Alternative or natural medicine is becoming more and more popular for many diseases and complaints. Alternative medicine for insomnia is no exception.
This is despite aggressive advertising by pharmaceutical companies both in print or on television in some countries.
People are becoming more aware not only of the dangers of chemical drugs but also of the fact that alternative medicine can actually work just as well if not better than mainstream medications. This is particularly true when we look at alternative medicine for insomnia, due to the addictive quality of some sleep medicines. Chemical sleep medicines can actually make your insomnia worse.
We’ll look at herbal alternative medicine for insomnia here. Just remember that not everything will work for everyone so some trial and error (and a fair bit of patience) may be needed.
Valerian root is probably the best known of the herbs for insomnia. It can be found in tablet or capsule form or can be dissolved in hot (not boiling) water to make a tea. Valerian can induce drowsiness and is therefore useful for people with nervous complaints and for insomnia. Government studies have found the evidence to be “inconclusive”, however since the pharmaceutical companies give large amounts of money to the government and since it’s very easy to manipulate data taken from studies, this may not mean very much.
Valerian shouldn’t be taken with other sleep medications and should only be used at night, or when your not going to be driving or operating machinery. In some people valerian can have a counter effect, making them nervous and anxious. However this is unusual.
Melatonin is manufactured in the pineal gland and is a hormone rather than a herb, but because it’s available as an alternative medicine for insomnia, we’ll include it here. Although it’s manufactured naturally in the body, our levels of melatonin decline as we get older. Melatonin’s chief function is to control our 24 hour clock or circadian rhythm. Our levels of melatonin increase during darkness and decrease on exposure to bright light. This affects our sleep/wake cycle.
Melatonin can be effective for elderly people who have trouble sleeping and also for relieving jet-lag. It can also help shift workers whose sleep rhythms are often disrupted.
Melatonin also controls levels of other hormones in the body. It is also thought to be an effective antioxidant. If you take other medications, get professional advice before taking melatonin, as it can react badly with some other substances
It’s definitely not recommended to take kava every day as it can lead to liver damage. Kava is best taken a few hours before bed as it can take a while for the relaxation response to happen. Kava works well when you want a feeling of relaxation without feeling “drugged”. It also works well for muscle tension.
Don’t give kava to children as the effects are unknown and don’t mix it with alcohol. Kava has different effects on different people depending on it’s potency and your own biochemistry. Well worth a try, but treat it with respect.
Magnesium is a mineral that aids muscle relaxation. It’s especially useful for restless legs or RLS. Lack of magnesium can causes nervousness and restless sleep with more frequent awakenings.
Not just for making beer! Hops contain a substance called methylbutenol which has a sedative effect on the central nervous system. Hops can be brewed as a tea and are recommended for anxiety, stress and insomnia.
There are even pillows made from dried hop flowers which are said to promote restful sleep.
Skullcap is used to treat a range of nervous conditions and is good for inducing sleep. Powdered skullcap can be bought at herbal stores and made into a tea. Skullcap can have undesirable symptoms in excess.
Passionflower or Passiflora is a beautiful purple flower which has a tranquillising effect on the central nervous system. It’s been approved in Germany as a herbal sedative and is a relatively safe herbal remedy. Passionflower can also be used for indigestion as it has a relaxing effect on the digestive system.
Chamomile is one of the oldest herbal remedies known and is grown commercially in several countries. It’s uses are varied and it’s always been a favorite sleep inducing herb for many people.
Chamomile also has a pain reducing effect and is particularly useful if pain is keeping you awake.
There is a wide choice of alternative medicine for insomnia and trial and error will tell which one is right for you. These natural medicines are also available in combinations which can increase their synergistic effect.
So if you have trouble sleeping, or are hooked on chemical sleep medicines, give alternative medicine for insomnia a try and reclaim your health and your sanity!