Each year, approximately one out of every three adults experiences episodes
of insomnia—difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Insomnia may result from stress at work, school, or home, or from working nights
or frequent traveling. Thirty to forty percent of women in menopause have
difficulty sleeping; aging, in general, causes sleep patterns to change. Overuse
or abuse of alcohol, caffeine, drugs, decongestants, bronchodilators, sedatives,
or stimulants influences your ability to get sound sleep. About half of all
cases of insomnia, however, can't be linked to any particular cause. If you are
having difficulty sleeping and feel drowsy during the daytime, you should see a
physician for a full diagnosis to rule out other possible physical or mental
Establishing good sleep habits is the best way to avoid insomnia. A healthy
diet and regular exercise are important, too. Massage and relaxation techniques
may be helpful, as well as the following herbal remedies.
Herbs are generally available as dried extracts (pills, capsules, or
tablets), teas, or tinctures. Unless otherwise indicated, teas should be made
with 1 teaspoon herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for
leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Tinctures are preparations made
from alcohol (or water and alcohol), containing an herb strength of 1 part herb
to 5 parts solvent or 1 part herb to 10 parts solvent.
Chamomile (Chamomilla recutita): calms. One cup of chamomile
tea before bed is often all that is needed to remedy mild insomnia. Note: While
most people find chamomile soothing on their stomachs, it may cause gastric
upset for some.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis): promotes sleep and proper
digestion. Take 1 cup tea or 30 to 60 drops of tincture one to three times a
day. Take alone or with catnip (Nepeta cataria).
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata): calms and promotes sleep.
Take 60 to 120 drops tincture (derived from the above-ground, or aerial, parts)
one-half hour before bedtime.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis): promotes relaxation and
relieves anxiety. Traditionally taken with passionflower and hops (Lupuli
strobulus). Take equal parts of each herb in 1 cup of tea one to three times
a day, or in tincture form, 30 to 60 drops one to three times a day. Note: Side
effects of too high a dose of valerian include nausea and grogginess. Do not
take hops if you are suffering from depression.
Kava kava (Piper methysticum): reduces stress and promotes
sleep. Take 15 to 30 drops tincture one to three times a day. Do not use for
more than 3 months without medical supervision.
St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum): promotes sleep and
relieves anxiety. Dose is 15 to 60 drops three times a day. Side effects may
include a skin rash, increased sensitivity to sunlight, and gastric upset. Do
not take St. John's wort if you are taking antidepressants.
Jamaica dogwood (Piscidia piscipula): a particularly powerful
remedy for sleeplessness caused by nervous tension and pain. Dose is 30 to 60
drops tincture just before bedtime. Jamaica dogwood works well in combination
with kava kava, passionflower, St. John's wort, and valerian.
Essential oils: lavender (Lavandula officianalis), rosemary
(Roemarinus officinalis), and chamomile. Add 3 to 5 drops to a
Be sure to talk with your physician or pharmacist to best determine which
herbal therapies are for you. Some herbs should not be taken if you have certain
medical conditions or are taking particular prescription medications.
Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs
& Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications;
The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of
the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse
of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage
to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or
otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents
of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds
currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a
guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information
provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare
practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts)
regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications
before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed