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Ask the Herbalist--Sleeping Problems

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: I am having problems sleeping and was advised to drink valerian root and passion flower tea?  Do any of these herbs interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills?  If so, can you recommend anything else that would induce sleeping but that would not interfere with the effectiveness of birth control pills?

ANSWER: Well, the two herbs you mention kind of contradict each other. What I mean that although Valerian will help with the sleep issue, Passionflower is used to "lift up the spirit", which may mean that your thoughts may not be able to be at rest enough to sleep.

I would not suggest the Valerian at all. It is a "harsh" herb, too strong sometimes, and if using over the counter pills you are never really safe. Much safer than Valerian is the extract of Linden flower, 25-30 drops an hour before bedtime in a cup of Chamomile tea, will be just the thing. Sweeten only with a bit of honey.

QUESTION: I'm 25 years old and suffer from anxiety disorder. I also been suffering from insomnia.  My question is can I drink the Seven Blossoms herbal tea at night while drinking Cymbalta 60mg at morning or if you can suggest any other herbs for sleeping

ANSWER: Actually the Seven Blossoms is fairly complete and you may drink it. Allow me to say that you may wish to enhance it by adding 15 drops tincture or extract of  Lemon balm. I would suggest 15 minutes or so of meditation before bedtime.

: I have used 1000mg of Valerian as an occasional sleep aid.  The last two times I found that I couldn't sleep at all.  If my reaction to valerian has changed (now it excites me instead of sedates me), will I ever be able to use Valerian again? 

ANSWER: Instead of Valerian I would suggest 30 drops of extract of Linden flower in an infusion of Lemon balm. Sweeten only with a bit honey if necessary and drink one or two cups an hour before bedtime. These are better and safer than Valerian, and extracts work better and faster.

Whether the Valerian is causing this is impossible to accurately answer, but assuming all is in order and the pills or capsules are fresh, I suggest you stop try my suggestion mentioned above, and if you still prefer Valerian give it 30 days before trying it again.

QUESTION: My grandson has a sleep disorder causing serious disruption of his circadian rhythm.  He says the only thing that helps is Calea zacatechichi. 

Is there any nutritive value to this plant.  I have read that it is considered to be a poisonous plant.  I am concerned that it is reported to depress the central nervous system and that it is primarily a hypnagogic herb.  I cannot see the benefit of this herb for overall health.

ANSWER: Calea zacatechichi is used for divination and lucid dreams by the Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico where I happened to live years ago. There is no health benefit whatsoever to this plant. It should be used moderately, if used at all.

Its effects have not been very well documented, therefore, I would suggest avoiding its use. 

I recommend that your son prepares a strong infusion of Chamomile, and add 15 drops extract or tincture of Lemon balm and 15 drops extract or tincture of Linden flower. Sweeten with a bit of honey and drink 2 cups 1 hour before bed.


QUESTION: Please could you tell me can I take St Johns wort and rhodiola at the same time? I suffer from chronic insomnia and rarely sleep for more than 2 hours each night. I can't find any contraindications other than avoiding caffeine in the supplement. Do you have any other suggestions as to what may help with my insomnia.

ANSWER: This is what I suggest:
- I know some people think that the rhodiola is best taken in the morning. If you have a toxic liver, it may be too rich for you. If you arenít sleeping while taking the rhodiola, stop taking it, unless you have other serious reasons for taking it.

- I suggest you get:
- L tryptophan, and take one pill , 1/2 hour before bed,
- get Melatonin, with B-6 in it, and take 1/2 hour before bed
- get homeopathic sleep pills from Hylands, or another good company ( we can send you all of these if you need us to) and suck on them as directed, as you get into bed.
- do not eat, or drink 3 hours before bed, no caffeine after 10 AM, no pork, or chocolate
- Make sure you get into  bed, and lay, there or read, 1/2 hr before bed after taking the melatonin, and L tryptophan, as soon as you feel tired, turn off light, close your eyes, and sleep. This works if you do it.  Let me know if you need more info


QUESTION: I'm having a very hard time getting the proper rest.  I bought an herb tincture for sleep called relaxing sleep tonic with Valerian, passionflower, hops, chamomile and catnip.  I have tried taking the recommended amount on the bottle - 30-40 drops, with no help at all, and after reading that wasn't nearly enough on an herb website, tried their suggestion of a teaspoon, still with no luck in having a decent sleep.  I really don't want to take the prescription meds my doctor has prescribed - I don't want to become dependent on them and I don't want the side effects, but I'm really getting desperate for rest.  Please let me know if you have any suggestions - and thank you.

ANSWER:  I suggest you get L- Trytophan, and take one pill 1/2 hr before bed, and then make sure you are in bed.  Do this one week, if this does not help, take 2 -L--Tryptophan, before  bed as previous.  If after one week, this does not work, then take melatonin, chewable, one before bed 1/2 hr, and do one week, then try two if not ( caution, sometimes , more is not better, so try a lower dose first). 
          Also our blend Essence of Peace, in warm milk with honey, just before bed, will help as well.  Make sure you have caffeine only in the mornings, and no sugar, or fried foods at nite, and donít eat past 6PM, if you can do that too ( you could have a piece of fruit, or a light food at nite)

QUESTION: Thank you so much for your response!  I will try the Tryptophan as you suggest and go from there.  I don't have any caffeine in my diet anyway (not chocolate or anything) as I am sensitive to it.  I'm not all there due to lack of sleep - forgot to tell you I have nerve pain/tingling that is a major part of what's keeping me awake - I am seeing a neurologist about it, but he's really not been any help except to give me pharmaceuticals - he can't even figure out what's causing it!  Thanks so much - it's so great to have some support and assistance with this. 

ANSWER: I strongly suggest you go to a good cranial sacral therapist, and a chiropractor, who does cranial sacral.  Be cautious about who it is, and make sure they are advanced, open minded chiropractors, who are wholistic minded.  I believe you have some neurological issues due to spinal involvement, and perhaps other things as well.

QUESTION:   I want you to know that I tried the Tryptophan last night, along with a bath with epsom salts and was able to get a decent sleep - I did have to get up to urinate a few times, but other than that I did well, so THANK YOU!  I will also follow up with your friend and finding a cranial sacral person.  You are one of the angels.

ANSWER: Thank you. If you will follow a clean diet, and get as many good health cells, in your body, you will begin to do much better over all, even the bladder at nite! A cleanse would help this. I can send you one if you like.


QUESTION: I am a woman and I have been snoring for years and it is getting worse.  In a womans
magazine it said to use butterbur, but I read that it may be toxic to the liver and may
cause cancer.  Do you know of any other natural solutions?  Any suggestions would be appreciated.

ANSWER: Thank you for the inquiry.
I am not familiar with using the Butterbur for snoring.
I do know the following:
- there are items in your diet that are contributing to this condition
- you may have allergies
- you may need to clean your body and do a cleanse, and take herbs to support the cleanse, and the healing of your complete body, and the allergies or irritation you are experiencing
- use the Neti pot, water bath with a couple of drops of spearmint essential oil (or use tea tree if it agrees with your body).
- use thyme in your cooking, both raw and dried, this is very good for the sinuses, and has been known to help snoring
- read the download on suggested diet healing and cleansing
-The protocol incorporates lifestyle change, and implements healthy diet, body cleansing, exercises and different traditional and natural therapies.
- we make a powder, or tea, with peppermint, passion flower, and in more serious cases valerian root, this is very mild and has helped many people with the similar problem
If you need further suggestions, please let us know.

QUESTION: I am trying to make a drink that promotes sleepiness.  I have some herbs I would like to use.  They are the following: Valerian, Chamomile, and hops. Please let me know if you think this is a good combination.  I would love to hear any suggestions you have regarding other herbs.  My biggest problem is getting the herbs into a drinkable form with proper dosages.

ANSWER: Those are all great and should knock you out pretty nicely!! I'd use 1 part Valerian, 2 parts hops and 3 parts chamomile. The reason is that valerian is pretty stinky and not great tasting, but very effective. The taste of the chamomile should overpower it with this blend. But just make small doses and adjust to taste.
           Just in case you don't know, what I've just given you is called the "simpler's method" of making herbal formula and it simply means you keep the "part" consistent throughout the recipe. A part can be an ounce, a teaspoon etc. Doesn't matter. In the above example, if a part was a teaspoon for example, you would mix 1 Teaspoon of Valerian with 2 teaspoons of Hops and 3 teaspoons of chamomile. That would be enough for a quart of tea. Normally 1 heaping teaspoon of tea per 1 cup of boiling water. Steep this one for 10 minutes. Simple - Right!?

 Mother was suggested to take Ornithine to improve her sleep as it promotes ammonia detox.  I would like to know if Ornithine might effect in any way the blood thinners mothers takes since her heart surgery 5 years ago. She is doing really well keeping her blood tested, she would like to try Ornithine to see if it might improve her sleep. I know some supplements like the one starting with a K are not good for her because interfere with blood thinner.  What about Ornithine?  If you don't know can you refer me to a web site where they might know?

ANSWER: I don't know who suggested Ornithine for your Mom, but I can't find any evidence that it is helpful as a sleep aid, It is mostly used as a growth hormone and to build muscle. As for drug interactions, I can't speak to that, as I'm not an expert in pharmaceuticals. You would need to discuss that with your pharmacist. My suggestion for a natural sleep alternative would be valerian tea or chamomile tea. They are both calming and will help your Mom sleep with no side effects. I also have a tea called Restful Night that will be helpful. You can find it on my website at http://www.allgoodegifts.com/ under Teas in the Herb Shoppe.  If you just do a search on Google.com and put in the word Ornithine, you will get all kinds of information on it.

QUESTION: Thank You for the opportunity to ask my question. I was warned off taking Tylenol PM to help me sleep. A friend suggested Valerian which seems to work quite well. I am presently having blood work done every 3 months for a problem with my liver as a result of cholesterol  medication.  Is taking valerian safe? What are the herbs known side affects?

ANSWER: Valerian, taken in moderation of course, is safe.  Some of the precautions you should take are:
Do not take in conjunction with alcohol or sedatives
Do not operate heavy machinery or drive while taking Valerian
       Valerian is contraindicated in patients who are hypersensitive to the herb. If you show any reactions to it such as allergies, rash etc. discontinue its use immediately and seek medial help. If the problems in your liver are hepatic dysfunction, there is a risk of hepatotoxicity with Valerian, so you should discontinue its use. Also, pregnant or lactating women should not use Valerian for obvious reasons. Hope that answers the question. Always let your medical professional know what herbs you are taking so if there are interactions with other medications, they can advise you.
QUESTION:  What, what will help with being able to sleep?  I go constantly on 2-3 hours of poor sleep quality.  Any assistance appreciated.

ANSWER: My favorite herb for insomnia is Valerian. You should be able to pick it up in capsules or tea at your local health food store.

: Currently Iím desperately looking online to ask someone a question.  This draws towards not being able to sleep.  But Iím more curious if you have heard anyone else with what I have to tell you. Sometimes when I donít get a lot of sleep, I see a black dot now and then.
And usually its not when I blink, but randomly it will...for example.  One black dot ran up and down my mirror three weeks ago...but that was it.  Gone.  Now, about four nights ago, for about 10 seconds, I saw what looked like glitter floating everywhere, like confetti.  Now I was at my work at the time (I work in a pizza shop) and my two co-workers, one being my brother.  Did not see the glitter.  I know it sounds stupid but if you could please take the time to write back, letting me know if you have heard anything like this.  Currently Iím starting to think I have insomnia, I canít fall asleep right away and Iíve been waking up tired.  If you can recommend anything from your site, please do.  Thank you for your time.

ANSWER: What you are describing sounds like "floaters". I'm not an expert, but I had the same thing and my optometrist took a good look and told me there was nothing to worry about. I'd get an eye checkup all the same, just to ensure that the black dots you are seeing are nothing to be concerned about. I have a couple of teas that may help you relax enough to get a good night's sleep. go to my website at www.allgoodegifts.com and under the Apothecary, you will see medicinal teas. Click on the Blends box and select either Restful Night or Stress Less Tea.

I have a 13 year old son who has been taking different kinds of medications for the past 9 years, and we decided to give him a break and he is not taking any, but he has a sleeping problem, itís hard for him to go to sleep early (8-9pm), he stays awake until 1:30am and he will sleep until noon the next day.  I have tried to wake him up earlier but itís impossible to do it.  So what I want is to give him something that will help him to go to sleep earlier so he will not sleep for too long the next day.  What herb can you recommend?  I would like to give him some natural medicine to help him to go to sleep earlier instead of a drug, because I want to break the bad habit of getting up late the next day.

ANSWER: I think all teenage boys want to keep those hours!  There are several things you can do. Lavender is very soothing and relaxing, so spraying lavender in the bedroom before bed and on the linens will help.  Also I have dream pillows for restful sleep as well as Restful Sleep Tea available on my website at www.allgoodegifts.com  The teas are in the Apothecary and the Dream Pillows are in the Gift Shoppe.   The main thing you need to do is help him reset his clock. Even if he doesn't go to bed at the right time, you must make him get up and start trying to function at 8 or 9am.  After a couple of early mornings, he'll be happy to go to bed and sleep at 9pm.  Boys that age are doing a tremendous amount of growing, so his sleep is critical.  Also make sure he is not eating anything stimulating within 3 hours of bedtime.  That means NO sugar, caffeine, soft drinks, chocolate milk, spicy foods, etc.  

  My girlfriend and I are searching for a herbal remedy to help her get a good night sleep. After glancing through previous questions, I noticed that you mentioned the phrase can't turn the mind off. This is exactly her problem. Her mind keep thinking and is still active in the night any large motion from me she wakes up and can not fall back a sleep. Any recommendations would be helpful.  This is our first attempt to find a herbal remedy.

ANSWER: when you cannot turn your mind off, we refer to it as circular thinking one herb that has been used successfully used for this is Passion flower a Native American herb with the Latin Name: Passiflora incarnata.  A fresh extract of the herb is most effective in the alcohol extract form.   It can be combined with Scullcap and Kava also.

It is best to take a dose 1/2 to 1 hour before bed then again just at bedtime for this condition.

A Chinese combination for Monkey Mind, as they call it, is Reishi Latin Named: Ganoderma Lucidum and Fu ling (Hoelen Fungus) LatinNamed: Poria cocos add in Chinese Ginseng Latin Named Panax ginseng if she is depleted, deficient or exhausted insomnia.  All in equal parts.  Take twice a day am and pm meal.

We carry a product called Rosemary's Relaxing blend, that comes as a tea or a extract and has been used by our clients/customers to relax at night.  We can also provide custom blends of the herbs mentioned in 8 ounce bottles.

She should see results fairly quickly but give the combinations several months before see full effects and evaluating results.

valerian vs. melationin, Please explain the differences. I have tried some liquid valerian but have not tried melatonin. Am trying to get a better night's sleep on a regular basis. 

Valerian is a herb or plant, Latin named: Valeriana officinalis, V. strichiensis in the plant Family: Valerianacea. It is good for insomnia. For some Valerian can cause excitement instead of sleep, this is dependent on the age of the plant when it is processed into the tincture or pill. The older the plant material the more it smells like old socks, very stinky. To avoid the likeliness of this unusual side affect be sure the plant has not been on the shelf long or has been processed fresh, fairly soon after picking.

There is a herbalpedia available for this herb if you would like to order a single copy or yearly subscription please contact the following.


Melatonin is a hormone which naturally occurs in the body in certain quantities and is regulated by the body, when synthetic melantonin is supplemented, sleep occurs for some. It is not a herb or in the plant kingdom.

From the Natural Pharmacist website http://www.tnp.com

Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates sleep. 
During daylight, the pineal gland in the brain produces an important neurotransmitter called serotonin. (A neurotransmitter is a chemical that relays messages between nerve cells.) But at night, the pineal gland stops producing serotonin and instead makes melatonin. This melatonin release helps trigger sleep. 
The production of melatonin varies according to the amount of light you're exposed to; for example, your body produces more melatonin in a completely dark room than in a dimly lit one so to naturally increase melatonin produced by your body add thicker blinds to your bedroom windows to darken the room completely. 
Melatonin hit the news in 1995. Not only was it recommended as a treatment for insomnia and jet lag, but for various theoretical reasons it was also described as a "wonder hormone" that could fight cancer, boost the immune system, prevent heart disease, and generally make you live longer. But all we really know is that it helps people whose natural sleep cycle has been disturbed, such as travelers suffering from jet lag and swing-shift workers. 
Contrary to earlier reports, it does not appear that melatonin levels decline with age.
QUESTION: Since going off the pill, my daughter is having difficulty sleeping.
Which herbs are recommend for sleep inducement? Would apprciate
any info available.

The simple answer to your question is Scullcap, Kava Kava, Valerian, Hops and Passion Flower.

My questions to you are, does she have anything else going on in her life such as pain, anxiety, can't turn mind off, stress or lots of caffeine before bed. It is an interesting correlation between the ending of the pill use and insomnia. If it is stress, try Ashwugandha, which is a relaxing adaptogen.

We have a tea and tincture blend called Rosemary's Relaxing Herbs which has been successfully used by our customers and clients to relax before bed.