There are four main herbs that can be hugely beneficial to the insomniac. Taken alone, or in combinations with each other, these herbs are said to have homeopathic value as sleep aides. With that being said, I am not a doctor nor pharmacist, and these herbs have not been evaluated by the FDA, nor have they been scientifically proven to cure any illness. (That?s just for the legal beagles out there).
The four herbs are: Valerian, Hops, Passion Flower (or Passion Flower Extract), and Catnip.
Valerian is a very "stinky? herb, and I would highly suggest if you are going to take it, to find it in pill or capsule form. Dried Valerian Root has been variously described as smelling like: "trash?, "baby diapers?, "dirty socks?, and "like rotten cheese?. So unless you are of a strong stomach, I would recommend pill form. However, Valerian Root is the absolute strongest of the "sleep herbs?. It?s effects in higher doses has been compared to the effects of Valium by some. In addition to sleep disorders, valerian has been used for gastrointestinal spasms and distress, epileptic seizures, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. However, scientific evidence is not sufficient to support the use of valerian for these conditions. Valerian is not recommended if you are pregnant, or if you suffer from low blood pressure or hypoglycemia.
Hops, the main ingredient in beer, is a wonderful sleep herb. Hops have tonic, nervine, diuretic and anodyne properties. Their volatile oil produces sedative and soporific effects, and the Lupamaric acid or bitter principle is stomachic and tonic. For this reason Hops improve the appetite and promote sleep. American Indians made a sedative from the blossoms, and they also applied heated, dried flowers to relieve toothaches. Many herbal preparations for insomnia combine Hops with more potent sedative herbs, such as valerian. Hops can be made into a soothing hot tea, or taken in capsule form.
Passion flower has a tranquilizing effect, including mild sedative and anti-anxiety effects. In studies conducted since the 1930's, its mode of action has been found to be different than that of most sedative drugs (sleeping pills), thus making it a non-addictive herb to promote relaxation. In many countries in Europe, the U.S. and Canada, the use of passionflower leaves to tranquilize and settle edgy nerves has been documented for over 200 years. You may also be familiar with Passion Fruit, which grows from the same vine that produces Passion Flower. You can also make a hot tea from Passion Flowers, buy it in capsule form, or purchase Passion Flower Extract in concentrated form for dosages.
Finally, there is catnip. Yes, the same herb that makes your cats act with temporary insanity, can help you to sleep! While it makes cats hyper and extremely active, it causes the opposite reaction in human beings. Catnip is part of the mint family, and makes an incredibly tasty hot tea. Simply drinking a cup of hot catnip tea before bedtime can calm most people down. Catnip is a mild tranquilizer and sedative. It is most often used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and nervousness. The sedating effect may also help lessen migraine headaches. It is the least sedating of the four sleep herbs, however when used in conjunction with the other three it can produce significant effects! Nepetalactone, the major component of catnip (Nepeta cataria) volatile oil and the component that induces euphoria in cats, is thought to be responsible for catnip's sedative effects. It is chemically related to the valepotriates that occur in valerian.
So now that you know the four major sleep herbs, you can use them to promote better, longer, and more restful sleep! Be sure to read the labels on the bottle before taking the herbs (if bought in pill form) or do research to find out what dosage is appropriate for you. If you are currently taking other sleep aides of any form, please ask a doctor before using these herbs. Used in conjunction with each other, these four herbs can produce very powerful tranquilizing effects. While scientific studies on these herbs have been sketchy (as with all herbal remedies), there is good reason to believe that these remedies have some basis in fact.