Mother Nature has a cure for everything, we just have to know where to look. When it comes to sleeping disorders, from an occasional sleepless night with no apparent reason to chronic insomnia due to stress, herbs can promote calmness and better sleep, with no or very little side effects. Compared to the treatments currently available, with a never-ending list of adverse effects, they are without doubt the better option.
So, let’s take a better look at all the plants with the ability to help you wake up refreshed in the morning, and help you find the best option for your situation.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)
Chamomile is probably the most used herb for treating insomnia and other sleep disorders. It is known as a mild tranquilizer that even has the ability to improve cardiovascular health, as well as stimulate the immune system. For best results, take chamomile tea every night, even after days that might feel more relaxed than others.
If you are not allergic, there are no known adverse effects. Therefore, the FDA considers chamomile safe to use.
Lavender (Lavandula officinalis)
Lavender is another famous herb for improving the quality of sleep. Studies have found that it can be very effective in calming anxious nerves and helping with insomnia. It also has the ability to help you stay asleep throughout the night if you are prone to constant waking up.
Same as with chamomile, the biggest side effect of lavender use is an allergic reaction. Even though not all side effects are known, lavender is considered to be safe for most people. That said, small children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers should consult a doctor before use.
Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis)
According to studies, the root of valerian has the ability to improve sleep. Compared to other herbs, valerian root will not cause you to feel sleepy and fall asleep straight away, but it’s known to promote relaxation that might lead to more quality sleep. Some studies have even shown that valerian might calm down your intrusive thoughts, especially at night, in turn helping you fall asleep faster and sleep longer.
That said, valerian can interfere with some medications and it is not safe for small children or during pregnancy. It’s best to consult a doctor if there already is a treatment in place.
Hops (Humulus lupulus)
The special properties of hops have been known since the early 1900s when physicians used it as a sedative for insomnia caused by worry or nerve weakness. Hops, also a flavouring component of beer, has been widely used for restlessness, nervousness, and sleeplessness. There are even hops pillows that may help with mild insomnia.
Hops is considered to be safe for most people. It still should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding as well as during depression because it might make symptoms worse. Also it might have moderate interaction with some drugs so it’s best if you consult a doctor before use.
When dealing with insomnia caused by nervous exhaustion, mental worry or overwork, the passionflower may provide much needed ease, because it has the properties of an excellent sedative without side effects. Even when used in larger doses, this herb is recommended for treating minor sleeping problems in both adults and children.
Passionflower is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women because there is not enough information available, so it’s best to stay on the safe side and avoid it.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Several studies have shown that lemon balm can promote sleep, especially if combined with other herbs like chamomile, valerian or hops. It may also reduce anxiety, while at the same time increase calmness and alertness.
There might be some drug interactions, so it’s best if you consult with a doctor before introducing lemon balm in your treatment method. Lemon balm is considered possibly safe for most adults and children but should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It’s also not advisable for people with diabetes or thyroid disease. It might have moderate interactions with some drugs, so make sure you consult a doctor if there is a treatment in place.
Magnolia Bark (Magnolia officinalis)
Magnolia is considered to be one of the most effective herbs for promoting sleep. That’s the reason why it’s not recommended to take it during the day or before driving a vehicle. It has also been proven that it may relax the mind and induce deep REM sleep. It’s usually available as a supplement in pill form for those who would rather not take melatonin or sedatives.
Magnolia is possibly safe for most people, but it is considered unsafe during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and it is not advisable to be consumed before or after surgery because it can slow down the central nervous system. It might have moderate interaction with some drugs, so make sure you consult a doctor if you are already on a treatment.
Blue Skullcap (Skullcap Scutellaria lateriflora)
The herb most known as blue skullcap has been shown to have potential anti-anxiety benefits. More research is still needed to discover the full potential of this herb, as well as the side effects, but what we know so far is that it may produce a calming effect on an agitated person, in turn promoting better sleep.
Because there is a potential for problems with the liver function in some people, blue skullcap is not recommended for everyone. It’s best if you consult a doctor before trying it.
Kava Kava (Piper methysticum)
Kava is the national drink of Fiji that’s mostly known for its ability to promote calm feeling and relaxation throughout the body. It may also enhance dreaming and communication. Kava is most often recommended for fatigue and sleeplessness.
Kava is possibly safe for most people, but should be avoided during depression because it might make symptoms worse. It’s also not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding, nor for people with liver problems or Parkinson’s disease. It might have major interactions with some drugs, so make sure you consult a doctor if there is a treatment in place.
The Bottom Line
There are many ways to deal with insomnia and other sleep problems, but it’s best if you first try a more natural solution. If the problem is psychological, psychotherapy may also be very helpful, especially if it’s combined with a calming cup of tea. Mother Nature has a lot to offer, we just need to accept her gifts and focus on our wellbeing. If all else fails, medicine is here to help, but keep in mind that most medical treatments will cause short or long term problems that will require additional treating.
Good luck and sweet dreams!