Top Three Herbs for Restful Sleep
Before using these relaxing herbs, it is best to assess lifestyle factors that can be in the way from getting enough sleep. First, limiting or eliminating caffeine and chocolate, as well as alcoholic beverages and nicotine, can be beneficial. Having a balanced, healthy diet of whole foods, with exercise, adequate exposure to sunshine, and the use of stress-management/relaxation techniques can be very supportive to good sleep. In addition, making sure to have enough time between your last meal and sleep, as well as going screen/electronic-free at least one hour before bed can also be very helpful.
The two types of chamomile, German and Roman, both have similar effects, however German chamomile is more commonly used in the US. Tea can be made from the steeped flowering tops, as well as liquid extracts, capsules, and tablets. It's possible that people can have allergic reactions, especially if they have allergies to related plants in the daisy family (ragweed, chrysanthamums, marigolds, and daisies). Although for many people, chamomile has a relaxing effect, the effects have not been adequately studied. Chamomile in tea form is commonly found in grocery stores everywhere. I put this one in the #1 spot based on the fact that there are no side effects, unless one does have an allergic reaction, it's common, and easy to find.
Personally, since chamomile is so common, I usually have acquired ready-made tea bags. I have noticed that when using dried chamomile as opposed to fresh, the dried chamomile gives a stronger flavor. My theory is that because the chamomile is dried, it has a more concentrated flavor. In addition, since dried chamomile includes flower tops that have shrunk, more flower tops can be used in the same amount of space that fresh chamomile flower tops can take up.
"Valerian is a plant native to Europe and Asia; it is also found in North America. Valerian has been used as a medicinal herb since at least the time of ancient Greece and Rome. Its therapeutic uses were described by Hippocrates, and in the 2nd century, Galen prescribed valerian for insomnia. Today, valerian is used as a traditional remedy for sleep disorders and anxiety, as well as headaches, depression, irregular heartbeat, and trembling.
The roots and rhizomes (underground stems) of valerian are typically used to make supplements, including capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts, as well as teas." National Institutes of Health - http://www.nih.gov
Research suggests that it may be helpful in insomnia, but not enough scientific research exists for its use in anxiety and depression. It is best for short-term use and hasn't been studied for long-term use. Mild side-effects can include grogginess in the morning, headaches, dizziness, and upset stomach. It's best not to operate a vehicle after immediately consuming valerian.
Dried valerian has quite a pungeant odor. I currently have my dried valerian in a baggy enclosed in a small mason jar.
3. (American) Skullcap
"American skullcap is native to North America, but it is now widely cultivated in Europe and other areas of the world. It has been used for more than 200 years as a mild relaxant and as a therapy for anxiety, nervous tension, and convulsions. However, more research is needed to support that claim. Studies show American skullcap has significant antioxidant effects, and may help protect against neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, anxiety, and depression. There's even some evidence to suggest that American skullcap may inhibit food allergic response. Today, other herbs (such as valerian) are more commonly used, although American skullcap may be combined with other calming herbs in some preparations." University of Maryland Medical Center (http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/skullcap)
High doses of the tincture may cause giddiness, stupor, mental confusion, twitching, irregular heartbeat, and seizures. Skullcap should not be consumed while pregnant or breastfeeding.
I have consumed skullcap in a tea of about 1 tsp of skullcap steeped for 10 minutes. I have also consumed skullcap within tea blends of chamomile, lemongrass, and melissa (lemon balm), as well as others. My most preferred way of consuming skullcap is in capsule form.
Note: This information is for educational purposes only. This blog post is only a blog post and not designed to treat sleep disorders. Please discuss any lifestyle changes and possible counterindications (interactions with medicines you may be taking) with your healthcare practitioner. If you are pregnant, you need to consult with your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.