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Insomnia: An Herbal Solution?

The ACHS Herbal Medicine textbook defines insomnia as: “a sleep disturbance that is characterized by difficulty getting to sleep, and/or difficulty staying asleep or waking up too early.” People who suffer from insomnia are more likely to have accidents, memory retention, and recall issues, and, many times, their body systems are unable to function properly. Those who suffer from insomnia consistently for at least six months are considered “chronic” insomniacs. It is recommended that chronic insomniacs should be referred to their medical professional to rule out any underlying conditions before attempting any holistic or homeopathic remedies. Insomnia can come in the form of a few times a week to every night. Eating a healthy, whole food diet and exercising regularly, as well as establishing a sleep routine are key elements to relieving insomnia.
 
Additionally, taking a few steps to modify your lifestyle can reduce insomnia, these include:
  • Sleeping and waking at the same time daily,
  • Avoiding alcohol, simple sugars and heavy meals close to bedtime,
  • Forgoing caffeinated beverages at least four to six hours prior to bedtime,
  • Limiting intake of caffeine to less than 200 mg daily,
  • Exercising in the afternoon approximately three to five hours before bedtime,
  • Eliminating anything beyond sleeping and intimacy within the bedroom, using softened light and sound,
  • Providing a stable temperature within your bedroom,
  • Enjoy a cup of lemon balm, lavender or chamomile tea just before bedtime; and,
  • Including nervine herbs and oils into your routine, such as: Lavender (Lavendula Officinalis), Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Roman chamomile (Camaemelim nobile), Tangerine (Citrus reticulata) and Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata).
When consumed nightly on a consistent basis, lemon balm can act as a relaxant and sleeping aide. The more frequently you enjoy this herb as a hot tea or tincture, the better the effect on your sleep. Chamomile and lavender tea are typically effective in promoting relaxation from the first sip. Be sure to enjoy your tea in a serene or quiet environment. The use of teas to help you relax becomes ineffective when included in a chaotic or active environment.
 
Lavender is known for its ability to promote a general feeling of peace, health, and sense of well-being. It has been documented that lavender increases slow wave sleep. These benefits of lavender made it a prime choice for a blend focused on quality sleep. One should be cautious of its toxicity when taken orally, and potential sensitivity when applied topically. Valerian is known for its ability to promote quality sleep. Valerian benefits emotional stability by relieving stress and acting as a natural tranquilizer. It also promotes balance in our body’s sleep patterns, which aides us in enjoying restful, undisturbed sleep. Follow dosage guidelines when using valerian as excessive use can cause dizziness, cramping, mild depression, stomach aches, and skin rashes or hives.
 
Roman chamomile is another relaxing oil which focuses on providing peace to our emotional state and eliminating reactions associated with anxiety. The aldehydes and esters found in tangerine are calming and soothing to the nervous system. Ylang ylang acts as an antidepressant and sedative and is used to balance and quiet mental fatigue. Which can many times accompany stress, especially when insomnia is a side effect of said stress.  Both Roman chamomile and ylang-ylang can cause skin irritation, therefore, a skin patch test should be administered prior to topical use. (Modern Essentials)
Dosage guidelines and therapeutic margins should be adhered to when preparing a blend for use in quality sleep. These are imperative to ensure the correct result. Lavender, for instance, can elicit a stimulating reaction when too much is used. Which in this case would provide the opposite of the intended use.
 
References
 
Health Benefits of Valerian. (n.d.). In Organic Facts. Retrieved from https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/valerian-essential-oil.html
 
Lavender. (n.d.). In University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/lavender
 
AromaTools. (216). Modern Essentials: A Contemporary Guide to the Therapeutic Uses of Essential Oils (6th ed., pp. 105-142). Orem, UT: Author
 
Petersen, BA, Dip-NT, Dip-Acu, RH, D. (2015). Aroma 203: Aromatherapy I. Portland, OR: American College of Healthcare Sciences.
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