Welcome, as always, to my garden at Medicine Lodge Ranch! Today I’d like to share with you some of the herbs I grow in this garden that can be used to help you get a great night’s sleep. I feel compelled to talk to you about these herbs because I know how important sleep is, both as a medical professional and a busy person who doesn’t always get enough of it!
Sleep is absolutely crucial to our wellbeing. While we’re sleeping, our bodies are busy repairing tissue, synthesizing hormones, and building muscle. Perhaps more importantly, our brains use this time to process the experiences and information we take in during the day, turning unstable short-term memories into solid ones that will last.
Unfortunately, far too many of us aren’t giving our bodies the rest they need. Over one-third of American adults don’t enough sleep on a regular basis, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This kind of chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and more.
Of course, getting a good night’s sleep is often easier said than done. Millions of us struggle to fall and/or stay asleep. And while we know that conventional sleep medications may help, we fear the side effects associated with them.
Whether you have a hard time quieting your racing mind at bedtime or wake in the night and can’t fall back asleep, herbs can be incredibly useful for supporting restful slumber in a safe and gentle way. Join me in my garden as I discuss four of my favorite herbs for sleep.
Valerian root: time-tested and scientifically validated
This is an herb you may have heard about because it’s very popular as a sleep aid in both the United States and Europe, where it’s prescribed by physicians for this very purpose. In fact, valerian root is the most widely used sedative in Europe, where more than a hundred valerian preparations are sold in pharmacies across Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and Italy.
Something you should know about valerian is that it needs to be used for at least seven to ten nights before you’ll be able to feel its full effects. Because valerian is a little slower to work, it’s often combined with herbs such as hops or lemon balm that act more quickly.
What does the science say? In human studies of valerian on its own or in combination with hops, 12 of 16 found valerian improved sleep quality and shortened the amount of time needed to fall asleep. I like valerian for people who are tense and tired. It relaxes the muscles, making it a good choice for those with spasms, cramps, and tension headaches.
Hops: preparing the body for sleep
Even though most people think of hops as an ingredient in beer, this herb is actually a wonderful sleep aid. How do hops work? We actually think they act similarly to melatonin, binding to receptors in the body that help prepare us for sleep.
Hops are my choice for those who really need to sleep but find themselves lying awake worrying. And I can vouch for their efficacy—I once drank two cups of very strong hops tea before bed and slept for ten hours straight!
As I just mentioned, fast-acting hops are often used in combination with herbs like valerian that tend to work more slowly. Thanks to their more immediate action, hops in combination with valerian can provide better sleep than just valerian on its own.
Lemon balm: helping kids drift off to dreamland
Also known as Melissa, lemon balm is a marvelous member of the mint family. It tastes delicious and is safe for all ages. In addition to its use as a sleep aid, lemon balm is also approved for mild anxiety and tension.
While I generally recommend herbal sleep aids like valerian and hops for teens and adults, lemon balm really finds its way into children’s medicine and can be very helpful for kids and moms alike. I think it makes an excellent herb for children who have difficulty sleeping. A warm cup of lemon balm tea or a little bit of lemon balm glycerite in the evening is often all that’s needed to allow a fussy, cranky child who’s had a rough day to drift peacefully off into dreamland.
Although ideal for kids, lemon balm also works well for adults. It’s perfect for social butterflies who become irritable when they don’t get enough downtime, or for overstimulated extroverts who have difficulty focusing.
California poppy: relieving pain that prevents sleep
California poppy is a member of the poppy family but, unlike its cousin the opium poppy, it is not addictive or dangerous. California poppy is particularly beneficial for those who have sleep problems due to minor aches and pains. It’s my go-to herb for people who are stressed, depressed, and struggling with pain-related sleep issues.
I believe California poppy will become more and more important as we see people suffering from chronic pain conditions who are looking for improved sleep. I’ve used this herb for decades and find it to be highly reliable for folks who have difficulty sleeping due to aches, pains, or worry (or all of the above).
Making herbal medicine at home
So you’ve learned about four herbs that can help you and your family get a better night’s sleep. To summarize:
- Valerian and hops is a wonderful combination for insomnia in general
- Lemon balm finds its way for children who are having difficulty sleeping
- California poppy can help ease those minor aches and pains that may be keeping you awake
If you’d like to learn more about how you can make these and other gentle herbal remedies right in your own home kitchen, I encourage you to explore our online course in Herbal Medicine Making here: https://www.medicinelodgeranch.com/products/herbal-medicine-making-premium. Every household deserves safe, clean, and high-quality products made with love and natural ingredients, and this course is an easy and cost-effective way to stock your medicine cabinet.