Life Elevated

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Problems Sleeping? 5 Herbs to Help You Sleep Tight.

Katolen Yardley, MNIMH – Medical Herbalist

October 21, 2016

Sleep is a big issue in society today. But too many reach too quickly for sleeping pill medications to solve sleep issues without realizing that these can inadvertently create other issues, including physical and psychological dependency, and harsh withdrawal symptoms. But there is another way. Mother nature’s plant medicines offer effective and non habit forming solutions for those sleepless nights.

Herbalists reach for plant sedatives or relaxant herbs to gently encourage relaxation and promote sleep, while many of the same herbs also work as support during the day to relieve pain and minimize daytime anxiety.

Here are 5 safe and effective non habit forming herbal solutions to help reset our sleep cycle and ensure a sound full night’s sleep.

  • California Poppy Eschscholzia californica: an ideal relaxant plant for both adults and children. This herb can be used in the daytime to ease restlessness in children exhibiting hyperactive behavior and in the evening to enhance sleep. California poppy helps to “calm the mind, uplift the spirits, promote relaxation, and alleviate general anxiety and worries in cases of mental exhaustion.[i]” This vibrant looking flower also has a long history of use as an analgesic and antispasmodic herb for pain management, known as a non addictive option for various aches, cramping and discomforts[ii]. Reach for this herb at night to speed up the onset and improve quality of sleep.
  • Magnolia BarkMagnolia officinalis: most often known as a traditional Chinese remedy, magnolia offers support for anxiety, irritability and nervous tension during times of stress. It also works as an antispasmodic, for promotion of muscle relaxation and may assist with lowering elevated cortisol levels[iii]. For insomnia, magnolia may play a role in speeding up the onset of sleep, and in increasing the duration of REM sleep.[iv]
  • ZiziphusZiziphus jujube: another ancient and widely respected remedy for improved quality of sleep, especially dream disturbed insomnia. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ziziphus seed is listed amongst herbs that “nourish the Heart and calm the Spirit, primarily used for palpitations with anxiety and insomnia from Deficient Heart Blood and Deficient Liver Yin[v]“. Ziziphus could be helpful for restless sleepers, or those who sleep through the night but still wake up tired.
  • AshwagandhaWithania somnifera: is perhaps considered one of the fullest spectrum adaptogens in auryvedic medicine. Adaptogens are herbal agents which assist the body in coping with both internal and external stress, encouraging relaxation rather than stimulating the body. Ashwagandha root offers ideal support during the day for stress and anxiety and is used at night for promotion of a rest filled sleep and to re-establish long term sleep cycles.
  • Passion FlowerPassiflora incarnata: is an herb of choice for individuals whose minds are constantly busy and full of thoughts of the day, worries of the future and present day concerns. Passion flower is an ideal sedative and antispasmodic plant for anxiety and tension as well as for rapid heartbeat related to nervousness and nerve pain. This herb is recommended for those who struggle with the onset of sleep, and who are kept awake by nervous thoughts.

Continued sleeplessness may in fact be the body’s attempt at direct communication; telling us that it is over stressed, over stimulated and under supported. Insomnia is a cue to investigate nutrition, lifestyle and how we manage acute and chronic stress. Trust nature’s solutions for a rest filled sleep while investigating the underlying cases of insomnia which are taxing the body.

The alarming rates of sleepless in our society and overuse of prescription sedative medications is very concerning especially when changes to lifestyle (link) and non habit forming plant medicine options can help provide for a rest filled sleep.

As with all health concerns, if your self-care approach does not address the issue within 2 weeks, then consider obtaining guidance from a practitioner, a Medical Herbalist or Naturopath, who can investigate your underlying health concerns and provide a more detailed approach and guidance.


References

[i] Katolen Yardley, The Good Living Guide to Natural and Herbal remedies: Simple Salves, Teas, Tinctures and More. Good Books. Skyhorse Publishing, New York, NY 2016.
[ii] Karta Purkh Singh Kalsa, DN-C, RH (AGH), Chronic Anxiety and Insomnia. The Northwest Herb Symposium Proceedings Book: Botanicals at the Beach, August 27-30, 2015
[iii] Shawn Talbott, PH.D. The Cortisol Connection: Why Stress Makes you Fat and Ruins Your Health and What You can Do About it. http://cortisolconnection.com/ch8_5.php
[iv] Yuan Shi, Jing-Wen Dong, Jiang-He Zhao, Li-Na Tang and Jian- Jun Zhang, Herbal Insomnia Medications that Target GABAergic Systems: A Review of the Psychopharmacological Evidence. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2014 May; 12(3): 289–302. Published online 2014 May. doi: 10.2174/1570159X11666131227001243
[v] Mediherb, Herbs for the Treatment of Insomnia, Restlessness and Anxiety. No 7, March, 2000

Images:
California Poppy: By Franco Folini, via Wikimedia Commons
Jujube leaves: By Dinesh Valke from Thane, India (Small-fruited Jujube), via Wikimedia Commons
Ashwagandha leaves: By Neha. Vindhya, via Wikimedia Commons
Passionflower: By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region (Passion flower Uploaded by uleli), via Wikimedia Commons

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