Anxiety and depression have plagued humanity for thousands of years, bringing about sleepless nights. Insomnia herbs have been around just as long. With the advent of modern medicine, however, came an overabundance of drugs and sedatives to help give modern humans our much-desired rest-as well as other not so desirable side effects. And so we have come full circle and turned back to the insomnia herbs of yore, and have rediscovered that old cures are often still the best treatments.
Caffeine is an addictive drug. While it keeps you perked up during otherwise lethargic mornings, it will likewise keep you from getting some much-needed sleep at night. Because of a restless night in bed, you’ll be drowsy again the following day, not to mention nervous and irritable if you’re not already suffering from headaches and nausea, and you’ll stagger toward the espresso machine the first chance you get.
It’s a vicious cycle, and it must be stopped. If you cannot wean yourself off caffeine completely, at least try to cut back on your consumption. This includes colas, chocolate, and yes, the ubiquitous Starbucks. Have some insomnia herbs instead.
Valerian root is your best bet. It is “the safest and most effective sleep aid with no side effects,” according to British scientist turned herbalist Dr. Malcolm Stuart, who says the best time for a drink would be around 8 PM. Thirty minutes before going to bed, use one to two teaspoons of the dried root to make a sleep-inducing tea. Unlike sleeping pills, valerian causes no hangovers. And unlike its counterpart drug, which may trigger an addiction, you will not develop a dependency on this herb.
Similar to valerian root in terms of its sedative effects is catnip. Not only is this herb used as a cure for insomnia, but it is also thought to relieve nervousness, anxiety, and even migraines. Dosage for catnip is again similar to valerian-one to two teaspoons of the dried herb for one cup of boiled water and set aside to immerse for about ten minutes. Do not boil the herb along with the water as this may destroy some of its active ingredients.
Chamomile is milder and is safe for children to consume, especially when the young ones are restless. The usual dosage is two teaspoons of dried chamomile flower for every cup of tea.
Lavender also makes for a very soothing brew at bedtime (three flower heads to one cup of boiling water, soaked like catnip), and inhaling a few drops of its oil or mixing it with your bath water has the same calming effect. It may also be rubbed onto your body during a massage and its flowers and seeds stuffed into your pillows.
In Chinese medicine, the longan fruit and sour jujube seed are both known to calm the spirit. The former is used to treat insomnia, while the latter complements stronger herbs.
While the insomnia herbs mentioned above may be taken on their own, you may also prepare an herbal cocktail if you wish. Try blending valerian with chamomile, catnip, or some other mild herbs like hops and passionflower. Add a bit of the natural sweetener stevia for flavor if you find the taste a tad too strong for your palate. Don’t drink too much to spare yourself sleep-disrupting trips to the bathroom.
While there is nothing essentially wrong with relying on insomnia herbs, homeopathy, and aromatherapy to fall asleep, it is still best to let nature take its course and allow your body to fall asleep on its own, the way it’s built to do. In order for your body to perform optimally, a lifestyle overhaul is in order.
To be free from sleep disorders, engaging in exercise, proper stress management, and sticking to a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables are the ideal solutions, aside from consuming your favorite serving of insomnia herbs. In the meantime, have a cup of tea. Cheers!
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