers of the Historic Everglades, including Big Cypress, Corkscrew, and Fakahatchee Swamps. Falcon Guides. pp.206, ISBN, 978-1-4930-1459-0.
  • Franco L, Sánchez C, Bravo R, Rodriguez A, Barriga C, Juánez JC, 2012, The sedative effects of hops (humulus lupulus), a component of beer, on the activity/ rest rhythm, Acta Physiologica Hungarica Journal, June;99(2):133-9, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22849837

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