Herbal sleep aids have been used for centuries by people looking for a safe, gentle way to help them fall asleep.
Sleep problems are extremely common and can affect all aspects
of a person’s life and even those around them, so getting the
proper amount of sleep is extremely important. As a result, many
people have turned to sleeping pills for help but this solution
is not without its dangers.

Most prescription sleeping pills have a range of side
effects from dizziness to poor coordination to difficulty
waking up. Often, those who take sleeping pills don’t actually
get a restful night’s sleep and so they tend to drift off during
the day, which can be dangerous. An herbal sleep aid can
not only help you to get actual restful sleep, but most have no
side effects whatsoever.

The most serious side effect of prescription sleeping pills is
the tendency for them to become addictive. It becomes far too
easy to rely on taking a little pill in order to sleep and increasingly
more difficult to wean yourself off of them once you’ve been taking
them for a while. Again, herbal sleep aids do not have
this effect so they are far safer.

Fortunately, there are a number of natural products which can
help you to get the deep, restful sleep that your body needs. The most common herbal sleep aid is Chamomile (Matricaria
recutita). Usually taken in a tea, chamomile promotes
calm and restfulness and can also be used to treat upset stomach.
It is most effective when used occasionally but is gentle enough
to be used on a daily basis in small doses.

Close-up of a passion flowerPhoto: René de Cock

Passionflower (Passiflora) is one of the more popular
herbal sleep aids and has long been used for it’s medicinal
properties. The leaves and roots of varieties such as Maypop (P.
and Maracujá (P. edulis), and many others, can be used
to make teas or supplements which are used to treat insomnia and
anxiety. Although passionflower is not reported to have any side
effects, consult a physician if you are pregnant or its use is
intended for a young child.

Valerian root is another of the best known herbal sleep
aids. It has a strong scent that can put some people
off, but it can help to calm and soothe the nerves. By lulling
you into a state of peacefulness, it promotes healthful sleep.
It can have some mild side effects when take in large doses, so
it is recommended that you use it in moderation.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a perrenial herb
in the mint family. This is a versatile herb and is used
as a mosquito repellent, flavoring in herbal teas, ice cream,
candies and even toothpaste. Lemon balm also has antibacterial
and antiviral properties but it is its calming effect that makes
it a popular herbal sleep aid.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is widely used as a
herbal sleep remedy in the the Indian system of medicine known
as Ayurveda. Its species name “somnifera” actually
means “sleep-inducing” but it is used for many other
reasons including sexual vitality and increasing resistance to
stress, anxiety and fatigue. As such it has been compared to Ginseng
for its rejuvinative properties.

Kava (Piper methysticum) is one of the most interesting
herbal sleep aids that has been taken for thousands of years. Extracts from the root are often mixed with water and have a sedative
effect. However, Kava also acts to reduce social anxiety and has
a numbing effect on the gums and throat. It is said to produce
a deep dreamless restful sleep but is also reported to result
in episodes of lighter sleep with vivid dreams. Reports of liver
toxicity may be due to modern processesing that includes stems
and leaves in supplements whereas traditionally only the root
is used.

Field of lavenderPhoto: Marmit

Lavender (Lavandula) is used as a herbal remedy for many
ailments such as insect bites, headaches and skin burns and is
also used as a herbal sleep remedy. Making an infusion
of the flower heads taken at bedtime can help to get you to sleep.
Flowers and seeds can also be added to your pillow for an added
calming effect. However, lavender is not recommended for pregnant
or nursing women or children as compounds in lavender and lavender
oil extracts can result in genetic aberrations. It can also result
in increased sensitivity to sunlight and some may have allergic

There are several natural substances in our own bodies
which work to stimulate proper sleep, among them melatonin. Any truly effective herbal sleep aid will contain this hormone
which the body usually produces at night. For those who don’t
produce enough melatonin on their own, they can find a natural
supplement which includes it and will help to restore a normal
sleep cycle.

Another natural sleep inducer, familiar to anyone who
has fallen asleep on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner, is tryptophan. An amino acid, tryptophan is found in foods such as turkey and
milk and actually works by encouraging your body to produce serotonin.
A lack of serotonin can cause irritability and sleeplessness, so a supplement containing tryptophan can be one of the
most effective herbal sleep aids as it can help maintain
proper levels of serotonin.

Lack of sleep can lead to the disruption of your entire daily
routine and to overall poor health, but there are ways to prevent
it. Don’t let sleep problems take over your life, find
a safe, gentle, herbal sleep remedy to help you relax and sleep
well. You’ll be looking and feeling better when you get
a good night’s rest the natural way.

Read more of my articles on Natural Sleep Aids