Sleep is essential to human life. It is as important as breathing and eating. Without proper sleep, the body will cease to function. During sleep, the body consolidates memories, grows muscle, synthesizes hormones, repairs tissue, restores and rejuvenates. Until 1993, when the US Congress mandated a National Center on Sleep Disorders, insomnia was not considered a significant or disabling medical condition. Today, it is recognized as a disease which is produced by a wide variety of causative factors, including emotional disorders and upset, physical imbalances, age, environmental factors, and a genetic component. The Mayo Clinic defines insomnia as a “persistent disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or both.”
Most of us have suffered from some form of insomnia from time to time in our lives, however, for millions of Americans, this nightmare is repeated night after night. Estimates show that over 70 million Americans suffer from chronic insomnia which includes 90 different sleep disorders. Chronic insomnia can lead to a variety of health complications including obesity, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and more. Although many people reach for over-the-counter and prescription medications to help them sleep, they often only mask the cause of the sleeplessness and complicate the issue.
Before turning to drugs (OTC, prescription or herbs), first consider the root cause and take steps to address them. The root cause could be stress, diet, a medical issue, being overweight, or many other reasons. Here are some tips and ideas that have been proven to work.
Another option to use herbs as a sleep aid. This could be in the form of a sleep pillow, tea, or other herbal preparation.
Sleep Pillow: To make your own sleep pillow, simply fill a cloth bag with your favorite blend of relaxing herbs such as lemon balm, chamomile and lavender, and sew it up. Place it either inside your pillow’s case and during the night your body heat will help the active substances contained in the herbs are activated. The aromatherapy will help you to calm you down and induce a better night’s sleep.
There are many herbs that when used in the form of a tea or tincture that can help the body relax, reduce stress and help achieve restful sleep. Here are my favorites.
time it takes a person to fall asleep and also help increase the duration and quality of sleep. Be sure only to take valerian for three weeks or so before switching to another herbal remedy as your body will get used to it. After you switch for a couple of weeks, you can go back to the valerian, and it should have the same impact that it initially had. In the United States, herbalists use valerian extensively for its sedative action against insomnia, nervousness, and restlessness. It is recommended for those type of people who have a hard time falling asleep, because it shortens sleep latency. It also reduces nighttime waking. Valerian is an excellent herbal sedative that has none of the negative side effects of Valium and other synthetic sedatives. It works well in combination with other sedative herbs, such as California poppy, skullcap, hops, and passion flower.
Dose: Tea, 1 cup as needed; Tincture, 2-5 droppers full 1 hour before bed.
Hops (Humulus Spp);
Hops is another sedative herb, and valerian can be combined with hops extract for greater sleep benefits. They’re both mild and safe. In the early 1900s, Eclectic physicians used hops as a sedative specifically for insomnia due to worry or nerve weakness. Hops, a major flavoring component of beer, has a long history of use for sleeplessness, nervousness, and restlessness. Hops pillows are sometimes used for mild insomnia.
Dose: Tea, 1 cup 2-3 x daily; Tincture, 30-40 drops 2-3 x daily.
of Christ.” As an herbal remedy, passionflower has been used for a very long time to ease mental stress and slow the down a “running” mind. Historically it has been used both as a sleep aid and a stress reliever. The chemical composition of this plant is nothing short of amazing. Scientific studies confirm the sedative properties of this magnificent plant. Rich in flavones, alkaloids and coumarins, passionflower extract is also found to contain GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, that can play role in regulating excitability and muscle tone while it feeds and relaxes nerves. When used appropriately, passionflower is safe for children and persons with health conditions and taken in the form of a tincture. Herbalists consider passion flower an important herb for insomnia caused by mental worry, overwork, or nervous exhaustion. In England it is an ingredient in forty different commonly-sold sedative preparations. Passion flower is used for minor sleep problems in both children and adults.
Dose: Tea, 1 cup 3 x daily; Tincture, 30-60 drops 3-4 x daily.
of the legend that said that the orange petals were gold filled. Although not filled with gold, the California poppy is not only a good food source but also has some potent medicinal properties. Historically used for such illnesses as toothaches, headaches and sores, this perky little plant has also earned a reputation as a strong sedative. It can ease insomnia that results from restlessness and anxiety and can be used even for children. California poppy can currently be found in a variety of herbal remedies sold in the United States for promoting sleep, helping one to relax, and easing mild anxiety. Clinical and laboratory work on California poppy has clearly demonstrated the plant’s sedative and anti-anxiety properties.
Dose: Tea, 1 cup 2-3 x daily; Tincture, 30-40 drops 2-3 x daily.
Note: Since the tea is mild, a tincture is recommended when a stronger dose is desired.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula officinalis);
A cup of warm lavender tea before bed is a great way to promote relaxation and help with anxiety, depression, stress and insomnia. In addition to drinking tea, try putting a drop of lavender essential oil on your pillow, or soaking in a hot bath with a few drops of lavender essential oil and Epsom salts. Lavender is a gentle strengthening tonic for the nervous system. A few drops of lavender oil added to a bath before bedtime are recommended for persons with sleep disorders.
Dose: Tea, 1 cup 2-3 x daily;
Essential oil–oil may be inhaled, massaged into the skin (use 10 drops essential oil per ounce of vegetable oil), or added to baths (3-10 drops).
is commonly used in Europe, South America, and Mexico for insomnia and restlessness combined with irritability, particularly in children.
Dose: Tea, 1 cup 2-3 x daily;
Tincture, 30 drops 3 x daily.
St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum):
This common yellow-flowered weedy herb from Europe is quickly becoming an important part of modern herbal therapeutics. It has a long history of use dating back to ancient Greek times. Modern scientific studies show that it can help relieve chronic insomnia and mild depression when related to certain brain chemistry imbalances. Because this herb can sensitize the skin to sunlight, if you are taking a full dose, avoid direct skin exposure to bright sunlight.
Dose: Tincture, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon 2-3 x daily;
Allow 2-3 weeks for the full therapeutic effect to develop. If you experience light sensitivity or other unpleasant symptoms, reduce or discontinue the St. John’s wort and consult a qualified herbalist for a total program.
•Passion Flower (20%)
For either formula, blend the loose herbs, place in a quart jar for future use, and store out of the direct sunlight in a cool place. Use 1 tsp/cup to make a tea. Make 1 quart at a time, adding 1 extra tsp ‘for the pot.’ Add the herbs to boiled water and cover. Let steep for 20 minutes, strain and store in the quart jar in the refrigerator. This blend will keep for 3 days. Pour out 1 cup, warm it, and drink several times daily or before bedtime as needed.
Know before you eat!
The grapefruit was bred in the 18th century as a cross between a pomelo and an orange. It was given the name grapefruit due to growing in clusters, similar to grapes. There is a great deal of literature on grapefruit on how good it is for you and how bad it is. Lets clear things up a bit.
Grapefruits are low in calories but are full of nutrients, and an excellent source of vitamins A, C and K. Grapefruit is 92% water, giving it one of the highest water contents of any fruit. Harvard Medical School states that grapefruit has a glycemic index of 25. This suggests that it does not significantly affect blood sugar and insulin levels.
Grapefruit has been studied and it has been demonstrated that eating grapefruit decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality. It can also help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol, lower blood pressure and stimulate your immune system. Red and Pink grapefruit are even better for you, because they contain higher antioxidant levels, specifically beta carotene,and lycopene.
Before you go running out and buying grapefruit to eat, we need to look at some very real concerns. Grapefruit contains chemicals that inhibit a enzymes in the liver and intestine that are needed to break down toxins, over the counter medicines and prescription drugs in the body. The inhibition of these enzymes can lead to these drugs and toxins accumulating in your body. These natural chemicals in Grapefruit permanently bind with CYP3A4 enzymes. This means that until your body can produce more those enzymes will not help detoxify your body. The process to produce more enzymes takes 72 hours. While many drugs are deactivated by CYP3A4, there are also some drugs which are activated by the enzyme. Some substances, such as grapefruit juice and some drugs, interfere with the action of CYP3A4. These substances will therefore either amplify or weaken the action of those drugs that are modified by CYP3A4.
So what does all this mean? Grapefruit is good for you but if you are on any medication at all, check with your doctor and check for yourself if there are any adverse reactions. Also keep in mind that Grapefruit inhibits enzymes important in eliminating toxins from your body, so limit your intake of grapefruit. I would recommend taking a break from grapefruit of at least 6 day every two weeks. It takes your body 72 hours to recover from grapefruit. This includes all products that contain grapefruit including juice, ice-cream, deserts, and soft drinks.
Here is a partial list of drugs that Grapefruit inhibits.
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