Sedative Herbs

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For tens of centuries, plants have been highly valued and regularly used as medicine amongst the masses. Insomnia, a loss of sleep, is mostly treated by synthetic sleeping tablets these days. However, questions have been raised about the safety of prolonged use of artificial sedatives due to their deleterious side effects such as physical dependence. In recent years, there has been an increasing propensity to preclude insomnia by herbal medicines throughout the world. Many herbs have a lengthy background in terms of insomnia treatment in Iran. This paper gives an account of previously published research on sedative and hypnotic effects of medicinal herbs used for treatment of insomnia in Iranian traditional medicine.

Insomnia and other sleep disturbances are common in cancer patients. Insomnia is a multi factorial health concern that currently affects at least 1 in 3 cancer patients, and yet most insomnia sufferers do not consult their physician regarding pharmaceutical options for relief. Use of hypnotic drugs (primarily benzodiazepines) is associated with increasing tolerance, dependence, and adverse effects on the central nervous system. While hypnotic drug use declined substantially in the past decade, the use of herbal sedatives appeared to increase. Mostly self-prescribed by lay people, herbal sedatives hold widespread appeal, presumably because of their lower cost and higher margin of safety when compared to pharmaceuticals. Studies of better-known herbal sedatives, notably valerian and kava, showed moderate evidence for both safety and efficacy for valerian while revealing disturbing toxicity concerns for kava. Milder sedatives or analytics in need of clinical study include German chamomile, lavender, hops, lemon balm, and passionflower; St. John’s wort may have anxiolytic effects with relevance to sleep. Herb-drug interactions are a possibility for some of these species, including St. John’s wort. Although sufficient evidence exists to recommend some of these agents for short-term relief of mild insomnia, long-term trials and observational studies are needed to establish the safety of prolonged use as well as overall efficacy in the context of cancer treatment and management.

6 Herbal Sedatives to Help You Fall Asleep Naturally

Tags: natural health, sleep, sleep aids, sedatives, herbs, California poppy, chamomile, hops, lavender, passionflower, valerian, natural remedies,

More than a third of our population has trouble falling asleep at night. Sleep is the body’s natural way of restoring itself, and sleep deprivation can lead to a host of health problems, from headaches and fatigue to depression and a weakened immune system. If you’re struggling with insomnia or just having trouble falling asleep, check out these herbal sleep aids. Safe and natural, these natural sedatives will help you get a good night’s rest.

California poppy: The California poppy contains protein, which has similar (but much milder effects) as morphine, making it a good natural sedative. Although it is a relative of the Opium Poppy, it is not an opiate, so using it won’t cause dependence problems. Steep two grams of this herb in boiling water to make a relaxing tea.

Chamomile: This plant is a well-known herbal sleep aid. A cup of chamomile tea before bed will help you relax and fall asleep faster. Steep a heaping tablespoon of this herb in boiling water; cover the tea as it steeps so as not to lose the calming essential oils.

Hops: Although this natural sedative is used to make beer, drinking a glass full of beer before bed does not have the same effect as drinking a tea made from hops. Alcohol will lull you into a restless sleep from which you will wake several hours later, but hops will ease you into a deep, restful sleep. Hops work well on their own, but paired with chamomile and lavender they make a lovely herbal sachet.

Herbs have a range of sedative actions, that include pain-relief (analgesics), antidepressants, and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), often combining two or more actions. They calm the nerves and relieve tension. In general herbal sedatives are milder than pharmaceuticals, however, if you are currently taking a prescription drug, please don’t supplement with herbs – the results can be unexpected. Lemon balm is considered one of the premium herbs used as a sedative because of its effectiveness and safety.

The 6 Best Bedtime Teas That Help You Sleep

Good sleep is crucial to your overall health.

Unfortunately, about 30% of people suffer from insomnia, or the chronic inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or achieve restorative, high-quality sleep (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).

Herbal teas are popular beverage choices when it comes time to relax and unwind.

For centuries, they have been used around the world as natural sleep remedies.

Modern research also backs herbal teas’ ability to aid sleep.

This article explores 6 of the best bedtime teas for catching some z’s.

1. Chamomile

For years, chamomile tea has been used as a natural remedy to reduce inflammation and anxiety and treat insomnia.

In fact, chamomile is commonly regarded as a mild tranquilizer or sleep inducer.

Its calming effects may be attributed to an antioxidant called apigenin, which is found in abundance in chamomile tea. Apigenin binds to specific receptors in your brain that may decrease anxiety and initiate sleep (3Trusted Source).

A study in 60 nursing home residents found that those who received 400 mg of chamomile extract daily had significantly better sleep quality than those who did not receive any (4Trusted Source).

Another study involving postpartum women who had poor sleep quality found that those who drank chamomile tea for a 2-week period reported overall better sleep quality than those who did not drink chamomile tea (5Trusted Source).

However, a study involving people with chronic insomnia found that those who received 270 mg of chamomile extract twice daily for 28 days experienced no significant benefits (6Trusted Source).

While evidence to support the benefits of chamomile is inconsistent and weak, a few studies have provided encouraging results. Further studies are needed to confirm chamomile tea’s effects on sleep.

2. Valerian root

Valerian is an herb that has been used for centuries to treat problems like insomnia, nervousness, and headaches.

Historically, it was used in England during World War II to relieve stress and anxiety caused by air raids

Today, valerian is one of the most popular herbal sleep aids in Europe and the United States (8Trusted Source).

It’s available as a dietary supplement in capsule or liquid form. Valerian root is also commonly dried and sold as tea.

Researchers are not entirely sure how valerian root works to improve sleep.

However, one theory is that it increases levels of a neurotransmitter called gamma-amicability acid (GABA).

When GABA is present in abundant levels, it can increase sleepiness. In fact, this the way in which certain anti-anxiety medications like Xanax function (7Trusted Source).

Some small studies support valerian root as an effective sleep aid.

For example, one study in 27 people with sleep difficulties found that 89% of participants reported improved sleep when taking valerian root extract.

Additionally, no adverse side effects, such as morning drowsiness, were observed after taking the extract (9Trusted Source).

Comparatively, a study in 128 people found those who received 400 mg of liquefied valerian root reported a decrease in the time it took them to fall asleep, as well as overall improved sleep quality, compared to those who did not receive the extract (10Trusted Source).

A third study evaluated its long-term effects. In this study, supplementing with 600 mg of dried valerian root daily for 28 days exerted effects similar to those of taking 10 mg of diazepam – a medication prescribed to treat insomnia (7Trusted Source).

It’s important to note that these findings were based on participant reporting, which is subjective. The studies did not evaluate objective data that is associated with sleep quality, such as heart rate or brain activity.

Drinking valerian root tea may help improve sleep quality without adverse side effects, but many health professionals consider the evidence inconclusive.

3. Lavender

Lavender is an herb often touted for its aromatic and soothing scent.

In ancient times, Greeks and Romans would often add lavender to their drawn baths and breathe in the calming fragrance.

Lavender tea is made from the small purple buds of the flowering plant.

Originally native to the Mediterranean region, it’s now grown worldwide (11Trusted Source).

Many people drink lavender tea to relax, settle their nerves, and aid sleep.

In fact, there is research to support these purported benefits.

A study in 80 Taiwanese postnatal women showed that those who took time to smell the aroma of lavender tea and drink it daily for 2 weeks reported less fatigue, compared to those who did not drink lavender tea. However, it didn’t have any effects on sleep quality (12Trusted Source).

Another study in 67 women with insomnia found reductions in heart rate and heart rate variability, as well as improvements in sleep after 20 minutes of lavender inhalation twice weekly for 12 weeks (13Trusted Source).

Research has also shown that Silexan, a proprietary lavender oil preparation, may decrease anxiety and improve sleep quality in people with anxiety or anxiety-related disorders (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).

Although there is limited evidence that lavender improves sleep quality, its relaxing aroma might help you unwind, making it easier for you to fall asleep.

4. Lemon balm

Lemon balm belongs to the mint family and is found all over the world.

While frequently sold in extract form for use in aromatherapy, lemon balm leaves are also dried to make tea.

This citrus-scented, aromatic herb has been used for reducing stress and improving sleep since the Middle Ages.

Evidence shows that lemon balm increases GABA levels in mice, indicating that lemon balm may act as a sedative (16Trusted Source).

Furthermore, one, small human study showed a 42% reduction in insomnia symptoms after participants received 600 mg of lemon balm extract per day for 15 days. However, the study didn’t include a control group, calling the results into question (17Trusted Source).

If you chronically experience sleep problems, sipping lemon balm tea before bed may help.

5. Passionflower

Passionflower tea is made from the dried leaves, flowers, and stems of the Passionflower plant.

Traditionally, it has been used to alleviate anxiety and improve sleep.

More recently, studies have examined the ability of passionflower tea to improve insomnia and sleep quality.

For example, one study in 40 healthy adults found that those who drank passionflower tea daily for 1 week reported significantly better sleep quality, compared to participants who did not drink the tea (18Trusted Source).

Another study compared a combination of passionflower and valerian root and hops with Ambien, a medication commonly prescribed to treat insomnia.

Results showed that the passionflower combination was as effective as Ambien at improving sleep quality (19Trusted Source).

6. Magnolia bark

Magnolia is a flowering plant that has been around for over 100 million years.

Magnolia tea is made mostly from the bark of the plant but also consists of some dried buds and stems.

Traditionally, magnolia was used in Chinese medicine to alleviate various symptoms, including abdominal discomfort, nasal congestion, and stress.

It’s now regarded worldwide for its anti-anxiety and sedative effects.

Its sedative effect is likely attributed to the compound honokiol, which is found in abundance in the stems, flowers, and bark of the magnolia plant.

Honokiol is said to work by modifying GABA receptors in your brain, which may increase sleepiness.

In several studies in mice, magnolia or honorarily extracted from the magnolia plant decreased the time it took to fall asleep and increased the length of sleep (20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).

While further research is needed to confirm these effects in humans, preliminary research suggests that drinking magnolia bark tea may help improve sleep.

Many herbal teas, including chamomile, valerian root, and lavender, are marketed as sleep aids.

Many of the herbs they contain work by increasing or modifying specific neurotransmitters that are involved in initiating sleep.

Some of them may help you fall asleep faster, decrease nighttime awakenings, and improve your overall sleep quality. However, the evidence for their benefits in people is often weak and inconsistent.

Also, most of the current research used these herbs in extract or supplement form — not the herbal tea itself.

Given that herbal supplements and extracts are very concentrated versions of the herb, a diluted source like tea is likely to be less effective.

Further research involving larger sample sizes is needed to fully understand the ability of herbal teas to improve sleep in the long run.

Additionally, since many herbs and supplements have the potential to interact with both prescription and over-the-counter medications, always consult your healthcare provider before adding an herbal tea to your nightly routine.

While results can vary by individual, these herbal teas may be worth trying for those who are looking to get a better night’s sleep naturally.

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