Tossing and turning at night feels awful.
You can choose to stay in bed or you can choose to get up and do something. Staying in bed doesn’t work so well. If it did, you’d not be reading this.
And doing “something” until you fall asleep seems okay. But doing “anything” won’t help. You shouldn’t use your smartphone or watch TV. Because the blue light from such devices kills your sleep hormones instantly.
What you need is a bedtime ritual. Something that’ll release those neurotransmitters and make you feel drowsy in no time.
Enter sleep teas.
How can they help? Most people love coffee. If you can learn to enjoy sleep tea just like you enjoy coffee, you can solve your sleep problem once and for all.
But can you rely on herbal tea?
This article will show you
Can herbal tea really help you sleep?
Herbal teas aren’t just a folk remedy. According to research done by a UK-based bed linen firm, people who enjoyed healthy sleep drank a cup of tea around 9 pm and had dinner one and a half hour before bed.
This finding is rather shocking. Because it doesn’t mention specifically herbal teas. It just says that people drink “tea”, which consists of the dream killer—caffeine!
Mainstream research doesn’t provide concrete evidence in proving that herbal teas can help people sleep. But many surveys and self-reported evidence indicate that such non-prescription remedies help a lot of people sleep naturally.
Thousands of people believe that herbal teas can help you sleep. So it is definitely worth trying if you haven’t already.
What Are the Side Effects?
Research published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine shows that herbal remedies have little to no side effects, so they can be effective in treatment of sleep problems.
But you need to really know which herb you’re drinking and its side effects. Because herbs can cause allergic reactions, headaches, heartburn and stomach pain. If you’re taking medication, you should ask a doctor whether drinking herbal tea is safe for you.
If you have a serious health condition, you should consider using the herb Rooibos for your herbal tea, after consulting with your doctor. Rooibos is known to have no side effects, nor it interacts with any drugs. Also known as Red Bush tea, it is the national drink of South Africa.
When You Should Not Drink Herbal Sleep Tea
You should not drink herbal tea if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, expecting to be pregnant, suffer from autoimmune diseases or scheduled for surgery. If you take prescription sedatives, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, blood thinning medication, blood pressure medication, you shouldn’t drink herbal tea.
As stated earlier, if you are taking medication, consult your doctor before you choose herbal tea as your bedtime beverage. Herbal teas can interact with medication depending on the type of medicine and your health condition.
If you’re going to do any activities that require you to be alert, like driving or operating heavy machinery, don’t drink herbal sleep tea. It may make you feel drowsy and you may get in a dangerous situation.
Do Herbal Sleep Teas Taste Good?
Herbal teas may not taste pleasant. But many manufacturers produce herbal teas from a combination of two or more herbs (e.g. valerian, passion flower, chamomile). These combinations taste better than individual herbs. Some herbal teas
If you are committed to treating your sleep problems, then taste should not be your number one preference. If people can love the bitter taste of beer and other alcoholic drinks, you too can learn to love the okayish taste of herbal sleep teas.
Chamomile is one of the most popular herbal teas in the world. It has a calming aroma, because dried chamomile flowers are sweet daisy-like and have a fragrance just like a crisp apple. The tea has similar taste. But as many users suggest, the taste isn’t necessarily good. So you may want to add other ingredients to enhance the taste of your Chamomile tea.
What Research Says
In a research study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 34 patients suffering from insomnia were treated with Chamomile or a placebo for a month to see the effect of both. The patients not only slept better with chamomile, they also felt and functioned better during the day.
Studies show that Chamomile has anticonvulsant properties and relaxes the central nervous system. It has antioxidants that fight the excessive free radicals formed in your body. Free radicals can cause disease if they are excessive in number.
In fact, it’s so effective that ten cardiac patients dozed off just after drinking chamomile tea and slept for 90 minutes. So if you struggle with any sleeping problems, Chamomile tea could be the best remedy for you. Drinking one cup 30 minutes before your bedtime will put you right to sleep.
Benefits of Chamomile tea
Induces Sleep - Chamomile is known as a mild tranquilizer and sleep inducer. It contains a chemical called apigenin that binds to the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain and leads to sedative effects. This is the reason chamomile essential oils are used often in cosmetics and aromatherapy.
Treats Migraines - Chamomile can help ease migraine in some cases. Chamomile can help ease anxiety, inflammation, allergies, and spasms - all factors together provide good relief in migraines.
Boosts Immunity - If you easily catch cold or flu, then it makes sense to boost your immunity with a cup or two of chamomile every day.
Reduces Stress - Chamomile has chemicals called flavonoids which help relax the mind and also sedates the body. So if you’re feeling stressed during the day, a cup of chamomile can help you feel calm and relaxed.
Chamomile tea is free of fat, caffeine, sugar, cholesterol and has a little bit of calories. According to UDSA Nutrient Database, 1 cup of chamomile has 2 calories, 0.47g of carbs, and no fat or protein. Also, it contains a lot of minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, fluoride, folate and Vitamin A.
Side Effects of Chamomile Tea
Although chamomile tea is a great remedy for sleep, it can cause side effects in some cases:
Allergic reactions: If you have allergic reactions to daisy plants including chrysanthemums, ragweed, arnica, sunflowers, mugwort, aster, marigold—chances are, you will be allergic to chamomile too. For people who are sensitive to its effects, chamomile can cause mild allergies like rashes to more severe reactions like anaphylaxis. It also causes swollen throat, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath. Some reports also show skin allergies including dermatitis and eczema.
Pregnant women, those who are breastfeeding and those who are expecting pregnancy should also avoid chamomile tea. And if you’re scheduled for surgery, don’t drink chamomile as it may cause unwanted complications.If you have asthma, be careful with the dosage or simply avoid chamomile tea, because it can aggravate asthma.
High dosage of chamomile tea can cause nausea and vomiting. So when you start drinking this herbal sleep tea, take in small quantities.
When combined with benzodiazepines, barbiturates, antidepressants, and alcohol, chamomile tea can cause excessive drowsiness.
According to theoretical knowledge, when combined with anticoagulant (blood thinners), antiplatelet drugs and anti-inflammatory drugs, chamomile can increase the risk of bleeding.
People who take blood sugar or blood pressure medication should avoid chamomile as it can affects sugar or blood pressure levels in the body.
Chamomile can also interact with other medications such as cardiac depressants, CNS depressants, respiratory depressants, antibiotics, antifungals, antihistamines, diuretics. It also interacts with medicines for high cholesterol, ulcer, diarrhea and gastrointestinal disorders.
Before combining chamomile with any other herb, consult your doctor because it may lead to harmful side effects.
2. Valerian Root
Valerian root is well-known as a remedy for insomnia. Its name comes from the Latin word Valarae, which means “to be healthy”. It is used as an ingredient in many dietary supplements. People in ancient Greece and Rome used valerian root to treat insomnia, headaches, stress, nervousness, and trembling.
According to Sebastian Pole, the cofounder of Pukka Herbs, valerian not only induces sleep, it also increases the quality of sleep. With valerian, you can get more hours of REM sleep which is crucial for restoring energy and revitalizing your entire body.
Pole explains that valerian root has certain constituents, which bind to the parts of our nervous system that stop mental activity and induce relaxation. That is where its sedative properties come from. So if you can’t stop the racing thoughts in your mind, try some valerian root.
What Research Says
According to WebMd, people use valerian for anxiety and psychological stress, but there’s no concrete research to support this. The Medical Center at University of Maryland suggests that people have been using Valerian since second-century A.D. to treat insomnia, anxiety, and nervous restlessness.
GABA: Relaxes your brain
Valerian root increases GABA (Gamma Aminobutyric acid) in the brain. Your brain naturally produces GABA, the chemical that relaxes your nervous system. Research shows that as compared to water, GABA is much more effective at increasing alpha waves and decreasing beta waves in the brain. And alpha wave activity means that you become less anxious and more relaxed.
Valerian is effective
Another research study shows that Valerian is very effective after a couple weeks of use. But in the first two weeks, it is only as effective as a placebo. Studies also show that valerian has far fewer side effects as compared to prescription sleep medications. People who take melatonin sometimes report weird dreams as a side effect. But with valerian, research says that there aren’t any documented side effects.
Valerian root can be used in five different forms: capsule, tincture, tea, fluid extract and essential oil. Although it smells very bad, it doesn’t taste as bad.
Benefits of Valerian Root Tea
Treats Insomnia and Sleep Problems - Some research studies show that valerian works helps people sleep better. Despite lack of proper research, valerian is still used as a sleep aid throughout the world. And if you’re a movie buff, you might know that the insomniac narrator in the film Fight Club, was told to chew valerian root for treating his chronic sleep problems. If it’s popular in Hollywood, it’s got to be amazing.
Treats Anxiety and Depression - Valerian root has volatile acids and oils which help people calm down and stop feeling anxious. It is used in treatment of various anxiety disorders and can also help people with depression.
Treats Hyperactivity - Valerian root tea helps people concentrate - something people with ADHD find hard to do. So if you want to crack that university exam in a short period of time, valerian will come to your rescue.
Makes You Mentally Sharp - Valerian root is used as a performance booster. It saves neurons from cell death and hence keeps your brain healthy and sharp. Because it promotes sleep and reduces anxiety, it also boosts cognitive performance. Dopamine is an essential chemical that your brain needs for mental activity. Valerian makes sure that dopaminergic cells don’t die, hence itv preserves your mental performance.
Treats Headaches and Migraines - Many a times, headaches are associated with sleeping problems. Since valerian helps you sleep naturally, it also provides relief in headaches and migraines. But know that, sometimes, valerian itself can give a mild headache as a side effect.
Side Effects of Valerian Root Tea
Never consume valerian in its plant form, because research shows that it can cause liver damage. Always use capsules, tablets, liquid extract, or readymade tea bags. The long-term side effects of valerian aren’t known due to insufficient research. But the short-term effects are worth your consideration.
In the short-term, valerian root has the following side effects. So be careful and consult your doctor if you experience any of these:
Headaches - Some people get headaches from valerian tea. To counter this effect, dilute your tea by adding more water when brewing it.
Mental Confusion - Since valerian slows down your mind, you may find it hard to think clearly or focus on the task at hand. It can also cause strange dreams.
Upset Stomach - Although it usually happens when you consume a high amount of valerian, it can cause indigestion, vomiting, nausea and constipation.
Excitement and Unease - Valerian root can sometimes cause nervous excitement and unease. But remember that these side effects are only noted in the short-term.
Daytime Drowsiness - Since valerian root is a sedative, it can make you feel drowsy during the day. Depending on your preference, you might want to consume a lower dose of valerian to counter this effect.
Valerian Root Tea Interaction With Medication:
If you are taking any medication, it is best to consult to your doctor before you decide to use valerian root tea.Valerian root shouldn’t be combined with medications for the following health problems:
- Anxiety, depression, sleep problems, or any mental disorders
- Any infection such as HIV, Tuberculosis, etc.
- High blood pressure, cholesterol, or any heart disease
- Autoimmune disorders
- Erectile dysfunction
Lavender is popular for its soothing aroma. The word ‘Lavender’ comes from the latin word ‘lavare’ which means “to wash”. It is an integral part of essential oils that help you relax and sleep. Lavender tea is made from the purple lavender flower buds which are native to the Mediterranean region.
Ancient Greeks and Romans used lavender to add a soothing touch to their baths and a beautiful fragrance to the air.
What Research Says
Scientific research shows that lavender can be powerful at inducing sleep and improving its quality in the long-term with no side effects. Its sedative qualities has helped people with insomnia and anxiety disorders sleep better.
Research at Medical University of Vienna also examined the effects of lavender on people suffering from anxiety disorders. It reported that lavender oil “had a significant beneficial influence on quality and duration of sleep and improved general mental and physical health without causing any unwanted sedative or other drug specific effects.”
Rupinder Mangat, CEO of MEVEI, an essential oils company, says that Lavender is the most studied essential oil because of its relaxifying properties. According to him, although essential oils are used for many purposes, but they are especially effective for relieving stress, stabilizing mood and improving sleep.
Targeted research was also done to study its effects on sleep. It showed that lavender has the ingredients that help beat insomnia. In one study done at University of Southampton in Britain, lavender oil was tested on 10 adults. When studying the effects of lavender vs. placebo, lavender helped them sleep 20% better.
Another study was done on 80 women in Taiwan, who were in their postnatal period. The women who smelled and drank lavender every day were less tired than those who didn’t do the same.
One more study done on midlife women with insomnia was published in a peer-reviewed journal. When the 67 women inhaled lavender twice a week for three months, they reported improvements in heart rate, sleep quality, and heart rate variation.
Benefits of Lavender Tea
Lavender offers a host of health benefits. It helps you relax in mind and body. And helps you fall asleep and enjoy deep sleep. But it also provides relief in cases of asthma, cold, cough, bronchitis, and other respiratory problems.
Here are some sleep-related benefits of lavender tea:
Side effects of Lavender
Oral use of lavender can cause headaches, constipation and increase hunger. When used on the skin, it can sometimes cause irritation.
Drowsiness - Taking too much lavender can make you drowsy during the day.
Allergies - If you are allergic to lavender, you may get nausea, vomiting, headache, or chills as side effects.
Pregnancy - For pregnant women, lavender can trigger menstruation, leading to miscarriage or other pregnancy problems.
Sun sensitivity - Lavender can make your skin sensitive to sunlight. As a result, your skin can develop rashes or redness when out in the sun.
Physical distortions - Lavender can cause breast growth in boys. It can trigger abnormal hormonal growth in boys who haven’t reached puberty yet.
Thin blood - It is a blood thinner and good for heart health. But for some people, thinning of blood could be a problem, especially if they’re taking medications with similar thinning effect.
If you’re scheduled for surgery, stop taking lavender two weeks before surgery. It can interfere with anesthesia and slow down your nervous system too much to the point of being dangerous.
Medication Interaction of Lavender
Any kind of sedative medications can interact with lavender. So be careful and consult your doctor before you take lavender in such cases. Sedatives such as barbiturates, benzodiazepines, CNS (nervous system) depressants interact with lavender and cause too much sluggishness.
Medications for high blood pressure can interact with lavender. Since lavender decreases blood pressure, taking it along with medications that lower blood pressure can be dangerous.
4. Lemon Balm
The scientific name of lemon balm is Melissa Officinalis and it is also called common balm or balm mint. Lemon balm is known for its ability to enhance longevity, reduce anxiety, and give vigor when consumed regularly. People have used lemon balm throughout history as a remedy for sleep problems, anxiety, and wounds. Because of its various benefits which help people with insomnia and even people with cancer, it’s been an important herb for researchers around the world. In the United States, lemon balm is used as the component of mild sleep aid.
Lemon balm essential oils have a chemical known as terpene, which is partly responsible for the herb’s soothing properties. It also contains a substance called tannis, which provides its antiviral effects. Another constituent chemical called eugenol, eases muscle spasms, numbs tissues, and kills bacteria.
Lemon balm has many uses: it has been used as an ingredient for tea, perfumes, insect repellants, toothpaste and for flavoring dishes. In 14th century, a beverage called Carmelite water used to be made from lemon balm and it is still sold in Germany today. This beverage can ease headaches and nerve pain.
What Research Says
Research shows that lemon balm can help treat insomnia. This research was done on women going through menopause, the phase where most women experience insomnia. When lemon balm was used on 100 middle-aged women in their menopause, it showed significant improvement in sleep patterns.
Research published in Indian Journal of Pharmacology showed that when mice were treated using lemon balm, their anxious behaviors reduced even when they were placed in a new and challenging environment.
When researchers at University of Maryland study center tested a concoction of lemon balm and valerian on a group of people with minor sleep problems, they found that 81% of people who took the concoction slept a lot better than those who took placebo. Many research studies show that when lemon balm is combined with other herbs, such as chamomile, hops, and valerian, it can help lower anxiety and improve sleep. Not many studies have conducted to test how effective is lemon balm by itself in inducing and improving sleep.
In a 2011 study published in The Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, researchers examined the effects of lemon balm extract in the treatment of people suffering from mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep problems. As a result of this experiment, 95 percent of the volunteers responded to the treatment, out of which 70 percent full improvement in anxiety, 85 percent for insomnia, and 70 percent for both. The study concluded that long-term use of lemon balm relieves stress.
Researchers at the Newcastle General Hospital also report that lemon balm can help in the treatment of Alzheimer's, a disease characterized by memory loss and impairment of other cognitive functions of the brain. But, Dr. Perry explains, only the dried leaf enhances the memory. Dried leaf is the closest way of how traditionally people used to take lemon balm.
Benefits of Lemon Balm Tea
1. Improves Sleep: While researchers are still studying the effects of lemon balm, Germany has licensed lemon balm as a standard medicinal tea for treating sleep disorders and gastrointestinal tract disorders.
2. Relieves Stress and Anxiety: The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia states that lemon balm and its Indian cousin, M. parviflora can ease anxiety and depression. And from findings mentioned in the research section above, it is clear that lemon balm has sedative properties which can help people with mild-to-moderate anxiety. So if you can’t stop your mind’s racing thoughts, brew some lemon balm tea, or even mix it with valerian. Cyracos, a lemon balm, product also helps ease anxiety.
3. Improves cognition and mood: Yes, I know what you’re thinking. If it can help me sleep, how will it help me stay alert? Isn’t that the opposite? Let me explain. You can’t stay alert when your mind is thinking about a million things except the thing that you want to do. And lemon balm reduces this noise in your brain and improves cognitive performance.
So if you can’t sleep because you have an exam next week, don’t be anxious. Lemon can help you sleep at night and focus during the day. Yes, it is weird, but trying it won’t hurt.
4. Strengthens memory and problem-solving skills: Dr. David Kennedy, director of research at Northumbria University, examined the effect of lemon balm by giving lemon balm capsules to young people. They were required to take computer memory tests. As a result, the lemon balm helped them perform much better than a control group which took placebo. That is why research shows that lemon balm can be effective in the treatment of Alzheimer's.
5. Relieves sore muscles: Muscle pain is often the reason for sleepless for many people. It has the antispasmodic action, which eases muscle spasms and the eugenol substance it has, helps ease muscle pain.
6. Protects your heart: Blood pressure and heart rate are related to how calm and at ease you feel, which in turn, determines how well you sleep. So it’s important to take care of your heart, if you want to sleep better. For example, Iranian doctors used to treat heart palpitations using lemon balm. A 2016 study showed that lemon balm lowers blood pressure and heart rate .
Side Effects of Lemon Balm
When you take it orally, Lemon balm can cause vomiting, increased appetite, abdominal pain, dizziness, and wheezing.
Dependency: Research shows that even though lemon bal is effective at improving sleep, it may cause withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking it. The study was done on a university graduate who started drinking lemon balm tea without combining it with another herbal sleep tea. Although the tea eased his anxiety, he felt irritable and restless when he didn’t consume the tea. He also started drinking four cups instead of the one cup earlier in the next two months. When he didn’t consume any tea for two consecutive days, he had to be admitted in the emergency department for immediate treatment.
Hypotension: If you suffer from hypotension, don’t take lemon balm because it lowers blood pressure.
Decrease alertness at high doses: A study appeared in the journal Psychometric Medicine in 2004. It showed that when 600 mg, a high dose of lemon balm was consumed to ease stress, it increased calmness but decreased alertness. The reduction in alertness is only reported at high doses.
Medication Interaction of Lemon Balm
Lemon balm interacts with CNS depressants. With any kind of sedatives, lemon balm will cause sleepiness and drowsiness.
Ashwagandha is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda, the Indian system of alternative medicine. Ashwagandha has been used for over 3000 years to increase energy, reduce stress, and improve concentration.
It is also known as Indian ginseng. It contains a chemical called withanolid, which has anti-inflammatory properties and also prevents tumor growth. In Ayurveda, ashwagandha has been known as a rasayana - a rejuvenator that keeps you mentally and physically young for life.
The sleep inducing properties of Ashwagandha can be credited to its constituent triethylene glycol. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which means it strengthens the body’s ability to deal with stress and bring physiological homeostasis. It brings physiological balance by correcting the imbalance between the immune and endocrine systems. As a result, your body becomes resilient to stress.
What Research Says
In a study published in the Alternative Medicine Review, the effectiveness of ashwagandha on concentration and memory was tested on 20 healthy men. Researchers tested the participants on reaction-time tests, discrimination tests, and card sorting tests. The positive results on these tests showed that ashwagandha can improve multiple brain functions: motor functions of the brain, memory, focus, and concentration.
Research shows that Ashwagandha acts like a GABAergic drug which means it binds to GABA receptors in the brain to reduce neural activity. This is why it is effective for easing anxiety, convulsions, stabilization of physiological functions. Since high neural activity causes insomnia and anxiety, ashwagandha’s GABAergic properties help reduce the number of neurons firing together and hence bringing a calming effect in the brain.
Research published in the journal Phytomedicine showed that Ashwagandha has anxiolytic properties that has a similar effect like the drug Lorazepam, which is used to treat anxiety disorders, sleep problems, alcohol withdrawal symptoms and active seizures. Ashwagandha also has antidepressant properties and works just like the drug imipramine, an antidepressant. This shows that it can be effective in treatment of insomnia and other related health problems like anxiety and depression.
Benefits of Ashwagandha Tea
Reduces Stress and Anxiety: Ashwagandha can reduce cortisol, the stress hormone in your body, resulting in less stress and more relaxation. In a study of 64 people suffering from chronic stress, Ashwagandha treatment brought about 69 percent improvement in anxiety and insomnia while the placebo only achieved an 11 percent improvement.
Treats Depression: Ashwagandha has been used since ancient times to treat any illnesses of the mind or the nervous system. Studies show that it can reduce the symptoms of depression by 79 percent in people who have severe depression.
Prevents Heart Disease: Ashwagandha reduces the cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body. In a two-month long study done on people suffering from chronic stress, ashwagandha treatment decreased LDL cholesterol by 17 percent and triglyceride by 11 percent. So it can be really effective for your heart health.
Improves Brain Function: Research shows that ashwagandha has antioxidant properties which combat the harmful effects of free radicals on nerve cells. In a study done on healthy men, half a gram of ashwagandha was administered daily. Researchers observed significant improvements in their reaction time and mental performance in given tasks.
Builds Immunity and Fights Inflammation: Research published in Phytotherapy Research showed that ashwagandha enhances the natural killer cell activity, which strengthens the innate immune response to fight infections. This study was done on healthy adults with a history of recurrent coughs and colds.
Ashwagandha also decreases C-reactive protein, which is related to a risk of heart disease. In a study , quarter of a gram of ashwagandha was administered. The results showed a 36 percent reduction in C-reactive protein, hence an improved ability to fight inflammation.
Side Effects of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurveda. There are no major long-term studies done to examine its side effects. But anecdotal evidence shows that it may cause some side effects in some cases. But, low to medium dose of ashwagandha (upto 1 gm) is considered generally safe.
May Cause Allergy: Although there’s not much research done on this, but personal stories of people reveal that ashwagandha may cause allergies. It may cause itching, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and sore throat. But keep in mind that these symptoms are experienced by only in some cases, so you may want to see for yourself whether you’re allergic to it. You can even consult your doctor regarding it.
May Cause Drowsiness: Ashwagandha may cause drowsiness because of its constituent chemicals that promote relaxation. Since it is sleep inducing and promotes relaxation, taking it in conjunction with other sedatives can cause drowsiness during the day and may affect your ability to focus.
Random sources on the web report other side effects including stomach upset, bleeding, dry mouth, diarrhoea, nausea, and chest pain.
However, if you’re not taking a high dose, consuming ashwagandha tea for sleep is rather safe. Because the side effects mentioned in these random sources aren’t backed up by research.
Medication Interactions of Ashwagandha
Blood Sugar Medication: Ashwagandha lowers blood sugar level which can be helpful for diabetic people. But if you’re already taking a medication that lowers blood sugar, taking ashwagandha can backfire and may lower your blood sugar too much.
Thyroid Medication: Ashwagandha increases thyroid hormone concentration in the body. So if you’re taking a medication to treat hyperthyroidism, it may be harmful to take ashwagandha as it may increase your thyroid symptoms.
Autoimmune Medication: Ashwagandha strengthens the immune system. But for people suffering from autoimmune diseases, it can be potentially harmful. Because in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus, medications try to lower your natural immune response. And since ashwagandha increases this response, it can be potentially harmful.
6. Passion Flower
Passion flower is the umbrella name for the 400 species of the plant genus Passiflora. Although its native origins are the warmer areas of north and south america, it is now grown all over the world. It has been used throughout history by native americans, european settlers, and african americans. They used it as a sedative and relaxant as it is effective at soothing the nervous system. By 18th century, passion flower became a popular remedy for epilepsy and insomnia.
Passion flower is antispasmodic: relieves spasms of involuntary muscles, hypnotic: psychoactive drug that induces sleep, anodyne: pain relieving, anticonvulsant: reduces convulsions, sedative: calming and sleep-inducing, and anxiolytic: reduces anxiety.
Passion flower’s therapeutic properties come from its constituent phytochemicals. Phytochemicals such as apigenin, orientin, swertiamarin, quercetin, kaempferol, vitexin, and chrysin promote neuroprotective activity. In other words, these chemicals restore mental balance and produce calming effects.
What Research Says
Passion flower is known for its sedative and soothing effects. But few studies are done to support its properties.
In the book, Herbs and Natural Supplements: An Evidence Based Guide, the authors mention that passion flower may boost the production of GABA in the brain. If you remember from earlier sections, GABA is naturally produced in the brain and lowers the neural activity, leading to relaxation. But since there are a large variety of passion flower species, these findings are not concrete.
For a study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research, the effects of placebo versus passion flower tea were tested on 41 adults in one week long trial. From self-reported evidence and scientific anxiety parameters, sleep quality was “significantly better” with the use of passion flower as compared to that with placebo. The study was done with the plant species Passiflora incarnata.
In another study, published in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia, passion flower and a control anti-anxiety drug were separately tested on 60 patients 90 minutes before surgery. Results showed that patients who took passion flower felt less anxious and didn’t experience any sedative effects, nor any changes in psychomotor functions.
In The Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, a study was published on the anxiety reducing effects of passion flower. Passion flower was tested on 36 patients with generalized anxiety disorder over the period of a month. The results showed that passion flower was effective at reducing anxiety levels and making them calm and relaxed.
Benefits of Passion Flower
1. Puts You in a Relaxed Mood: Passion flower has proven calming and sedative effects. If you experience mood swings or run on a rollercoaster of emotions all day, it can help you sleep. Mood disorders are common among people with insomnia or other sleep problems. A cup of passion flower tea before bed can put you into a deep peaceful slumber, and that too without any side effects you get with prescription medications.
2. Improves Sleep: Both self-reported and scientific evidence suggests that passion flower can help you sleep at night. It’s constituent chemicals stop excessive neural activity - that terrible state of racing thoughts - and helps you feel calm.
3. Eases Muscle Spasms: For people who experience involuntary muscle spasms, passion flower can be a powerful remedy. Not only it helps ease muscle spasms, it also soothes the sadness that generally follows involuntary muscle spasms. It delays the onset and duration of muscle contractions.
4. Eases Withdrawal Symptoms: Whether you are trying to quit alcohol, nicotine, or coffee, passion flower can help you deal with withdrawal symptoms. A study published in Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics showed that passion flower can ease physical and mental symptoms of withdrawal.
5. Helps with Stress, Anxiety and Depression: If you suffer from chronic stress, your body produces excessive amounts of stress hormones. Passion flower corrects this physiological imbalance in the body and alleviates symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. The phytochemicals in passion flower can make you feel positive and energized throughout the day.
6. Blood Pressure/Heart Health: Passion flower lowers blood pressure and improves heart health. Since insomnia is often linked with high blood pressure, passion flower can work as an all round remedy, treating multiple symptoms of insomnia at once.
Side Effects of Passion Flower
A research study published in Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutic suggests that passion flower showed no side effects when used to treat withdrawal symptoms in people who were trying to quit smoking. Animal research shows that passion flower can cause uterine contraction. Although this side effects is not observed in humans, pregnant women are advised to ask a professional before consuming passion flower tea.
Mental Confusion/Dizziness: If you consume passion flower tea in large amounts, you may experience mental confusion, lack of physical-mental coordination,unclear thinking, dizziness, and so on. If you are prone to these mental disturbances, it’s best to consult a doctor before taking passion flower tea.
Blood Pressure/Heart Health: If you take blood pressure medications, consuming passion flower tea can lower your blood pressure too much. So avoid it using along with any blood pressure medication.
Antidepressants/Sedatives: If you take prescription antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, or sedatives of any kind, using passion flower can increase the sedative effects causing drowsiness, mental confusion, and can even be potentially harmful in some cases.
Gastrointestinal problems: High doses of passion flower tea can cause gastrointestinal problems such as stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and so on.
7. Magnolia Bark
In Chinese medicine, Magnolia Bark has been in use for over 2000 years. Its therapeutic properties make it antiseptic, antibacterial, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory. It has bioactive compounds that can help with multiple health issues including anxiety, inflammation, sleep problems, stress, memory, and brain functions. It has bioactive components, including magnolol and honokiol, which produce its therapeutic effects.
It is known by its biological name Magnolia officinalis and originates from China. Although it’s often used to improve sleep, proper research is needed to confirm this sleep-inducing property of this herb.
What Research Says
A study was done on 56 people to examine the effects of Magnolia bark on anxiety and stress. The researchers gave them 1/4th gram of Relora - a combination of two chinese herbs: magnolia bark and amur cork. After one month of this experiment, the results showed that the herbal treatment helped lower stress levels, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion in participants. It also improved vigor, energy levels, in participants.
Another study of Magnolia bark was done on 40 premenopausal women. The doctors gave the women both placebo and magnolia bark to test its effects. Quarter gram of Relora was given for one and a half month. As compared to placebo, the participants showed decrease in temporary anxiety with relora or magnolia bark. But it must be noted that no sleep quality effects were observed. So, the research shows that magnolia bark may provide soothing effects to people with some anxiety. However, concrete research needs to be done to make any solid claims.
Research published in the Neuropharmacology journal shows that Magnolia bark has bioactive compounds which help you get more hours of NREM sleep and REM sleep - the deep sleep stage essential to replenish and restore energy in your physical body. It contains magnolol which changes c-Fos expressions in the arousal and sleep centers in the brain, leading to relaxation and sleep-promoting effects.
How It Works
Magnolia bark contains magnolol and honokiol, which modulate the GABA receptors in the brain, promoting relaxation and reducing neural activity. Magnolol increases the density of GABA-a receptors, the same action done by the tranquilizer called diazepam. Research also suggests that magnolia bark has some constituents which inhibit the release of adrenaline from adrenal glands, hence decreasing alertness and promoting relaxation.
Benefits of Magnolia Bark
1. Improves Sleep - As reported in the research studies mentioned above, magnolia bark has bioactive components such as magnolol, which induce sleep and increase the time of REM sleep, which is very important for sleep health. It also lowers adrenaline in the brain, leading to less alertness and more relaxation.
2. Stress and Anxiety Relief - If there is one thing that Magnolia bark was known for throughout history, it was for its soothing and calming effects. Since magnolia bark increases GABA activity and decreases the neural activity, it is effective at easing anxiety and stress. Its active component honokiol can produce the same relaxing and anti-anxiety effects as the drug diazepam. If a natural herb can be as powerful as an anti-anxiety drug, without the harmful side effects, it makes sense to try and see if it works for you.
3. Regulates Mood - According to brain science, dopamine and serotonin are two chemicals important for regulating our mood. Dopamine is the reward chemical in the brain. Everytime you complete any task or eat a meal - your brain secretes dopamine. Research shows that magnolia bark can regulate serotonin and dopamine and in turn help you regulate your mood.
4. Brain Health - Magnolia bark has certain chemical compounds which may counter cell death usually linked with Alzheimer's. It also helps regulate the chemical acetylcholine, which helps with learning and remembering things. Studies show that magnolia bark’s chemical action can help improve overall brain function and cognitive processes.
5. Eases inflammation and pain - Magnolia bark has been used in history as a medicine for pain relief and reducing inflammation. Animal research studies show that its constituent compounds, magnolol and honokiol block glutamate-, substance P- and PGE2-induced inflammatory pain.
Side effects of Magnolia Bark
There isn’t sufficient research done to show any concrete side effects of magnolia bark. But from limited research, it can be said that magnolia bark can cause hand tremors, thyroid issues, dizziness, confusion, headache, and fatigue. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or scheduled for surgery, it is best to avoid using magnolia bark or consult your doctor before you do it.
Breathing problems - Magnolia bark has a chemical called tubocurarine which relaxes muscles. But when it works with other compounds present in the herb, the chemical can cause breathing problems and can even be toxic to children and infants. Therefore, it is recommended to not give it to children.
Vertigo - Vertigo is the sensation of spinning. It is caused when one consumes a high dose of magnolia bark. So if you feel like you are spinning in the room or that the room is spinning around you, immediately call your doctor.
Heart rates - Studies done by E Natural Health center show that magnolia bark can numb the nerve endings in the brain leading to relaxation. But this also heightens up the heart and respiratory rates.
Sedative effects - Magnolia bark contains a chemical called magnocurarine which works like a sedative. It is helpful when you want to sleep, but in large doses it can lower your blood pressure and potentially dangerous for your health.
Medication Interaction of Magnolia Bark
Sedatives - Because of its sedative effects, magnolia bark shouldn’t be combined with sedative medications like benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and CNS depressants.
Anticoagulant - Magnolia bark combined with anticoagulant medications such as warfarin and edoxaban can result in complicate bleeding problems.
Other herbs - Combining two sleep herbs may cause excessive sedation and drowsiness. So consult your doctor before you combine magnolia bark with any other herb.
8. St John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum is another product of nature used for hundreds of years to treat mental health conditions. In Europe, it’s a common remedy for depression. It is native to regions in Europe and Asia and grows as yellow flowers in the wild. Earliest records show that it was used to heal wounds. But as time progressed, it became more of a mental health remedy.
What Research Says
Scientific studies on St. John’s Wort effectiveness to treat depression show mixed results. But it can still improve sleep patterns (not sleep quality). Here is what research says:
A study was published in the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neurology examining the effects of St. John’s Wort on sleep. Over the period of a month, researchers gave the herb to 12 older patients. The results showed an “increase of deep sleep during the total sleep period”. However, the herb didn’t improve the continuity of sleep, the onset of sleep, intermittent wake-up phases, and total time of sleep.
Many studies on the effects of St John’s Wort on depression and anxiety have been done. A research study shows that St John’s Wort may be effective in the treatment of “some adolescents with mild depression”. Another study shows that St John’s Wort is effective in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.
Research further shows that this herb can enhance the final stage of REM sleep. However, if you rely on anecdotal evidence and the vast history of use of this herbal medicine, it can be used to treat depression, insomnia, and anxiety.
St John’s Wort contains many chemical compounds that produce its therapeutic effects. They include xanthones, dianthrone derivatives, flavanols, phytosterols, coumarins, and some essential oil compounds as well.
Benefits of St John’s Wort
Helps with depression: Throughout history, St John’s Wort has been used to treat depression. It contains chemical compounds which regulate important neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters make you feel motivated to do things and make you feel happy.
Helps with withdrawal: For people trying to quit alcohol, smoking, or other substances, St. John’s Wort can ease the withdrawal symptoms and help with overcoming addiction.
Treats inflammation: It has high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. These compounds help ease any inflammatory pain such as joint pain, muscle ache, and so on. It also helps treat inflammation in the heart, decreasing blood pressure and strengthening the heart.
Prevents viruses: According to research, St John’s Wort can combat viral infections, but only when it is taken in high doses. The downside is that, high doses of herbal remedies often lead to unwanted side effects.
Eases anxiety: St. John’s Wort restores the hormonal balance in the body, which boosts metabolism and fixes the internal clock. This restoration helps with insomnia and chronic fatigue. Once the chronic stress hormones are removed from the system, people feel less anxious and more in control of their lives.
Side effects of St John’s Wort
Although the herb can help you sleep, it also has some side effects.
Same side effects as Prozac - Based on Australian Drug Safety reports, researchers discovered that St. John’s Wort could have the same side effects as Prozac, the popular antidepressant. It can cause side effects such as anxiety, panic attacks, dizziness, nausea, and spikes in blood pressure.
Other side effects from research studies include stomach upset, erectile dysfunction, dry mouth, diarrhea, liver injury, and headache. St. John’s Wort can also worsen symptoms of various mental health conditions including bipolar disorder, major depression, schizophrenia, and ADHD.
Medication Interaction of St John’s Wort.
There are many kinds of medications that could interact with St. John’s Wort. They include:
- Antidepressants: When St. John’s Wort is combined with serotonin uptake inhibitors, it leads to serotonin syndrome with symptoms such as high body temperature, tremor, diarrhea, agitation. Anyhow, it’s quite clear that you should not take any herbal remedy if you’re taking psychiatric medications.
- Cough and Cold medicines
- Seizure Medications
- Heart disease medicines
- Other herbal remedies
- Blood thinners
- Cancer medications
- HIV drugs
- Organ transplant medications
9. California Poppy
California poppy originates from California but is grown on the west coast in United States from Washington in the north to Mexico in the south. It is golden orange in color and that is why it is also called “orange poppy”. It is the state flower of California known for its sedative effects. It can also relieve nerve pain, which if left untreated, can cause insomnia. It is used for any issues with nervous system, sleep disorders, and nerve pain.
What Research Says
In a study done on 264 people with mild to moderate generalized anxiety, the effects of California poppy versus a placebo were tested. California poppy was given in the form of the drug Sympathyl, which contains California poppy, hawthorn, and magnesium. Those who took Sympathyl reported higher reduction in anxiety than those who took the placebo.
The researchers gave the conclusion that Sympathyl is safe and more effective than placebo at treating mild to moderate anxiety symptoms.
Preliminary research shows that the alkaloids present in California poppy work with brain receptors in multiple potent ways. This may or may not be the reason for the sleep-inducing effects, as some people believe it has. More research is needed to draw any solid conclusions.
In other tests performed to study its anticonvulsant and myorelaxant properties, the herb proved to be ineffective. Other animal tests showed that the herb has sedative properties and can be effective at inducing sleep.
Benefits of California Poppy
Treats Insomnia/Sleep problems - California poppy relaxes your mind and body, so that you can enjoy a deep sleep at night. No solid research supports this quality of this herb, but it’s been used since a long time for treating sleep problems.
Treats Anxiety and Depression - Research shows that California poppy is more effective than placebo at treating anxiety. It has isoquinoline alkaloids and flavone glycosides which give the anti-anxiety effects upon consumption of the herb.
Treats ADHD - California poppy helps the cognitive functions of the brain. This is why it can treat ADHD, a growing problem in children and young adults. It can bring peace to the overactive mind of children and ease the jitters.
Eases Muscle Spasms - The herb has the anulomana action, according to Ayurveda, which means it can reduce spasms and pain in the stomach.
Eases Withdrawal Symptoms - The herb inhibits the enzymatic degradation of catecholamines, a hormone that plays a key role in addiction. So whether you want to quit alcohol, tobacco, or any other drugs, California poppy can help you with withdrawal symptoms.
Relieves physical pain - According to evitamins.com, this herb conditions your brain to enhance your opiate receptors, which naturally provides relief in pain. California poppy is non-addictive with the same benefits as a painkiller, such as Percocet or Vicodin, without the side effects.
Side effects of California Poppy
In one study mentioned above california poppy, along with magnesium and hawthorn, were given to patients for the treatment of anxiety. Researchers noted that this treatment caused many side effects including nausea, muscle stiffness, and grogginess in the morning.
The herb can also cause some allergic reactions including rashes, hives, itching, swelling in the throat, swelling in the mouth, and respiratory problems. However, normal doses of the herb don’t usually lead to any side effects. If you are allergic or take any medication, it is advised to consult a doctor before you take this herb.
Medication Interaction of California Poppy
Taking California poppy with sedative medications can be potentially dangerous. As we have seen with other herbs above, if you take any sedatives, psychiatric medicines, heart medicine, or medicine for any severe illness, you should consult your doctor before bringing this herb into your daily routine.
You may know hops as an ingredient used in beer. The herb, with humulus lupulus comes from Europe and today it is grown in many countries around the globe. Hops plant has corn-shaped flowers that contain the bitter oils and nutrients that provide the medicinal effects of the herb.
According to the blog Sleep Passport, Germany’s commission E, which is equivalent to America’s Food and Drug administration (FDA), has approved hops herb for the treatment of anxiety, restlessness, and improving sleep. This official approval is the proof that hops can help you sleep naturally at night.
What Research Says
One study published in the Sleep journal tested the effects of a combination of valerian root and hops, along with diphenhydramine, in the treatment of mild insomnia. This remedy was tested on 184 patients with mild insomnia in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. The results of this study showed “modest hypnotic (sleep-inducing) effect” for a valerian-hops combination. The treatment was deemed as safe and it didn’t bring rebound insomnia when the herbal remedy was discontinued.
Another study proved that hops acts just like melatonin, the medicine people take to fall asleep [source]. It explained that the valerian-hops combination reduced alertness and prolonged wakefulness. It concluded that this herb combination is effective for the treatment of sleep disorders.
Therefore, research shows that hops, when used with valerian, is an effective remedy for sleep problems. But, don’t take the herb combination on your own. High dosage can cause side effects, so always consider a professional herbalist or a doctor.
Benefits of Hops
Induces Sleep and Relaxation - Just like beer helps you relax, hops -one of its key ingredients - is effective at calming your nerves and inducing sleep. According to a research study, the ethanolic and carbon dioxide extracts from hops decrease the locomotor activity and increase the ketamine action that makes you feel sleepy.
Fights inflammation - Research published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 2009 shows the inflammatory properties of Hops. Hops has bitter acids including alpha acids, beta acids, and iso alpha acids, which are responsible for fighting inflammation.
Fights Infections and Toxins - Hops is good at removing toxins from the body and fighting infections. The antioxidants in hops boost immunity, the microbes help provide relief in case of a sore throat or chest problems. It purifies the blood and decreases blood sugar.
Heart Health - Hops contains Xanthohumol which leads to powerful antiplatelet process. As a result, it protects your heart from cardiovascular illness.
Combats Stress and Anxiety - Stress is the main cause people suffer from insomnia, leaving pathological cases aside. So if you can heal stress, you can sleep better every night. Hops works on the GABA receptors in the brain, reducing excess activity and promoting relaxation. In fact, hops,when combined with valerian, can work better than sleep medications.
Brain Health - The xanthohumol compound found in hops protects your brain from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can cause Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and hops, by reducing this stress, prevents brain damage or disorders.
Side effects of Hops
Drowsiness: In some cases, hops can cause drowsiness because of its sedative properties. This effect may be pronounced if you’re taking any sedative medications. Never take any herbal sleep tea if you’re taking antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, sleep medicines, or any psychiatric medication.
Allergies: Hops can sometimes cause nasal allergies such as sneezing, congestion, or running nose. In rare cases, hops can also lead to a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis which is characterized by low blood pressure, swollen throat, and difficulty in breathing.
Estrogenic issues: Hops contains high estrogen levels which can lead to breast growth in men and also erectile dysfunction. People who have a history of breast cancer are also at health risks when consuming hops. Research suggests that pregnant women and those with kidney or liver disease should not consume hops.
Medication Interaction of Hops
Anxiety/Depression/Sleep Meds: If you take medication for anxiety, depression, or sleep, taking hops tea can be dangerous. Two sedatives never go well and can cause allergic reactions.
Other sedative herbs: Although researchers have found that valerian works well with hops, it is recommended that you don’t mix it with other herbs such as St. John’s Wort, Kava Kava, and so on.
Infection or allergy medicines: Don’t take hops if you’re taking prescription medicines such as allegra, nizoral, paclitaxel and so on. Hops has diuretic action which works on the enzymes in the liver, so these two kind of drugs can interact and cause harmful effects.
Can herbal teas really help you sleep?
Some people refrain from drinking any kind of tea at night. But the truth is that herbal teas are very different from regular caffeinated teas. They contain anti-anxiety ingredients that help your body relax and get to sleep easily. You must have heard of how valerian root can help people with sleep problems. Herbal teas contain the same ingredient as valerian root to soothe your physical and mental system and help you relax before you go to sleep.
The advantage of drinking a herbal tea instead of taking the raw supplement is that you don’t have to deal with the stinky herb and bad taste. Moreover, taking raw herb with water isn’t a soothing experience in itself. On the other hand, drinking tea at bedtime has an inherent relaxing effect on your brain, just like taking a hot shower helps you feel instantly relaxed.
Some sleep teas have ingredients that have a sedative effect, such as chamomile and valerian. On the other hand, some teas have ingredients that reduce stress and anxiety. Some sleep teas help ease digestion so that the body can relax and go to sleep.
Does this really work or is it just a placebo?
The answer is yes and no. It really works because of the inherent relaxing properties of the ingredients. But it also works as a placebo to give an additional effect. So no matter which herbal tea you have before bed, it will feel relaxing and ease your stress. However, it is important to maintain proper sleep hygiene as drinking herbal tea alone won’t put you to sleep.
It is important that you refrain from using digital devices 1-2 hours before bed. The room where you sleep should be dark and quiet. Also, try to keep your bedroom just for sleep and sex. This is because our brain forms associations between the locations we spend time at and our activity or behavior in that location. So if you are used to indulging in stimulating activity on your bed, then it will be hard to sleep on it. If you don’t have an option, try sleeping on the other side of the bed and keep your work activities on the different side.
For those struggling with sleeping problems, herbal teas can serve as an effective solution. They can help you relax, just like a hot shower without the negative properties of consuming caffeinated beverages like tea or coffee.
There are many sleep teas to choose from - chamomile, valerian, passionflower and many more. Depending on your taste preferences, the effect of ingredients you want from your sleep tea - sedative, antianxiolytic or digestive - you can choose the one that suits you the best. However, keep in mind that you would still need to have proper sleep hygiene - avoiding using digital devices at night, keeping bed for sleep and relaxing activities, keeping your room dark and quiet at night and so on.
Updated 6th jan 2019.