Your body thrives on sleep. It is while you are peacefully slumbering that your body is busily repairing the damage the day has done. Your body’s cells including your skin regenerate and rejuvenate themselves during sleep. When you haven’t had enough sleep your face lets you know about it as soon as you look in the mirror next morning—dull eyes, dull lips and a dull complexion. Deep, regular sleep can do more to enhance your wellbeing as well as your good looks than the most expensive creams and potions on the market.
NO SLEEPING PILLS
There are no hard and fast rules about how much sleep you should get. Some people need a full eight hours. Others thrive on six. The better your diet—the higher it is in fresh fruits, vegetables and unprocessed foods—and the more exercise you get daily, the less time you are likely to need for sleep. What matters most is the quality of your sleep. Sleeping deeply does not mean drugging yourself into oblivion. In Britain alone 50 million prescriptions are written for sleeping pills each year. These drugs taken regularly can bring about dementia Alzheimer’s, depression and mental disorders. They also suppress vital rapid-eye-movement or REM phases of sleep. This produces psychological repression. Herbs offer a far safer alternative to drugs without having to pay the pipe with side effects or morning ‘hangovers’.
There are three medically recognised types of insomnia—transient, acute and chronic. Transient insomnia lasts from a few days to a few weeks. It is usually linked to something specific—a worrying event or an illness. In acute insomnia your body has learned poor sleep patterns over a month or more and just keeps repeating them over and over again. Both these types of insomnia can be greatly helped by herbs. Chronic insomnia—when it has lasted more than six months—needs more help than short-term remedies can supply. The underlying reason for your inability to slumber peacefully—be it physical or emotional—needs to be identified and addressed.
The drug valium takes its name from a plant: Valerian Valeriana officinalis was the primary herbal sedative used on both sides of the Atlantic before the advent of barbiturate sleeping pills. It is a safe and well-tested herbal remedy with a smell like dirty old socks. But don’t let that put you off since valerian is a powerful herb for inducing safe sleep.
You can take valerian in a couple of ways. I like the tincture best—10 to 20 drops in a little water before bedtime or in the middle of the night when you awaken. Alternatively you can take a couple of capsules of the dried root. Valerian in lower doses is equally useful when your nerves feel ‘shot’, even during the day. It has the remarkable ability to enhance your ability to deal with stress and bring you stamina while it calms. Occasionally, and only to a very few people, valerian will cause drousiness in the morning. If this happens to you lower the dose or try a different herb.
SIGN OF THE CROSS
Passionflower Passiflora incarnata is a climbing plant with extraordinarily beautiful flowers. It has a blissful sedative effect on the body. Passionflower is one of the world’s most useful plants if you wrestle with nervous tension. It can be particularly helpful to women around the time of menopause. Not as strong as valerian in its actions, passiflora is more calming than sedating. As such it is a great alternative to tranquillising drugs. But it is a personal favourite for sleep. I even like the taste. Use 10-20 drops of the tincture in water or take two capsules of the dried extract up to four times a day when you need it. As an anti-stress herb many people like to take passion flower throughout the day in small doses to calm nerves and make everything easier. There is an excellent organic passion flower tea too.
The Latin name is Eschscholzia californica. California poppy has been used for thousands of years by Native Ameicans to calm anxiety, relieve pain and induce sleep. To assure optimal extraction of bioactive compounds, the plants need to be hand-harvested while in full flower then taken directly to the laboratory and extracted while still fresh and succulent. It’s best taken as a tincture. Researchers tellnus that this plant has anti-depressant properties, is an excellent gentle sedative, gentles pain, calm’s restlessness, counters insomnia, and helps establish equilibrium without any narcotic effect. It is my very favorite anti-stress plant.
WELL KEPT SECRET
You can use the flowers from the hop plant, Humulus lupulus, together with other remedies as a treatment for everything from indigestion to agitated nerves. Like valerian, hops has a pronounced sedative effect but it is a far milder remedy. Unlike valerian, hops smell sweet and you can use them without worrying about side-effects. You can take hops in the form of a tincture too. But by far the best way for sleep—particularly good for people who awaken in the middle of the night and have trouble going back to sleep—is to drink hops tea. Make it before you go to bed by steeping a handful of flowers for 10 minutes in hot water. Strain it and allow it to cool. Put the tea—sweetened with stevia if you like—by the side of your bed so you can drink it should you awaken in the night. It can also be a good idea to use a little pillow stuffed with dried hops blossoms. Put it under your neck when you go to bed or if ever you awaken at night. Traditional Medicinals make a gentle mixture of hops, catnip, chamomile and passion flower tea called Organic Night Night.
FUNCTIONAL AND FUN TO MAKE
Herb pillows are small cushions filled with fragrant, sleep-inducing herbs, that you can tuck under your normal pillow or keep near you while you sleep. Once you have stuffed your pillow don’t sew it up too tightly so you can replace the herbs as as often as you wish. If you keep it inside another pillow case you will easily keep it clean. Herbs for relaxation include camomile, thyme, lavender, catmint and rosemary, but my favourite pillows include a high proportion of dried hops. A few drops of essential oil of camomile will help with sleeplessness, geranium will relive anxiety and lavender irritation. Sprinkling with a little orris root powder will help preserve the mixture.
Create a sleep sanctuary – somewhere you will enjoy going to rest and sleep. Don’t have a television in the room and as far as possible avoid noise and light disturbance. If you awaken in the night, don’t turn on the lights. Research has shown that 15 minutes of light in the night can affect levels of melatonin in the body and make it difficult to get back to sleep.
A WORD TO THE WISE:
Never drive, drink alcoholic beverages or engage in activities requiring mental alertness while taking calming herbal products. Consult a healthcare provider prior to using any herb or plant if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, taking barbiturates, sedative drugs or other medications.
TINCTURE OF VALERIAN
Eclectic Institute Organic Valerian
Fresh, Organic Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) root. Organic grape alcohol content: 45%. Fresh Herb Strength: 1:1.
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ORGANIC VALERIAN CAPSULES
Eclectic Institute, Valerian, Rhizome & Roots
Harvested Fresh & Flash Frozen for Optimal Quality
Freeze-Dried for Ultimate Potency
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PASSION FLOWER TINCTURE
Eclectic Institute, Passion Flower Organic
Fresh, ORGANIC Passion Flower (Passiflora spp.) flower and leaf. ORGANIC alcohol content: 30% Filtered water. Fresh Herb Strength: 1.1
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PASSION FLOWER ORGANIC CAPSULES
Eclectic Institute, Passion Flower
100% fresh freeze-dried ingredients, fresh freeze-drying maintains the biologically active constituents for highest potency and action.
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PASSION FLOWER TEA ORGANIC
Gaia Herbs, Sleep & Relax, RapidRelief Herbal Tea
Conditions that come rapidly can go rapidly when you give your body the right support. Gaia Herbs' RapidRelief products deliver results fast so you can get back to living life.
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NIGHT TEA ORGANIC
Traditional Medicinals, Organic Nighty Night
The use of passionflower, hops and chamomile for restlessness and mild sleeping difficulties is supported by clinical data and by traditional use.
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