Every now and then we all have a little difficulty falling asleep. More than 30% of people seeking medical care for insomnia from a sleep specialist have tried to treat themselves. The most common self medication is alcohol. Alcohol is not a good sleep aid because, although it induces sleep, once metabolized alcohol causes you to wake up. Alcohol fragments your sleep, suppresses dream sleep and can leaving you feeling non-refreshed. If you can’t sleep for more than 2 nights you might benefit from herbs that induce sleep. Here are 4 herbs for insomnia.
Tarragon is a herb with a high potassium content. Use the leaves, fresh or dried to make a warm cup of bedtime tea.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Is a herbal medicine that is traditional use to treat mild nervousness. Lemon balm is a perennial lemon scented plant thought to date to 300 B.C. In more recent times lemon balm has been used to reduce stress, promote relaxation and induce sleep. Lemon balm is high in favonoids and some researchers think it may be helpful in slowing progression of Alzheimers disease.
Lemon Balm is usually sold in combination with other herbs. It is a member of the mint family and easily grown in a backyard garden. Because it can become invasive, container planting is recommended.
When used as aromatherapy, essence of Cedar oil is thought to stimulate the olfactory bulb and travel through the brain to the reticular formation where it suppresses activity. When used for aromatherapy, cedar oil relaxes the body and induces sleep. Cedar has its greatest effect early in the sleep cycle.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis L.)
Long history of research documenting sleep inducing properties. Valerian root act on receptors that are similar to the benzodiazepine receptors. Prescription medications like Valium work on benzodiazepine receptors. Valium is no longer used as a sleep aid due to risk of addiction, adverse side effects and it’s long acting sedative effect.
Valerian root has a pungent smell. Most stores do not carry fresh valerian root for this reason. If you want fresh valerian root look for a store that will special order the root. Most people prefer taking capsules.
Valerian root capsules have a faint malodor but are easier to tolerate and documented to aid sleep onset.
Herbal sleep aids can be taken in capsule form or used to make a bedtime tea. Herbs work best when combined with good sleep hygiene.
There are some precautions you should take. Never combine sedating herbs with medications the depress the central nervous system. Follow the instructions on the container. Taking large quantities of sedating herbs is discouraged because of the risk of adverse side effects.
There are other herbs used to treat insomnia. The best herbs for insomnia are the herbs that work for you. All herbs for insomnia have similar precautions. If you self-medicate or use other "do-it-yourself" (DIY) techniques to treat insomnia and symptoms persist longer than 2 weeks, contact your primary care doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, physician assistant or other qualified health provider.
If your symptoms do not improve, you should seek professional medical help because in some cases Insomnia is a symptom of other medical or mental health problems.
Reference: Gromall, Beshorner, Wantzen, Paulsen, Burkart, (2014). Hyperactivity, concentration difficulties and impulsiveness improve during seven weeks’ treatment with valerian root and lemon balm extracts in primary school children. Phytomedicine 21: 8-9, P1098-1103
Kennedy D, Scholey A, Tildesley N, Perry , Wesnes K. (2002). Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm). Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 72 p 953-964