Herbs for Sleep and Relaxation

Herbs for Sleep and Relaxation

If you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep and don’t want to turn to a prescription medication or an over-the-counter sleep aid, nature’s medicine cabinet contains effective herbal sleep remedies. Herbs such as catnip, passionflower, and camomile can help you relax and get a good night’s sleep.


A member of the mint family, catnip was first noted in 1735 in the General Irish Herbal for the use of its leaves and flowers to make herbal teas. Today we usually think of catnip as a euphoria-inducing treat for cats, but it has also been used by humans to treat indigestion, stomach problems, the common cold, and as a sedative.

Anecdotal evidence has accumulated over many years verifying catnip’s sedating effect. Catnip oil’s structure is chemically similar to valerian root, both of which contain nepetalactone, a proven sedative, making both herbs effective in treating insomnia.


Used for thousands of years, camomile is another herb that offers relief from a variety of symptoms, including stomach upsets, anxiety, and sleep problems. The flowering tops of camomile are used to make supplements, extracts, and teas.

In a recent study on the use of camomile to treat insomnia, researchers found that it was moderately more effective than placebo in increasing total sleep time. It also helped to reduce the number of night time awakenings and moderately improved daytime functioning.


Another traditional sleep aid, passionflower was discovered by Spanish explorers in Peru in 1569. It got its name from their belief that its flowers represented the passion of Christ. Passionflower has been used to treat gastrointestinal upsets, anxiety, and insomnia.

Research on passionflower’s effectiveness at fighting insomnia have mostly focused on animals. However, in a recent study on the effectiveness of passionflower tea to treat insomnia in humans, participants gave it a significantly better rating than placebo for improving sleep quality.


Hops may be famous for their use as a bittering agent in beer making, but they have also long been used traditionally to treat insomnia, often in combination with other herbs that promote relaxation.

Although their exact mechanism of action is still being studied, it is believed that hops function similarly to melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. Some data suggest that hops stimulate melatonin receptors.

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