Herbs for SLEEP
Can’t sleep? Forget counting sheep. Count instead on the effect of soporific herbs and drift peacefully off to dreamland.
If you’re having trouble catching some zzzs, the solution could be as close as your backyard. Certain herbs have been proven to help with sleep problems, and they’re easy to grow at home too. Lavender, valerian, hops and lemon balm are all natural sleep aids and have a long history for use as herbal sedatives.
Valerian ( Valeriana officinalis) has been used to ease insomnia, anxiety and nervous restlessness for hundreds of years, and it’s still one of the world’s most popular herbal remedies. It’s often described as the herbal tranquilliser and it works well for many people. But not all. For some, valerian has the opposite effect: it stimulates.
In herbalism, herbs are matched to the individual to achieve a balance. Warming herbs like valerian are matched to people with cooling tendencies. These are typically people who show signs of coldness, like those who wear warm clothes while others are in T-shirts.
For those with warming tendencies – red face, always feel warm, wilt in hot weather – valerian has a higher chance of having the opposite desired effect.
However, for those who can take it, valerian can be extremely effective at reducing anxiety, relaxing muscle tension and aiding sleep. The active constituents in valerian depress the central nervous system in a similar way to GABA, a relaxing neurotransmitter in the brain. Valerian has clinically proven results for reducing sleeplessness, mostly by reducing the time it takes to drop into a deep sleep and improving sleep quality. Unlike prescription drugs like benzodiazepine, which also work on GABA levels, it doesn't cause morning drowsiness or result in addiction.
Make a valerian tincture
You can harvest the roots of homegrown valerian to make your own sleep-inducing tincture. For the highest potency, dig up second or third year plants in early spring, before they start to put energy into stem and leaf growth, or autumn. Cut the freshly dug rhizome into quarters and wash thoroughly. Pat dry with a clean tea towel, then chop finely to increase the surface area for maceration. Place in a jar. Cover with three times its volume of vodka (five times for dried herbs). Screw the lid on tightly and store in a cool, dark room. Shake daily for 4-6 weeks, then strain. Pour into a dark bottle, label and store in a dark cupboard. Take 3ml-5ml one to two hours before bedtime. Alternatively, steep slices of fresh or dried root in freshly boiled water to make a bedtime tea.