Herbal Allies for Bedtime
Over the years certain herbs have become my go-to allies for handling life’s many bumps. I keep herbal remedies in the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom and my purse. As a Clinical Herbalist, I tend to talk about the ones I love the most. The three herbs I keep by my bedside are Skullcap, Passionflower and Fresh Milky Oat, for nights when I want help on hand.
These three herbal helpers are considered Nervines in herbal medicine, which help restore balance to the nervous system by alleviating nerve pain, relaxing muscles, calming anxiety and mental chatter, easing headaches and encouraging sleep. All three herbs possess a mild sedative quality that is non-addictive.
For people with chronic insomnia, these herbs will not match the strength of prescription sedatives but can be an effective part of an overall program towards better sleep hygiene.
SKULLCAP Scutellaria Lateriflora
Scutellaria Lateriflora is a wild mint with purple flowers that is very effective for unbinding muscle tension, therefore is useful for sleeplessness associated with muscle tension, headaches or teeth grinding. I find 1/2-1tsp of tincture to be anchoring and grounding within a few minutes, which then diffuses into an overall state of ease over the next ½ hour.
PASSIONFLOWER Passiflora Incarnata
Passiflora Incarnata is the healing flower of the passion fruit, a medicine native to Central and South America, which was introduced to Spanish explorers in the 1500s and brought to Europe where it has been in use for hundreds of years. The name represents the passion of Christ.
I find Passiflora imparts a very gentle, peaceful mood which uplifts the mind. It seems to softly steer the mind away from worried and depressed thinking, like a guiding light back to centre. It is useful for sleeplessness due to depression or an over-active mind. It combines well with Scutellaria for headaches and teeth grinding.
Contraindications: Passionflower can increase the effects of prescription sedatives, antispasmodics and anxiety medication, be aware and cautious. It should not be used in combination with MAOI anti-depressants.
FRESH MILKY OAT Avena Sativa
There is a brief window of time during the growing cycle of oats where the immature seeds can be harvested for its characteristic white ‘milk’. The milk of the fresh oat seed is a superfood for nerves which are exhausted or frazzled from chronic stress or shattered from trauma.
I find Avena Sativa to be supportive – nourishing raw nerves and strengthening the entire nervous system over time.
HOW TO USE THEM
I prefer to take the herbs in tincture form to avoid drinking too much liquid before bed. If you dislike the taste of alcohol, you can drop the tincture into a small amount of hot water and allow the alcohol to evaporate. I typically take 1/2-1 teaspoon of a single or combined tincture at lights out when I feel I need some sleep support. If I am really out of sorts and need strongly encourage sleep I will take 1/2 teaspoon an hour before bed and a second teaspoon before lights out.
Every person will respond differently to each herb or herb formula. You may need more or less depending on your constitution. You may find you like one but not the other and I highly recommend you follow your hunches, as they are usually correct.