There are times when we all find it difficult to drop off to sleep and by the time you get to 1001 sheep you begin to lose the plot.
There are a number of triggers for insomnia.. including stress, too much sugar late at night or replaying the last television programme in your head, especially if it was violent or action packed.
Everyone has their own comfort zone when it comes to sleeping and some people can drop off anywhere and under any circumstances. My husband managed to sleep through a terrifying experience when our plane took off from Hawaii and the landing gear did not retract! We had to circle the islands for 90 minutes dumping all our fuel while the plane shook and rattled and rolled. I was gripping his knee very tightly, and apart from rousing to tell me that he might as well sleep through what ever was going to happen, he did not stir! I didn’t sleep for a week afterwards!
Ideally, most of us need a comfortable bed, good pillows, no light distractions and peace of mind. It also helps not to drink a gallon of water, wine or beer before you go to bed as you may be up and down during the night like a yo-yo. Also if you have had too much alcohol you will probably get the 4.00 am dry mouth syndrome, which combined with the sugars in the booze, will keep you lying awake for an hour or so.
Anyway back to the featured herb which is Valerian or to give it its botanical name…Valeriana Officinalis. However there are a number of varieties of the herb and their medicianal properties also vary in strength.
Like all the herbs that I have featured in this series, Valerian has been used for centuries and probably longer than that if we could only find the records. It is a relaxant, anti-spasmodic and has a mild anti-depressant effect on the body.
There have been a number of studies into its properties and there seems to be a consensus that it does promote sleepiness..The herb is what as known as complex which means that it has over 100 chemical elements. This does make it difficult to determine the exact properties that effect our sleep patterns but generally I tend towards the combination of all these elements that make this herb work for us.
It is believed that it signals one of the neurotransmitters in our brain that promotes a sedative effect which is why studies have been made into Valerian’s use as an alternative to certain prescribed medication for anxiety.
If this is the case then it is likely that the herb will not only ease you into sleep but may also prevent restlessness and disturbed sleep throughout the night.
Other areas that Valerian has been used traditionally is for cramping during menstruation and also to ease the pain of migraines and rheumatism. It can also be added to bath water to provide a relaxing soak for a tired body.
You will often find Valerian combined with Hops in the herbal tinctures and tablets available on the market. Hops is another plant that has traditionally been used to treat mild insomnia, anxiety as well as indigestion, an imbalance in cholesterol levels and bladder infections. There are some studies into its anti-carconogenic properties in relation to prostate, breast and ovarian cancers.
I do suggest that you buy one of the established herbalist’s tinctures or tablets and I tend to use A.Vogel products as they are made from high quality fresh herbs. Ask in your local health food shop about their various valerian products and do spend a little extra to buy a product that is sourced from fresh herbs which provides a stronger effect and I find the tincture to be more effective than tablets.
The taste and smell is very strong and you may prefer to dilute slightly in a little apple juice, but you do get used to it after a little while.
Take the recommended number of drops in a little water 30 minutes before bed and give the herb a few nights to take maximum effect.
Do not take more than the recommended dose and do not take with prescribed sleep medication or with any anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. Do not combine with alcohol, drive or operate machinery if you have taken valerian.
Do ask a qualified herbalist before taking any herbal remedies if you are pregnant.
I hope you have found the post helpful and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask.
Thanks for dropping in.. Sally