Valerian Root: This herb, sold as a dietary supplement, has been shown in a number of different studies to help you get to sleep quickly and more easily. It’s been used as a mild sedative since ancient Greece and was even mentioned in the writings of Hippocrates for its calming abilities! While the National Institute of Health says whether Valerian root does what people say it does is inconclusive, it’s generally considered a safe alternative to prescription meds (Office of Dietary Supplements - Valerian, n.d.)
Chamomile: Long been used in decaffeinated teas, chamomile is one of the most well-known herbal remedies for rest and relaxation. It’s also one of the most popular ancient herbs we still use today. It’s thought that chamomile’s anti-inflammatory properties, which have been well-researched over years, have a stress-reducing effect that can contribute to letting your body unwind and relax, promoting sleep (Gupta, 2010, p. 900).
Hops: One of the main ingredients in the majority of beers, hops is also considered to be an ancient herbal remedy for insomnia. Today, many herbal remedies containing hops extract are paired with valerian root, as these two herbs have been paired together since ancient times and seem to have a synergistic effect. Scientists believe that hops extract can help stimulate the production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating sleep (Hops (Humulus Lupulus), n.d.)
Lemon Balm: This lemon-scented herb has more than just a lovely fragrance; it’s also got a long history of being used to treat stress and anxiety in Europe and Asia for centuries. As reducing stress and anxiety can also help you get a good night’s sleep, many use lemon balm for insomnia; in fact, medical research has backed up many of lemon balm’s claims when it comes to having a positive effect on stress, anxiety, and insomnia (Cases et al., 2010, p. 214)
Passion Flower: These cruciform plants have been a staple in Native American ancient herbal medicine since before the discovery of the New World. Passionflower excels in providing you better sleep if taking it over time, something that has been borne out by scientific research into the herb’s effectiveness as an anti-insomnia treatment (Ngan & Conduit, 2011, p. 1155)
Magnolia Bark: The bark of the houpa magnolia tree, native to East Asia, has been in constant use by traditional chinese medical practitioners for a very long time. It’s been used to promote calming and relaxation for a very long time, and it turns out that modern medical science has found evidence of how magnolia bark works. This particular type of tree bark is rich in magnolol, an organic compound that has been found to induce sleep by binding to the GABA neuroreceptor in the human body (Chen et al., 2012, p. 1198)
Tart Cherry: Also known as sour cherries, Montmorency cherries, or dwarf cherries, tart cherry has been a popular choice for a while now. Most often consumed in juice form, tart cherry juice is not only rich in a number of essential nutrients but has also been shown to increase your melatonin levels and make it easier for you to stay asleep, providing you with better overall sleep quality (Howatson et al., 2011, p. 914)
St John’s Wort: One of the most commonly purchased herbal remedies in the United States, this little herb with the big name has been used since time immemorial to treat dozens of different maladies. It’s been used for centuries to treat depression, and research has shown that, in some cases, St. John’s Wort can work as well as SSRIs like Celexa, Prozac, and Zoloft according to the Mount Sinai Health System (St. John’s Wort, n.d.). As depression is common stressor that can lead to sleeplessness, St. John’s Wort is often thought of as an excellent way to hit two birds with one stone, so to speak, by those who tout herbal remedies.
Lavender: Having been suggested as a sleep aid for centuries based on its purported abilities to provide a calming feeling from its scent alone, lavender has been researched quite heavily to see if it has any of the miraculous abilities that traditional medicine practitioners claim it does. Results have varied, but there is much evidence that has been gathered regarding lavender’s ability as a mood stabilizer, its anti-anxiety powers, and its ability to provide calm - especially when distilled down to its essential oil (Koulivand et al., 2013, p. 6)
Blue Skullcap: Used in both Native American and Chinese alternative medicine traditions for thousands of years, blue skullcap has been used as a sedative and as an anti-anxiety medicine in the past, and it’s thought that the herb’s ability to act as a mood stabilizer contributes to its ability to help people get better sleep. Baicalin, an active compound in blue skullcap, has been found to bind to the body’s GABA receptors, which reinforces the role it might play in treating insomnia on its own (Chang et al., 2011, p. 367).
Wild Lettuce: Sometimes referred to as “opium lettuce” for its ability to provide pain relief when prepared properly, wild lettuce has been used to provide pain-relieving and sedative effects. Organic compounds known as sesquiterpene lactones are thought to be behind this process; interestingly enough, many of these compounds are found throughout the Asteraceae family of plants alongside wild lettuce. One of those plants is chamomile, already widely-renowned for its support for calmness and relaxation. In-depth scientific research into wild lettuce is not forthcoming regarding its ability to promote sleep right now, though, even though its pain-relieving properties are well-documented (Wesołowska et al., 2006, p. 257)
Ashwagandha: An ancient Indian herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, ashwagandha has been well-researched to reveal its medicinal properties. It’s readily accepted that ashwagandha promotes sleep, considering that its Latin name is Withania somnifera, with the somni- suffix indicating sleep. What’s less clear is how ashwagandha works, though new research uncovered by the American Sleep Association has been throwing new light on these processes (Herman, 2018)
Kava Kava Root: Native to the South Pacific islands, kava kava root (sometimes just called kava) has been used by Pacific Islanders for generations. Brewed into a drink that promotes relaxation by ancient herbologists, kava kava root has been shown to reduce anxiety and provide pain relief. In modern medical research, kava has been shown to reduce insomnia and anxiety better than a placebo in human trials, particularly when combined with valerian root, another herbal remedy on this list (Wheatley, 2001, p. 354)
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