Herbs for Insomnia

Get some sleep naturally with a little help from your herbs.

We’ve all had those nights – it seems no matter how hard you try, your eyelids are spring loaded and refuse to shut.  Television commercials promise a restful night’s sleep with a prescription – but listen to the warnings.  Under their influence, you might just wake up behind the wheel of your car!  Not for you?  Try some herbal remedies for your insomnia and say nighty-night.

Chamomile – There’s no way to build up the usefulness of chamomile too much.  What may sound to you like your grandmother’s tea is one fantastic little herb.  Relaxing without hangover effects in the morning, gentle enough to drink during the day without knocking you out; for generations people have relied on its calming effects for a good night’s sleep.

Cat Nip – What?  Rob your cat of Mr. Bobo, her favorite nip-stuffed mouse?  No need to take things that far.  Cat nip – or cat mint if you please – is great dried for tea or taken as a tincture.  A bit stronger in effect than chamomile, yet without the morning-after effects, this is my favorite herb for a sure shot at shuteye. 

Valerian – Here’s where we pull out the big guns.  As a tea it positively stinks (in particular the stemmy stuff purchased commercially.  If you manage to wildcraft it yourself, it’s not so rank).  But boy, does it work!  If you prefer, you can take it as a tincture or encapsulated.  Fair warning, however:  Although valerian is a powerful natural sleep aid, even an excellent pain reliever and muscle relaxer, some people do experience a valerian “hangover” if used over time, sometimes resulting in mild depression.  And unfortunately, a few people experience exact opposite effects – valerian actually hops them up making sleep more difficult.  But this isn’t the norm so I’ve included it due to its effectiveness.  Consider using valerian only when insomnia is at its worst, or when you know you’ll only be relying on it for a short time.  

Lavender – Placing some dried lavender in your pillowcase, or even using essential oil of lavender, is often the perfect solution for those with sleep issues.  Lavender oil is used in aromatherapy to calm and to aid in sleep, and it’s also great for depression and anxiety relief.  Some people even enjoy using dried lavender to prepare a tea before bedtime.  But if you prefer to avoid taking anything internally, then simply smelling the aroma is enough to aid in a restful night.  Don’t take the oil internally, however.  And if applying topically, make sure it’s blended with a carrier oil.  Lavender oil on its own can be too harsh for the skin.

Although caution must often be taken no matter how natural our sleep aid, the good news is there are plenty of safe alternatives that won’t leave you heavy lidded come morning.  Just a few nights without sufficient sleep can be enough to throw off your health, both mentally and physically, so trying some herbs could be just what you need to cure your insomnia.  The best news?  You won’t wake to find yourself driving to Boston after a cup of chamomile!

6 thoughts on “Herbs for Insomnia

  1. Our herbalists have formulated a herbal tincture blend containing the herbs listed below.

    Valerian root – Reduces anxiety
    German Chamomile – Nerve support
    Hops – Nerve support, sedative
    Lavender flower – Anti-depressant, sedative

    Regards

    Alec

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  3. Beware of other effects with Valerian. I have chronic insomnia and have taken valerian intermittenly. Recently I took it for 4 nights in a row. The next day, when I got home from work and entered the kitchen, my husband asked “What smells like wet dog?” Our conclusion was that it was the green bin. However, later as my son and I were working out in the basement, he was almost gagging from the smell. Despite the fact that I shower everyday and have a bath at night to relax, we had to conclude it was me and I knew right away it had to be the valerian. When I opened the bottle for the both of them, they said right away that this was the exact smell. Personally, I think it smells more like cat pee than wet dog but there is no doubt it is an offensive smell.
    Anyway, I stopped taking valerian immediately and no longer stink.

  4. smartmama,

    Oh my!!! Yes, my thoughts exactly – cat pee. I think I even made that parallel in a previous post. I’ve never noticed the smell emitting from anyone taking it, but the dried herb itself can smell pretty bad. However, I’m told that valerian that is gathered fresh in the wild and then dried does not smell this way. I’ve been searching it out for myself but haven’t found any growing around here yet. Smartmama, check out the cat mint. As a tincture, I really like the taste. I too am an insomniac (I have it off and on quite bad since childhood), and as long as I have my cat mint and some lavender oil, I do pretty well. That is until my son calls me for water at 4 a.m…

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  6. Hi Diane,

    Thank you for the suggestion.
    I can so relate to your comment that you have had it since childhood. Same for me. If it is any consolation, a colleague was telling me about her young daughter being an insomniac and that she had learned it was a common problem among very smart people. How do you like that? Personally, I will take a little less smart for some more sleep.

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