Herbs to Treat Insomnia

Insomnia occurs when an individual has trouble going to sleep or staying asleep more than three times per week and experiences daytime impairment as a result. The average adult requires about 8 hours of sleep per night. According the University of Maryland Medical Center, however, only about 35 percent of American adults consistently achieve this amount. Numerous remedies for insomnia exist, including natural herbs and supplements that may help you fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Always talk to your doctor before taking any new herb, especially if you take prescription medications, as side effects or drug interactions could occur.

Kava Kava
Kava kava, an herb traditionally used to treat anxiety, may also benefit sufferers of insomnia. A study published in Psychopharmacology in 2005 found that sleep-disturbed rats treated with 300 milligrams kava extract experienced a significant shortening in the sleep latency cycle. Although further human trials are required, researchers note that kava kava possesses sleep-quality enhancement effects. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking 100 to 250 milligrams of standardized kava extract up to three times per day as needed. For the best results, take kava about an hour before bed and don't drive or operate machinery while under the herb's influence. Do not take kava if you have liver problems or drink excessive amounts of alcohol, however, as this may lead to serious side effects.

A common herbal remedy for calming the nerves and relaxing the body, chamomile may also help individuals with mild insomnia get to sleep. In the book “The Healing Power of Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs,” the Reader's Digest Association recommends drinking a cup of chamomile tea in the evening, about 30 minutes before bedtime. To make chamomile tea, steep 1 tsp. dried chamomile in 1 cup boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes, strain, sweeten with honey if desired and drink immediately. Chamomile tea bags available at supermarkets and natural health stores also work for this purpose. A mild and gentle herb, chamomile works in conjunction with other sedating herbs without causing side effects.

Widely praised for its use as an herbal sleep aid, valerian may help insomniacs fall asleep more quickly and sleep soundly through the night. According to a meta-analysis published in the March 2010 edition of Sleep Medicine, valerian may cause subjective improvement in insomnia, though researchers require further studies to determine the herb's effectiveness. An earlier review published in the December 2006 edition of the American Journal of Medicine found that valerian might improve sleep quality without producing side effects, though a standard dosage was not determined. The University of Maryland Medical Center, however, recommends taking 200 to 400 milligrams of valerian standardized extract before bed to promote sleep.

Nutmeg, an herb believed to possess mild sedative action, may also benefit sufferers of insomnia. In Indonesia, the herb's native habitat, healers use nutmeg to treat a variety of ailments including insomnia. In her book “Healing with the Herbs of Life,” Lesley Tierra recommends taking one capsule of freshly ground nutmeg about four to five hours before bedtime to promote a restful sleep and increasing the dosage by one capsule per day until sleep naturally regulates. Tierra warns that dried nutmeg does not produce the same effects, so try grinding your own for the best results. Purchase a capsule maker and empty capsules at your local health food store to make fresh nutmeg capsules, or simply consume 1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg dissolved in warm water or juice.