Herbal Supplements to Treat Sleeplessness
If you need help getting a good night's sleep, but don't want to take medication, an herbal supplement may be just what you're looking for. Here are the facts on the herbs most commonly used to induce sleep.
Herbal remedies are an alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals. Catnip, chamomile, hops, kava, lavender, lemon balm, oats, passion flower, skullcap, and valerian are the herbal remedies most commonly used for insomnia. They can be purchased individually or in combinations. Most of them are also used for conditions other than insomnia.
The leaves of the
Chamomile is safe to consume. However, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a doctor before consuming chamomile for therapeutic purposes. People who are allergic to ragweed may also be allergic to chamomile. Highly concentrated chamomile tea may induce vomiting.
The dose depends on the amount of the active ingredients, called kavalactones, in the product. It is recommended that people use kava extract standardized to 30% kavalactones. Do not take kava if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have clinical depression. Kava may affect judgment or reflexes during the operation of machinery and may enhance the effects of alcohol and psychiatric drugs. German and Australian authorities recommend that people who use kava daily do so for only 1-2 months.
The fruit or green tops of the
For centuries, Europeans have used valerian as a sedative and sleep aid. The
Insomnia may sometimes be related to other health issues. If you are experiencing frequent, severe, or worsening bouts of insomnia, or if you’ve had insomnia for a while, it is best to discuss it with your doctor.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
National Sleep Foundation
Better Sleep Council of Canada
Canadain Sleep Society
Ernst E. Kava update: a European perspective. Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association [serial online]. 2004;117(1205).
Fugh-Berman A, Cott JM. Dietary supplements and natural products as psychotherapeutic agents. Psychosomatic Medicine [serial online]. 1999;61:712-728.
Herbal/plant therapies: scullcap. The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center website. Available at: http://www.mdanderson.org. Updated February 2008. Accessed January 13, 2009.
Insomnia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated January 13, 2009. Accessed January 13, 2009.
Osterhoudt KC, Lee SK, Callahan JM, Henretig FM. Catnip and the alteration of human consciousness. Vet Hum Toxicol. 1997;39(6):373-375.
Passion flower. U.S. National Library of Medicine website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-passionflower.html. Updated January 5, 2009. Accessed January 13, 2009.
Shinomiya K, Inoue T, Utsu Y, et al. Effects of kava-kava extract on the sleep–wake cycle in sleep-disturbed rats. Psychopharmacology. 2005;180:564-569.
Last reviewed January 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2007 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.