Herbs for Natural Insomnia Relief

Woman's hands holding a white mug of herbal tea.

Many people have trouble sleeping soundly, especially during stressful times. These herbal remedies, combined with a consistent nightly routine and addressing the root of stressors, can help to promote a better, more restful sleep. All of the following herbs can be made into tea (use just one or a combination–many people like using mint as a base because of its pleasant taste) or taken as a tincture/supplement. As with any herbal remedy that you have not tried before, check with your licensed provider to ensure this is safe for you. Everyone’s body is different.

Valerian Root

Valerian is a flowering plant that is native to both Europe and Asia. The root of the valerian plant is widely used as a sleep aid that many people find helpful. Studies show that valerian can help people with insomnia achieve better, more consistent sleep if taken before bed.

Valerian is associated with a reduction of REM sleep in the early stages of sleep and an increase in REM later in the night, which results in an improved sleep quality and a decrease in waking up part way through the night. 2 Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children under three years of age should avoid using valerian root.

Lavender

Lavender has long been lauded as one of the most relaxing scents and is very popular in aromatherapy. Lavender has antioxidant, antidepressant, and sedative properties and contains compounds that decrease stress hormones, making it easier to relax and fall asleep. 3 

Like the other herbs in this list, lavender can be added to an herbal tea to sip before bed, and because it has such a strong and pleasing fragrance, many people like to diffuse a few drops of lavender essential oil before bedtime, use bath products or lotions that contain lavender, or tuck a sachet of dried lavender flowers under their pillow in order to enjoy its calming effects. Keep in mind that lavender essential oil has pro-estrogenic properties and can cause hormonal disruptions in some people. 

Passionflower

Passionflower has not been studied extensively yet, but initial animal studies show that it may be a useful tool for treating insomnia. 4 Passionflower has a mild sedative effect and is often used to reduce anxiety as well as to promote sleep. 5

Many people like to add passionflower to their pre-bedtime herbal tea mixture in order to reap its potential anti-insomnia benefits. Passionflower should not be consumed by those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. 6 

Mint

Mint helps with digestive complaints, 7 so if an unsettled stomach is contributing to your inability to sleep, sipping on mint tea at night can help you get a better, more restful sleep. This is due to mint’s anti-inflammatory capabilities, which work to settle the stomach. 8

Mint has a particularly pleasant taste and makes an excellent base to a pre-bedtime herbal tea. Try adding one or several of the botanicals on this list to a mint-based tea for a soothing infusion to sip before bed.

Hops

While more studies need to be conducted on hops as an effective sleep aid, research suggests that it can help with insomnia. Hops contains two mild sedatives, lupuline and humulene, which may be beneficial for those having a hard time getting to sleep. 9 Hops is also used as a treatment for depression and other mood disorders that often contribute to insomnia.10

Hops has an earthy, somewhat bitter flavor with pine and citrus notes. Most people do not enjoy the taste of a tea made only from hops, but it pairs well with mint and/or chamomile.

Chamomile

Chamomile has long been popularly used as a sleep aid, however further research is required to determine its effectiveness. 11 Some studies suggest that chamomile helps improve sleep quality 12, and many people like to add it to their nighttime herbal teas because of its pleasant, mild flavor

Research also suggests that chamomile can help relieve digestive pain. 13 It is common for people who are prone to unsettled stomachs to have trouble getting to sleep due to the digestive pain, so chamomile, along with mint, is recommended in these cases.

For more information about sleep and whole-person, naturopathic approaches to insomnia, check out our webinar. 

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