While researching solutions for insomnia, I made the mistake of typing “when do most people experience insomnia” into my Google search bar. I had the misfortune (and the brief pleasure) of reading one forum contributor’s response: when we can’t sleep. However, there is a wealth of legitimate, valuable input to offset this tongue-in-cheek comment.
Of particular interest are the discussions on physiological causes of insomnia, from melatonin deficiencies (often associated with aging) to hormonal imbalance (tied frequently to menopause) These lead into data on herbal remedies – solutions that are available to us free of charge, if we have the energy to venture into the gardens and wilds to harvest specific plants.
Of course, one of the most commonly cited treatments for insomnia is German chamomile tea. This beverage has been used for centuries, and is part of the Ukrainian heritage, brought to North America in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This herb is cultivated domestically and grows very well in the wild. There a re a few varieties of chamomile, but the most effective appears to be the German chamomile.
While most commonly used as a cough and cold treatment, linden also encourages sleep. Dried flowers and leaves, made into a tincture or infusion are the usual form of use, while the inner layers of bark can be harvested even in winter and made into a tincture or infusion, as well.
Onion is one of the universally recognized super plants, offering myriad health benefits. However, boiled onion (drink the liquid, as well, you wimp!) serves as a sleep aid. I have found that onions, eaten in larger quantities before bedtime seem to induce a lot of dreams. Good for those with pleasant ones, lousy for those with nightmares!
Lemon balm is cited as a good sleep aide. However, its most frequent use is as an insect repellent. Lemon balm, like lemon sorrel and mints, decreases thirst.
Although offering only a mild sedative benefit, raspberry tea is an excellent pre-bedtime drink, and, when combined with wild strawberry leaves, is a very pleasant sipping tea.
Sage is another great plant. This herb is a great culinary spice with nutritional benefits, but offers a variety of health benefits, from cancer treatment to digestive assistance, from treatment for depression & anxiety to cold treatment and inflammations. Best known for its use with poultry, it can be taken, if you can endure the sharp taste, as a tea.
For centuries, lavender has been a part of romantic lore, and has a reputation for inducing pleasant dreams. This, of course, goes hand in hand with better sleep. Lavender air sprays, lavender sachets under one’s pillow, lavender soaps and skin creams or lavender plants growing in the bedroom window all offer assistance for the sleep-deprived.
My wife uses rosehips to treat a kidney condition. Along with this wonderful benefit, the rose seed pods also are excellent for the heart, provide a source of vitamin C, show results in cancer treatment tests and, again, provide sleep-inducing qualities. Rosehips can be used in soups and stews, with wild game, in bannock, or consumed as a tea with a bit of ginger.
Passionflower, native to the southeast of North America, is recognized for its relief of insomnia.
Lastly, elecampane has been found to be effective at treating both irritability and insomnia. While not a known native of the Americas, elecampane, like dandelion, hawthorn and a host of other plants, herbs and bushes, has taken hold in most parts of North America, likely introduced here by European settlers.
The list of herbs and other plants that have been employed to treat lack of sleep attests to both the prevalence of insomnia and the effectiveness of herbal remedies, as opposed to chemical preparations. The added benefits of herbs are that they generally have fewer side effects, and, when harvested in the wild, cost nothing!