One of the greatest benefits of using herbs medicinally is that they don't come with any side effects like most pharmaceuticals do. That's why in today's age, in which a large component of medications are prescribed for alleviating nerve-related conditions like sleeplessness, anxiety and depression, medicinal herbs play a valuable role.
Getting adequate amounts of sleep is imperative to one's health. Not only does a lack of sleep increase moodiness, irritability and vulnerability to depression, it wears on the immune system and can worsen the symptoms of diabetes and heart disease. If you are one of the 63% of Americans who do not get enough sleep (the recommended eight hours per night according to the National Sleep Foundation), and owe this lack of sleep to insomnia, you should consider using herbs before opting for one of the many side effect ridden prescriptive medications out there.
There are several herbs for insomnia, with Valerian Root being the most widely clinically tested of the lot. Widely used in Europe, Valerian Root has undergone twenty clinical trials that confirm its effectiveness in improving sleep quality. I can even attest to it myself. Compared to the prescription drug Serax, Valerian Root has been shown to significantly improve sleep without any hangover side effects. While this insomnia treating herb has been shown to provide immediate results for most people, it may need to be taken for several consecutive nights (up to fourteen) in order for Valerian to have its greatest impact.
If you are unfamiliar with Valerian root, a word of warning. Depending on your sensitivity to odors, it can smell like dirty socks. Valerian root is pungent smelling, so you may want to consider using it in tincture or capsule form, rather than as a tea. Tinctures are generally your best option, since they are more readily absorbed into the bloodstream than capsules. Other similar, less smelling herbs for nighttime use are passion flower, hops, California poppy and Kava Kava.
If you are looking for a less intense, daytime friendly nerve tonic herb with sedating effects, consider using chamomile, vervain, lemon balm, skullcap, wood betony or hawthorn. Take your pick. If you want something that tastes really good in tea form, lemon balm and chamomile are great options. If you want something that is also going to improve blood circulation and be good for your heart, hawthorn is your best bet. And if depression is the underlying cause of your lack of sleep, St. John's Wort is a clinically tested, effective herb. Just be sure to clear it with your doctor if you are also taking any prescription medications since St. John's Wort speeds liver metabolism.
One last thing worth mentioning here is be aware of growing dependent on any medication, even medicinal herbs. Ultimately, it is up to each of us to holistically explore the causes of any sleeping disorders like insomnia that we may be experiencing. Studies show that stress is the number one cause for all sleeping disorders. Getting adequate amounts of exercise and mediation are holistically related to one's sleep patterns. Remember, insomnia is not a disease. It's a symptom.