Below are 15 herbs that help you sleep.I’ve marked the best herbal sleep aids with a big green check so you don’t miss’em. Enjoy and please comment!
1. California Poppy
A Sedating Herb from the Poppy family
Also known as:
California poppy is taken as a tincture or made as a tea in order to experience the sedative effects of its naturally occurring protopine compound, supposedly similar to morphine minus the addictive qualities. Not to say it’s not a real sleep herb, but I couldn’t find a lot of information about using california poppy for sleep outside of companies trying to sell it to me as a sleep aid.
2. Calamus Root
More of an anti anxiety herb than a sleep herb.
Also known as: Sweet Flag, Bitterroot, Acorus americanus, and Acorus calamus.
Often associated as a sleep aid, this herb is more effective for anti anxiety than actual sedation, but it’s often included in many herbal sleep remedies. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s a very thoughtful essay on Calamus written by someone obviously passionate about calamus. It’s a really interesting read.
A very mild sleep aid – also one my favorite teas.
Also known as: Celestial Seasoning’s Sleepytime Tea
Along with valerian root, chamomile is really well known as a sleepy herbal tea – most likely due to the Celestial Seasoning’s Sleepytime brand making the association between chamomile and sleep. However, it’s a very mild sleep aid and most people, including myself, drink it for the taste without any thought about its sedative effects. This would be the perfect tea to drink if you’re looking for mild tea that tastes good to enjoy in th evenings without having to worry about getting the caffeine you’d get from green and black teas.
Not Just for Cats!
Also known as: catnep, catmint, catswort,field balm, and Nepeta cataria
Catnip has a mild sedative effect on people. It can me made as catnip tea, which I believe would have a nice mint taste being that catnip is part of the mint family. It can also be smoked. You’ll find catnip as an ingredient in many herbal smoke blends. Interesting, catnip tea also functions as a diuretic, so while it might make you drowsy, it could wake you back up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. It’s unclear if the sleep aid properties of catnip have been backed up by any modern research.
And for cats, of course, it just makes them insane.
5. Jamaican Dogwood
Eh Mon, You need a Little Sleep Aid, Eh?
Also known as: Jamaica dogwood, Fish poison tree, Piscidia erythrina and Piscidia piscipula
The root boot bark of Jamaican Dogwood can be used as a sedative and sleep aid. However, it’s probably more well known for its other medicinal uses: treating muscle spams, inflammatory problems, and migraines. There are concerns about the toxicity of this plant (it’s used to kill fish) and there’s lots of warnings about only using it under the guidance of your doctor. It’s taken as either a tea or a tincture, and has quite a robust, bitter flavor to it.
An effective sleep aid but its banned in some countries over health concerns.
Kava is one of the more interesting herbs on this list. First because it’s effective for helping anxiety prone people fall asleep and its effects are more pronounced than a lot of the sleep inducing herbs on the list. Secondly because it’s occupies that area between “happy little herbal remedy” to (insert threatening music here) “a drug.” Truth is all herbs can be called drugs, obviously, but Kava is banned in Canada, Switzerland, and Germany over health concerns and maybe because of concerns over it being used to get high. In the South Pacific, kava drinks are enjoyed much in the same way other cultures kick back beers and relax.
Now are the health concerns surrounding kava an issue for someone taking a small amount of kava to sleep? Maybe.
While it only takes a bit more than prescribed to freakin die from prescription sleeping pills, I don’t Kava is quite so bad comparitively. But the warnings on this page from NIH will probably keep me and everyone else who reads it from using Kava as a sleep aid. Considering the number of herbs on this list, that’s probably a good idea.
Either way, I still want to try a Kava drink one day. And isn’t it weird something with many government warnings on it is available at your local WholeFoods?
Need More Information On This One
Also known as: Various plants of the mint family, Lamiaceae
From researching this online, I see that sage is another well known herb with sedative effects. However, sage is a family of plants right? I don’t really understand what this means then when it’s considered a sleep aid. Are all plants in this family a sleep aid? Or is there one particular type of Sage that people usually mean when they use the word?
8. St. John’s wort
A Powerful Herb for Treating Insomnia
Also known as: Tipton’s Weed, Chase-devil, Klamath weed, Goatweed, St. John’s Wart, or Hypericum perforatum
Most popular as an anti depressant, St. John’s Wort is also known for treating insomnia, improving deep sleep cycles, and fighting the causes of sleep deprivation. It has been studied for many other interesting uses, including treatment for alcholism and treating adhd naturally. St. John’s Wort is really popular and easily available, but it interacts negatively with many common prescriptions drugss (benzodiazepines, oral contraceptives, to name just two), so make sure you’re not doing anything dangerous. Click here or here for more info.
Another Herb With Sleep Inducing Properties. And it’s Fun To Say Outloud.
Also known as: Ague Tree, Cinnamon Wood, Common Sassafras, Kuntze Saloop, Laurus albida, Sasafras, Sassafrax, Sassafras albidum, Sassafras officinale, Sassafras variifolium, Saxifrax.
In the United States, the USDA banned sassafras tea due to concerns about it being, well, possibly poisonous. Ironically, it’s still used as an ingredients in lots of root beers and is sold over the counter as a popular folk herb. It seems that if the supplement/tincture/whatever is “safrole-free” than there aren’t any toxicity concerns. Side note for all you psychonauts: Interestingly, safrole supposedly is an important ingredient in making MDMA, aka Ectsacy.
A Tough Sounding Name for a Sleep Inducing Herb.
Also known as: American Skullcap, Blue Pimpernel, Blue Skullcap, Escutelaria, Helmet Flower, Hoodwort, Mad-Dog Herb, Mad-Dog Skullcap, Mad-Dog Weed, Mad Weed, Quaker Bonnet, Scutellaria, Scutellaire, Scutelluria, Scuterlluria lateriflora.
Not a lot of research can back the medicinal claims made for Skullcap, but it is popularly used to treat insomnia.
11. Valerian Root
The King of All Sleep Herbs and the Most Recommended of Everything On This List.
By far the most researched herb in relation to its sleep inducing properties, the use of Valerian root as a sleep aid goes a long way back. We’ve even found notes in ancient Greek and Roman medical records of its use as a sleep aid. Valerian root is one of the only herb son this list that would get a powerful nod from mainstream medicine, as it’s often prescribed by doctors for insomnia, and its reputation is well received in both alternative and mainstream medicine circles.
A few things you should know about using valerian root to help you sleep:
- It builds up before its effective. You should plan on taking valerian for up to 4 weeks before its effects kick in.
- It’s helpful for those addicted to sleeping pils. In an interesting twist, if you’ve been taking prescription sleeping pills and are trying to get off of them, valerian can help with the withdrawal process.
- Do not take Valerian if you are are taking any Benzodiazepines medications,a class of drugs which includes commonly prescribed antidepressants / anxiety medicines like Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium, amongst others.
A Wonderful Smelling Herbal Sleep Aid
Also Known As:
Oh man, Lavender smells so good. It’s well known for its lovely, relaxing aroma. It’s flowers and seeds are popularly included in pillows so you can carry this scent with you to bed. Lavender extracts and teas can also be drank before going to sleep and lavender oil is also a popular product too.
Lucky for us, there is scientific evidence that connects the dots between lavender and healthy sleep. You can read the horribly wordy abstract here if you’d like or just take my word for it that at one point they say that a lavender oil preparation called Silexan had a “significant beneficial influence on quality and duration of sleep.”
13. Passion Flower
A Popular European Sleep Aid
Passion Flower is a widely used herbal sleep aid, most popular in Europe – ironic since it’s native to America. It’s taken as a tea, tincture, or in capsules. Supposedly the drowsiness is caused by its active ingredient known as harmine
14. Lemon Balm
Another Sweet Smelling Mild Herbal Sleep Aid
Also known as: Balm, Melissa, Sweet Balm, Melissa officinalis L. Family: Lamiaceae (mints)
Lemon is another popular herbal sleep aid supplement. It has a mild sedative effect when taking as a tea or standardized exctract. It’s been studied mainly for other reasons though and may be helpful in fighting stress and helping the body relax.
Makes a Good Combo With Valerian
Also known as: Humulus lupulus, that stuff in beer.
Hops is commonly included in prepared valerian sleep aid extracts and products. Supposedly people who pick hops often find themselves getting drowsy, an image that makes me chuckle. Studies have not been done yet on hops and sleep.
My personal favorite sleep aid.
Personally, I’m a big fan of supplementing with 10mg of melatonin if I’m having trouble sleeping. It’s not addictive like prescription insomnia tablets. And it’s not overpowering, but for me personally, I can definitely attest that it works. I would say it’s more powerful than many of the herbs on this list (excluding perhaps Valerian extracts and a few others) but definitely less powerful than commercial sleeping pills.
Tip: You can buy melatonin for super cheap at Trader Joes. They sale bottles of 5mg mint pills for under $5. They taste good, too.
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