Senior Editor K.C. Compton answers your questions about sleep aids.
I sometimes have trouble sleeping. What herbs would you recommend?
If you struggle with insomnia or just have occasional trouble drifting off, consider trying one of the following herbal sleep aids. (You can also find potent tinctures made from these herbs, and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for consumption.) Some natural sedatives may work better for you than others, so be patient if you don’t feel the effects of the first one you try.
- Chamomile. A cup of chamomile tea before bed will help you unwind and fall asleep faster. Steep a heaping tablespoon of the dried flowers in boiling water.
- Hops. Although this natural sleep aid is a component of beer, tossing back a glass of beer before bed won’t have the same effect as drinking a tea made from 1 to 2 teaspoons of hops flowers (known as “strobophiles”), which will often ease you into a deep, restful sleep. The scent is soothing, too. Hops work well on their own, but paired with chamomile and lavender, they make a particularly slumber-inducing herbal sachet to tuck into your pillow.
- Valerian. This plant is a well-researched sedative. In a Swedish study of valerian’s tranquilizing effects on those with insomnia, almost 90 percent of participants said this herb helped them fall asleep. Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried valerian root to make a tea.
- California poppy. Preliminary studies confirm that the California poppy has mild sedative and anti-anxiety effects, making it a good slumber-inducer. Although it is a relative of the opium poppy, the California poppy doesn’t contain opiates, so using it won’t cause dependence problems. Steep 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried aerial parts of the plant in boiling water to make a relaxing tea.