Nature’s Sleep Aids
Oct 31, 2019 10:00AM
Herbs to Help Us Get to Sleep and Stay Asleep
by Kathleen Gould and Madalyn Johnson
Have you found yourself waking up in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep or lying in bed trying to get to sleep? Do you go to bed exhausted, only to find that when you lie down and close your eyes your mind turns to a myriad of thoughts that keep you from your much-needed sleep? Do aches and pain or restless legs keep you awake?
The beautiful thing about Mother Nature is she understands that there are many reasons a person cannot sleep and offers a whole playground of plants. We can mix and match these herbs as well so we get everything we need in one preparation.
Many of the herbs that are traditionally used to help promote sleep are called nervines (feeds, nourishes and strengthens the nervous system). In addition, each herb also has its own unique gift (e.g., calms anxiety, reduces pain, etc). Let’s look at some of the most common and easy-to-find nervines.
Help promote mental calmness—chamomile, kava root, passion flower, lemon balm, lavender and oat straw.
Help decrease anxiety—chamomile, kava root, lemon balm, passion flower, skullcap and St. John’s wort.
Mild sedative—kava root, valerian root, hops, wild lettuce and California poppy.
Muscle relaxer—valerian root, passion flower and kava root.
Some herbs, like valerian root, may help you get to sleep faster, while other herbs, like passion flower, may help you stay asleep longer.
Here is a little example of how this might look. Let’s say you cannot settle your brain down to sleep because you have stress at work and sit in front of a computer all day, which has caused back problems. Using the aforementioned list, you may want to mix your herbs into something like this:
Valerian root (muscle relaxer for your back and sedative to help quiet your mind)
Passion flower (helps promote mental calmness, helps decrease anxiety and is a muscle relaxer)
Lemon balm (helps promote mental calmness)
Chamomile (is an anti-spasmodic, helps decrease anxiety, helps promote mental calmness, is an anti-inflammatory, and tastes good)
Let’s take a look at one herb specifically and see how to use it effectively: lavender. There are many ways to use this well-known plant to calm and promote restful sleep. Simply inhaling the essence of lavender helps reduce your stress hormones and has a sedating effect. You could place a small bowl of lavender leaves (fresh or dried) by your nightstand to create a calm, peaceful bedroom. If you like to bathe and find that to be calming before bed, put some lavender buds in a large tea bag and float in your tub. Once you’ve submerged yourself in that warm water, your open body pores will welcome its relaxing nature. Using an essential oil diffuser is also effective in clearing the air continually during the night. If you don’t have a diffuser, simply fill a spray bottle with water and several drops of lavender essential oil, shake, mist your room, your sheets or give a light mist to your pillow.
Roses are another plant with a very familiar floral scent, which has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and relax your senses. One popular way to use roses to promote good sleep is to do a footbath. Simply fill a basin with warm water and a few drops of rose essential oil (and maybe add some dried rose petals), swish to mix oil and water, and submerge your feet for a 20- to 30-minute foot soak. A wonderful combination that would assure you of a good night’s sleep would be to sip a cup of chamomile tea while soaking your feet.
The plants in this article, like all whole-plant herbs, are filled with vitamins, minerals, nutrients, trace minerals, free radical scavengers, and antioxidants. They are your birthright, and they are here to help heal your mind, body and spirit. Mix and match them and find the combination that works best for you. You are unique, so if one herb or combination doesn’t work as well as you would like, try another or stop into your local herb shop and talk with the shop’s herbalist to get started.
Kathleen Gould, registered herbalist, and Madalyn Johnson are proprietors of SW Herb Shop and Gathering Place. Gould has been an herbalist for 30-plus years and has extensive experience in herbal medicine. For more information, call 480-694-9931 or visit SWHerb.com or Store.SWHerb.com.