7 Calming Herbs for Better and Deeper Sleep
Proper sleep – that is, getting enough sleep and quality sleep – is crucial for good health. In fact, getting proper sleep is just as important as exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. Sadly, just as many people get swept up in life and do not prioritize working out or eating well, it's common to suffer from a lack of sleep as well.
One of the reasons why we have less quality sleep, along with stress and anxiety is due to the modern lifestyle that we get used to. Today, we live in a very busy world. We live in such a busy world that sleeping less became a “normal” part of our life.
It may be normal for our modern lifestyle, but certainly not for our health – lack of sleep causes many health problems such as an increased stress response, weight gain, increased blood pressure, the risk of major diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and depression.
That being said, getting enough sleep – and quality sleep – is important for our overall health. Of course, there are many tips and tricks on how to get better sleep, and one of them is by using the power of calming herbs.
Some herbs (which we will discuss later) have a relaxing and therapeutic effect that can help you sleep better along with relaxing your nervous system.
Now, you may wonder, but what about sleep medications? Well, sleep medications can help you with your sleep, however, they’re only good for short-term use. This is because aside from potentially causing adverse side effects, the use of sleep medications can even lead to dependence.
When this happens, your body may gradually become dependent on the medication that you find it hard to get to sleep once you let go of the pill. On the other hand, so long as you properly use herbs, they will not cause the long-term problems that sleep medications typically cause.
Now that we’ve briefly discussed the importance of sleep and how herbs, in general, can help you with sleep, let us discuss some of the best herbs that you can use to improve your sleep.
Top 11 Herbs for Better and Deeper Sleep
Whether you have a hard time sleeping at night because your mind is too active, or because you deal with stress and anxiety, these herbs can help get you ready for sleep each night.
1) Lemon Balm
While lemon balm is more known for its use as a remedy to GI (gastrointestinal) issues, lemon balm also has a therapeutic and calming effect that can help you with your sleep. Specifically, you can get its sleep benefits if you consume it as a tea because it will cause a sedative effect that will aid you in your sleep.
If you do not like the taste of mint leaves, lemon balm is a good alternative. While lemon balm is also a part of the mint family, they taste differently compared to mint leaves.
Side effects of Lemon Balm
Depending on the dosage and how your body reacts to it, lemon balm may induce side effects such as headache, nausea, increased body temperature, painful urination, dizziness, and stomach pain. Lemon balm should also be avoided if you are pregnant or lactating.
2) Holy Basil
Since hundreds of years ago, the Holy Basil is already recognized as an herbal remedy. It is used to treat conditions such as fever, bug bites, nausea, skin irritation, headache, and some more. But aside from these conditions, as you can already tell, the Holy Basil can also promote better sleep and it can help you fight off any sleep disorders.
Holy Basil’s sleep benefits are mostly linked to its adaptogens, which our body can use to improve its coping mechanism on stress. This promotes a healthy mental state which, in turn, improves our sleep since our stress level is reduced and properly managed.
Side effects of Holy Basil
While Holy Basil is not linked to any side effects, it is best used for short-term use (up to 6 weeks) as long-term effects and safety is not yet fully established and concluded. Also, avoid Holy Basil when you are pregnant, lactating, or taking certain medications as the herb can affect medications.
3) Chamomile Flowers
Chamomile is an herb that is known for its relaxing effects as far back as ancient times, and modern studies confirm its effects. But how does chamomile bring about its relaxing effects? This is because of one of its compounds, apigenin.
Apigenin is a compound that possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and anti-anxiety properties. Aside from that, apigenin also acts as a pain reliever. Aside from these properties, apigenin can also bind to our benzodiazepine and GABA receptors. Once that happens, this causes anxiety relief and induces sleep.
Side effects of Chamomile Flowers
Avoid chamomile if you have allergies to pollens, especially of the daisy plant family.
4) Valerian Root
The valerian root has since been used as an herbal medicine in Europe as back as around the 17th century. While generally an herbal medicine, valerian root is more specifically used today for its ability to help us sleep better.
Valerian root is commonly used to treat and deal with restlessness, insomnia, and even anxiety. Valerian root can help us with sleep thanks to its valerenic acid, which is responsible for inhibiting the breakdown of GABA. Once inhibited, this causes us to have improved sleep quality. But aside from that, valerian root also helps us to sleep faster.
Side Effects of Valerian Root
If taken on proper dosage, there are little to no associated side effects. But when taken on a high dosage, it can cause what is called “valerian toxicity.” For instance, there are rare cases where a person took 20g of valerian (which is around X10 of the normal dosage). This resulted in fatigue and muscle cramps.
Passionflower is a herb that can help you sleep better, thanks to its nerve-relaxing flavonoids. Aside from better sleep, passionflower can also help you to manage your stress.
Aside from its sleep and therapeutic benefits, passionflower is used to manage ADHD and it is even used to calm our minds before undergoing surgery.
Side effects of Passionflower
Passionflower can cause the following side effects: nausea, vomiting, loss of coordination, drowsiness, liver toxicity, and pancreas toxicity. It is therefore very important that you are mindful of its dosage to avoid such side effects.
Lemongrass is known for its therapeutic effects, hence it is commonly used in aromatherapy to both freshen the air, improve one’s mood and reduce stress levels. Also, lemongrass is used for pain relief, immunity boost, and, of course, for better sleep.
If you are fond of Thai foods, you are probably eating lemongrass already as it's one of the common ingredients used in Thai cuisine.
Side effects of Lemongrass
while lemongrass is associated with any side effects, it can cause lung problems and toxic-related side effects when inhaled too much.
Hawthorn is one of the herbs that is linked to many health benefits such as being antioxidant, reduced anxiety, and it is even used to treat heart failure. Aside from that, hawthorn has a calming and sedative effect that can help us with our sleep.
Side effects of Hawthorn
Some of the potential side effects of hawthorn include chronic fatigue, dizziness, agitation, insomnia and sleep problems, headaches, and GI problems.
Ashwagandha is one of the more mainstream herbs when it comes to calming herbs. Because of its popularity, there are also growing studies surrounding it. This herb works to calm your stress response, calm symptoms of anxiety, and even treat generalized anxiety disorder.
Side effects of ashwagandha
As with most herbs, it is always important to check for its relationship with medicine. Certain medications react differently, but make sure to check with your doctor before taking ashwagandha if you're on medication.
Lavender, a beautiful flower, is also a herbal supplement that works to reduce anxiety.
Coming from a shrub-like bush native to islands in the Pacific Ocean, kava is a powerful herb that works to relax your nervous system and decrease symptoms of anxiety. This is commonly used as a mental health herbal supplement, and for good reason!
Side effects of kava
With powerful herbs comes a chance of side effects. While the lethal dose of kava is unknown, it can become harmful for your liver if taken with alcohol. It can also cause kava dermopathy, a form of eczema if taking in excess.
11) Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Tulsi is a powerful herb that packs a powerful antioxidant punch. Studies show these antioxidants fight off free radicals that gather when you experience inflammation or oxidative stress. Tulsi has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to decrease overall symptoms of anxiety.
Side effects of Tulsi
Tulsi is a calm, anti-anxiety herb that can support your mental health. As always, make sure to research each herb before introducing it to your diet.
Frequently Asked Questions About Calming Herbs
1) What is the strongest herbal sedative for the nervous system?
While many of these calming herbs are powerful in aiding sleeping issues, stress, and chronic anxiety, the strongest herbal sedatives are lemon balm, passionflower, and valerian root. Therefore, when using these herbs, take extra precautions and ensure that you are taking the right dosage for you as it can cause side effects if you consumed a bit more of it.
2) Can these herbs work for generalized anxiety disorder too?
Given that these herbs have calming and therapeutic benefits (and add the fact that some herbs do deal with anxiety), yes, these herbs do work for generalized anxiety disorder, too. However, be sure to consume these herbs in small and proper amounts to get most of their benefits. If you consume too much of it, it can either cause drowsiness or it can even reverse its benefits – for instance, it can cause sleep problems or increased anxiety.
Should You Try Herbs To Help With Sleep, Stress, and Anxiety?
Herbal supplements can be helpful if you have sleep problems or if you simply want to improve your sleep quality. On a long-term basis, they are way better compared to sleep medications because they cause fewer short- and long-term side effects compared to sleep medications.
Many natural remedies to help aid in sleep are sedative herbs, ones that also help with symptoms of anxiety. They can help your stress response, while providing you with anti-inflammatory properties as well.
That being said, keep in mind that these herbs should be used properly (e.g. take it in proper dosage). If not properly used, these herbs can cause side effects. Also, if you are pregnant, lactating, or are taking any medication, consult your doctor first before taking any of these herbs to ensure that they will not affect your pregnancy or medications.
*This is not medical advice.