We all face stressful situations day in and day. Dealing with family, work and other obligations all contribute to the ups and downs we encounter in our lives. Some are good, some are bad, but the end result is the same: They take a toll on our health and well-being. One of the key areas affected by these fluctuations is sleep.
We may toss and turn all night, or we may find it hard to shut off our brains so we can fall asleep. In other cases, we may not be able to sleep at all.
When this happens, we may turn to over-the-counter sleep aids to help remedy the problem. However, many people fear these medications for fear of addiction. As an alternative, there are some more natural, homeopathic solutions available. Dr. Christopher Hobbs, Ph.D., L.Ac, of Rainbow Light vitamins, recommends five different herbs that may have a calming effect that will lead to better sleep. Hobbs says the following herbs can be used during the day, or try using 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime.
A time-honored sedative herb that can be safely used by children and adults alike, chamomile tea is commonly used in Europe, South America and Mexico for insomnia and restlessness combined with irritability, particularly in children, Hobbs says. “Chamomile oil can also be put in bath water (five to six drops) to soothe overwrought nerves, diluted to 2 percent to make an excellent massage oil, or used as an inhalant,” he adds.
Dose: Tea, 1 cup 2 to 3 times daily; tincture, 30 drops 3 times daily.
A gentle strengthening tonic for the nervous system, a few drops of lavender oil added to a bath before bedtime are recommended for persons with sleep disorders, Hobbs says. “Additionally, the oil may be used as a compress, massage oil or simply inhaled to alleviate insomnia,” he says.
Dose: Tea, 1 cup 2 to 3 times daily; essential oil–oil may be inhaled, massaged into the skin (use 10 drops essential oil per ounce of vegetable oil), or added to baths (3 to 10 drops).
“California Poppy is my favorite sedative and sleep-promoting herb, which can currently be found in a variety of herbal remedies sold in the United States for promoting sleep, helping one to relax and easing mild anxiety,” Hobbs says. “Because of its mild sedative and analgesic properties, it can be given safely to children.”
Dose: Tea, 1 cup 2 to 3 times daily; tincture, 30 to 40 drops 2 to 3 times daily. Note: Since the tea is mild, a tincture is recommended when a stronger dose is desired.
“Passion Flower is considered by herbalists to be an important herb for insomnia caused by mental worry, overwork or nervous exhaustion,” Hobbs says. “In England, it is an ingredient in 40 different commonly sold sedative preparations. Passion flower is used for minor sleep problems in both children and adults, and is safe even in large doses.”
Dose: Tea, 1 cup 3 times daily; tincture, 30 to 60 drops 3 to 4 times daily.
St. John’s Wort
A common yellow-flowered weedy herb from Europe, St. John’s Wort is quickly becoming an important part of modern herbal therapeutics, Hobbs says. “Modern scientific studies show that it can help relieve chronic insomnia and mild depression when related to certain brain chemistry imbalances,” he adds. “Because this herb can sensitize the skin to sunlight, if you are taking a full dose, avoid direct skin exposure to bright sunlight.”
Dose: Tincture, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon 2 to 3 times daily; powdered extract, 1 to 2 tablets or capsules 2 to 3 times daily. Allow two to three weeks for the full therapeutic effect to develop.
Note: If you experience light sensitivity or other unpleasant symptoms, reduce or discontinue the St. John’s Wort, and consult a qualified herbalist for a total program.