Insomnia is a condition that most people suffer from at some point in their lives; lack of sleep can leave you feeling exhausted, irritable, forgetful, anxious and with a feeling of fogginess. Although you can often find relief in prescription and over-the-counter sleep medication, most do not come without unwanted side effects. The following herbs and essential oils are natural remedies that I have tried for insomnia and have found some relief with using them.
Lavender for Insomnia
Lavender (Lavandula officinalis) can be used in a couple of ways as a sleep aid; you can use dried lavender buds in sachets or pillows or use the essential oil in a spritzer.
Lavender filled pillows and sachets are ideal to help babies and children in sleeping; in the past, dilly pillows (fragrant filled pillows of lavender and dill) were used to lull children to sleep in Europe. Today, you can use lavender filled sachets in much the same way, by slipping the sachet under baby’s pillow or leaving it on the nightstand. In addition, adults can heat up a lavender filled pillow and place it over the eyes to relax before going to sleep.
You can also make up a water based spritzer with lavender essential oil (and chamomile) and spritz it lightly on your pillow before going to sleep.
Chamomile to Help You Sleep
Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) is another well known herb that is often used as a sleep aid. Available in herbal format from health food stores, you can also take it as a tea or use it in essential oil format. If you are using it as an essential oil, blend it in a water based spritzer as discussed above. The essential oil is gentle enough to be used with children, if you administer it correctly and dilute it before use.
Chamomile is an ever-green perennial herb with daisy-like flowers; it has an apple-like scent. It has been used medicinally for thousands of years and was one of nine sacred herbs in use by the Saxons (source: The Aromatherapy Garden, Julia Lawless).
Valerian as a Sleep Aid
Valerian is a herb that is often referred to as the “natural alternative” to the prescription drug valium. There is in fact no relation between the two commodities but it is believed that they both work in similar ways and are used for similar conditions.
Valerian (Valeriana fauriei) is commonly used to treat anxiety, stress and insomnia. Some people may actually fall asleep faster with the use of valerian and have a better night’s sleep too (source). You can take it as a herbal supplement in capsule form, as a tea or in an alcohol (free) base as a tincture. It has a strong taste.
Valerian is a perennial herb with purple-white flowers and thick, gray colored roots that has been used since Medieval times; it is the root which has the odor and the part of the plant that is used medicinally. You can also use valerian as an essential oil.
Melatonin for Sleep Problems
Melatonin is naturally produced by your body and helps to regulate your body clock; however, sometime a supplement of melatonin is required to help your body re-adjust to its natural rhythms and to help you get a better night’s sleep.
Melatonin produced by the body decreases with age Melatonin production is also affected by light and requires darkness to produce more effectively; a disruption to the body’s natural cycle, such as jet lag or night shift work, will affect melatonin production too.
Melatonin is usually taken in capsule or tablet form to help with insomnia.
Cautions for Using Natural Sleep Aids
Be aware that some of the above might interact with other medications that you are taking and it is advisable to consult your health practitioner before taking. In addition, some conditions, such as pregnancy and high blood pressure, might be contra-indicated for use. The use of melatonin and other herbal supplements are not endorsed by the FDA, so use your own judgment and do your own research on the suitability of a particular product as a natural sleep aid for insomnia.
However, I have found relief from insomnia at different points in my life by using all of the above herbs and essential oils.
- The Aromatherapy Garden, Julia Lawless
- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Julia Lawless
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Valerian
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Melatonin
- Author’s training and experience
Photo by En Bouton