As winter drags on and cold/flu season kicks into high gear, sleep is essential to ward off illness – but getting to sleep with the sniffles is easier said than done. While sleep is one of the most deeply healing and revitalizing experiences known, lack of a healthful, restful sleep, or insomnia, is a common problem experienced by as many as 20% to 30% of Americans. Instead of grabbing an over-the-counter sleep aid, the solution to a sound sleep can be found right in your kitchen cabinets! Switching to a cup of herbal tea, eating the right foods and other easy switches can naturally soothe and help you catch some much needed zzz’s.
The following herbs can be used during the day, or try using 20-30 minutes before bedtime:
A time-honored sedative herb which 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. Chamomile oil can also be put in bath water (5-6 drops) to soothe overwrought nerves, diluted to 2% to make an excellent massage oil, or used as an inhalant.
Dose: Tea, 1 cup 2-3 x daily; Tincture, 30 drops 3 x 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. Additionally, the oil may be used as a compress, massage oil, or simply inhaled to alleviate insomnia.
Dose: Tea, 1 cup 2-3 x 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 (3-10 drops).
3. CALIFORNIA POPPY
A 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. Because of its mild sedative and analgesic properties, it can be given safely to children.
Dose: Tea, 1 cup 2-3 x daily; Tincture, 30-40 drops 2-3 x daily.
Note: Since the tea is mild, a tincture is recommended when a stronger dose is desired.
4. PASSION FLOWER
Considered by herbalists to be an important herb for insomnia caused by mental worry, overwork or nervous exhaustion. 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 x daily; Tincture, 30-60 drops 3-4 x daily.
5. ST. JOHN’S WORT
A common yellow-flowered weedy herb from Europe that is quickly becoming an important part of modern herbal therapeutics. Modern scientific studies show that it can help relieve chronic insomnia and mild depression when related to certain brain chemistry imbalances. 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 2-3 x daily; powdered extract, 1-2 tablets or capsules 2-3 x daily. Allow 2-3 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.