Sleep. It’s one of the most underrated necessities in the scope of human health essentials. No need to wonder why; just take a look at modern culture and it’s easy to see where our wires have gotten crossed. Phrases like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” and memes jesting “Sleep: a poor substitute for caffeine!” associate catching those precious Z’s with laziness and apathy. In a world where the manifest destiny ethic prevails, it’s easy to dismiss the need for sleep as simple indolence.
However, those who suffer from insomnia, whether chronic or short-term, know better. Even for people who manage it well, the constant lethargy that follows a restless night can eat away at the joys of life. For some, prescription medication works well, but the risk of serious side effects deters many from seeing them as a viable long-term solution.
Fortunately, there are herbal alternatives to heavy medications that can assist insomniacs in their desire to get a full night of restful sleep. The following herbs are relatively easy to find and simple to use, and most importantly, they work! If you are having trouble getting the proper amount of shut-eye, you’ll find three faithful friends in these new additions to your pantry or medicine cabinet.
Chamomile is an oldie, but a goodie. This time-honored sleep aid is a main ingredient in most of the sleep and relaxation teas that you can find in the grocery store. The small white or yellow flowers are dried and steeped in hot water, producing a light herbal tea with a scent reminiscent of freshly picked apples.
When using chamomile specifically as a sleep aid, look for a version of the dried herb that includes the whole flowers. It should also have a strong scent. (Scent is an indicator of the freshness and medicinal quality of the herb.) Brew a strong tea by using a diffuser to steep the flowers in hot water (not boiling) until it turns a caramel color. (The darker the color, the stronger the tea and its effect.) Ten minutes is usually effective in drawing out most of the therapeutic components of the herb. Drink about an hour before you plan to sleep.
Important note: If you suffer from hay fever or have a ragweed allergy, steer clear of chamomile. In some, it can cause an anaphylactic reaction.
Originally documented in South America, passionflower is well-known for improving the quality of sleep. If your insomnia is mild, a tea or tincture made from the dried leaves of the plant may work well for you. Also, if you suffer from anxiety or other high-stress conditions, passionflower can be a great ally. It has been shown to be helpful for anxiety, and even improve the conditions of ulcers.
To use passionflower as a tea, steep one teaspoon of the dried leaves in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes. Take one cup about an hour before bed. (To reduce general anxiety, drink up to three times a day.)
This one probably rings a bell for some people, as hops are a main ingredient in one of the world’s favorite adult beverages – beer. If you happen to be a fan of the bitter, British-native herb who also could benefit from better sleep, you won’t have to stray far to find a cure for what ails you.
To make a tea, steep a tablespoon of whole cone, dried hops in a cup of hot water for at least 10 minutes. As hops is a naturally bitter herb, you may want to consider mixing in a bit of honey, ginger, or slightly sweeter chamomile tea to get a brew that is more drinkable. Once you experiment and find a blend that works for your palette, the bedtime benefits of drinking hops tea are sure to outweigh the taste. Drink a cup about an hour before bedtime.
For an extra kick, trying blending hops and valerian, another great sleep-inducing herb.
These three simple, accessible herbs can make a huge difference in the amount and quality of your sleep. Visit your neighborhood natural grocery store or farmers market to find a local supply and start brewing better sleep today. After you try them, make sure to comment below and let me know how they worked for you.