Herbal medicine can be one of our greatest allies for enjoying a well rested sleep. Depending on what your needs are, there are different ways you can invite herbs into your regular routine.
For someone who normally sleeps well but would love a calming addition to their evening, an occasional cup of tea or capsule may be your best bet.
If you really struggle with sleep or experience insomnia, falling asleep at night, or waking in the night, you may benefit from long term daily capsules of a therapeutic dosage. Here are some of my favorites:
Lemon Balm is a very gentle, yet very effective herb to treat sleep concerns, ease anxiety, and digestive complaints. Lemon Balm is also a known herbal treatment for insomnia. It also calms ADHD, it’s an antiviral, and is one of the most effective herbs for treating (and preventing) sores from the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). It is a tasty, calming tea to enjoy before bed, or can be taken in capsule form daily for long term use.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen which means it’s a very powerful herb that helps our bodies adapt to stress and promotes overall well-being. This root herb is extremely calming, greatly lowers anxiety, promotes sleep, while at the same time boosting stamina and mental clarity during the day. This herb doesn’t have a pleasant taste, so it is generally taken in capsule form although I do have a recipe below which is quite tasty.
Milk Thistle is used to reduce liver inflammation, it protects the liver, and it helps to support liver function. Interestingly, often times a cause of insomnia is poor liver function. The liver releases toxins from the body during the hours of 1 - 3 am. If the liver is inflamed or is working too hard because of too much toxicity, it can cause you to wake in the night. The liver holds all of our stresses and our emotions. It also works very hard to push out the toxins we acquire in our bodies from poor food choices, chemicals, the environment, poor air quality, alcohol, drugs, medications, unclean skincare, and many other sources. A fantastic (if not the best) herb to take to help the liver function optimally and remove toxins effectively is Milk Thistle. I was once told by a Doctor/Herbalist that everyone should supplement with Milk Thistle a few times a year. I’ve also been told “if all else fails - treat the liver”. I personally take Milk Thistle capsules daily. I find if I miss doses for too many days - my sleep is very negatively affected. Milk Thistle can also be consumed as tea.
St. John’s Wort is an amazing herb to treat depression, anxiety, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and also very helpful for a better, more restful sleep. St. John’s Wort can be a fantastic alternative to medication for someone suffering from mild depression and it can often start working much quicker than most medications. An interesting fact - In Germany, if you go to the doctor for depression or anxiety, two-thirds of the time the doctor will give you a prescription for St. John’s Wort. You can try it in tea, capsule or tincture form. CAUTION - the only unfortunate issue with St. John’s Wort is that it works so well, it actually interferes with many medications and some herbs. It is not a good choice for you if you’re on certain medications. It is very important to check with your doctor before trying it.
Some other herbs worth looking into - Hops, Passionflower, Valerian, Lavender, Chamomile, Reishi. Some “local to us” plants which are also helpful for sleep are Labrador Tea, Raspberry Leaf, and Goldenrod. The list of helpful herbs for sleep is endless.
IMPORTANT: If on medication, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, always consult a healthcare provider before consuming any herbal products.
Also - if taking daily doses of certain herbs such as St. John’s Wort and Ashwagandha, it’s recommended to take regular breaks to prevent your body from becoming desensitized to these herbs. Taking supplements on a 5 + 2 rotation (take them Mon-Fri, with weekends off) is one easy way to do it. It’s also important to remember that certain herbs can cause a dependency and may require a careful weaning process if you wish to stop taking them.
Brands and dosage matter! Many people pick up herbs from grocery stores, department stores, etc. without researching the brand and dosage amount first. It’s super important to know your brands and to make sure you’re getting a therapeutic dose. You’ll be spending good money on these herbs - so make sure you’re buying QUALITY! I have a large list of easily accessible brands I trust and have been recommended to me by practitioners. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need some help choosing.
ASHWAGANDHA CINNAMON MOON MILK
-1 cup milk of choice
-1 tsp Ashwagandha powder
-2 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp cardamom
-maple syrup or honey to sweeten
Heat all ingredients slowly in a saucepan and enjoy before bed.