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Can These 5 Popular Herbs Help You Sleep Better?

The stress of daily life can cause sleep-related difficulties. Herbs are often recommended to induce sleep. Chamomile has sedating and muscle-relaxing properties. Alternatively, studies around the sedative benefits of the popular valerian herb are inconclusive. Lavender might promote deep sleep, but the studies around it are preliminary. Passionflower's properties temporarily promote relaxation, aiding restful sleep. California poppy seeds have valium-like properties which ease restlessness.

A lot of us find ourselves staring at the ceiling for the most part of our nights. And, if you’ve tried everything from counting sheep to reading a boring book, you might have to rely on prescription drugs to get a good night’s sleep.

But, sometimes you might be hesitant to try sleeping pills since you might get dependant on them. Alternatively, you might be worried about them interfering with any medications you currently take. Herbs are a popular option when it comes to sleeping aids, but it’s always difficult to tell which ones really work and which are a fad. Here are 5 popular options that we’ve put under the scanner.

1. Chamomile Acts As A Mild Sedative

Chamomile has sedating properties.

Arguably the most popular herb recommended for insomnia, studies state that chamomile has sedating and muscle-relaxing properties. Additionally, it is used to relieve anxiety, treat depression, and relieve mild pain.1

You could dry chamomile petals in the sun and use them to make chamomile tea. Drink this tea 3 times a day or just after dinner to relax your mind before heading to sleep. However, if you are allergic to asters, daisies, chrysanthemums, or ragweed, you may also be allergic to chamomile. Additionally, avoid chamomile if you are pregnant or have asthma to avoid any health complications.2

2. Valerian Might Not Induce Sleep

Valerian's benefits are uncertain.

Valerian, a perennially flowering plant, is often recommended as a sleeping aid. And, although a few animal studies have shown that it significantly improves sleep quality, most others state that it doesn’t.3

Additionally, some studies point out that there might have been a publication bias in all the studies that discussed valerian’s sedating effects.  It’s also hard to conclude its efficacy since each study included small sample sizes, used different amounts and sources of valerian, and measured different outcomes.4

Hence, valerian might not be your best option to induce sleep. However, if you’d still like to give it a try, you could steep valerian roots in hot water to make a herbal tea and sip on it frequently. Be sure to consult a professional if you experience any headaches and dizziness.

3. Lavender Could Aid Deep Sleep

Lavender promotes relaxation.

Lavender is popular for both, its beauty and sleep-related benefits. However, unlike most other herbs, lavender is used in aromatherapy treatments for sleep disturbances. 5

Studies state that inhaling lavender promotes relaxation and deep sleep. However, it’s important to note that lavender cannot cure insomnia. As of current scientific evidence, it can only promote good sleep.6

Although there are more studies required to fully determine how lavender benefits sleeping habits if you’d like to give it a try, you could add lavender essential oil to hot water and inhale the steam every night before sleeping. Lavender might trigger allergic reactions, so do consult a professional before you try this remedy.7

4. Passionflower Temporarily Promotes Relaxation

Passionflower is a mild sedative.

The research around passionflower’s effects on sleep is limited. However, historically, it was used as a mild sedative and pain reliever by Native Americans.8

Having stated that, there is evidence to back passionflower’s benefits towards sleep. Scientists believe that properties in this herb increase levels of a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.

The GABA chemical lowers the activity of some brain cells, making you feel more relaxed. However, this effect is believed to be temporary.

Additionally, passionflower is believed to work best, when combined with other natural herbs. You could brew dried passionflower leaves and petals along with chamomile for a relaxing tea. Consume this before you go to bed.

It’s important to remember that passionflower in itself might not be a sleeping aid, but it can help you relax just enough to sleep easily. Children and pregnant women should consult a professional before trying passionflower.9

5. California Poppy Eases Restlessness

California poppy has valium-like properties.

These brilliant yellow, orange, and red flowers have been used by Native Americans to put children to sleep. However, in the present, this herb only has preliminary studies to back its benefits.

These studies suggest that this herb has naturally occurring compounds (alkaloid combinations) like californine and protopine which have valium-like properties, which can ease restlessness and aid in restful sleep. However, further research is required before one can tell if this herb really does induce sleep.

Considering the fact that there’s very little research around this otherwise popularly recommended herb, it’s hard to determine just how you can consume California poppy. You could use 2 grams of its dried parts to brew tea, but be sure to consult a professional first if you are pregnant, lactating, or on any kind of medications.10

When it comes to herbs, it’s important to stick to extremely low doses and use them as infrequently as possible. Additionally, be sure to avoid taking both herbs and sleeping pills at the same time. And, when you’re in doubt, consult a professional to avoid any health complications.

References   [ + ]

1. Chamomile (Matricaria Recutita). The University of Illinois at Chicago.
2. German chamomile. University Of Maryland Medical Center.
3. Taibi, Diana M., Carol A. Landis, Heidi Petry, and Michael V. Vitiello. “A systematic review of valerian as a sleep aid: safe but not effective.” Sleep medicine reviews 11, no. 3 (2007): 209-230.
4. Valerian. US Department Of Health And Human Services.
5. Nichols, Audrey. “Lavender Oil: The New Sleep Aid.” PhD diss., 2016.
6. Koulivand, Peir Hossein, Maryam Khaleghi Ghadiri, and Ali Gorji. “Lavender and the nervous system.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013 (2013).
7. Lavender as a Sleep Aid. Vanderbilt University.
8. Krenn, Liselotte. “Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata L.)–a reliable herbal sedative.” Wiener medizinische Wochenschrift (1946) 152, no. 15-16 (2002): 404-406.
9. Passionflower. University Of Maryland Medical Center.
10. California Poppy. United States Department Of Agriculture.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.