Are you tossing and turning all night? And just minutes after you finally manage to nod off, the sound of your alarm clock awakens you? Are these sleepless nights taking their toll on your energy, productivity, mood and overall quality of life? These plants will not only help you fall asleep, but will also improve your sleep quality.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis, Caprifoliaceae) is a perennial flowering plant. It has heads of sweetly scented pink or white flowers that bloom in the summer. The crude extract of valerian root has been used for treating mild sleep disorders and nervous tension for a long time.
These effects of valerian are due to the presence of the anxiolytic flavone 6-methylapigenin (MA) and of the sedative and sleep-enhancing flavanones glycoside 2S (−) hesperidin (HN) and flavone glycoside linarin (LN) in Valeriana officinalis and Valeriana wallichii. MA, in turn, is able to potentiate the sleep-inducing properties of HN and LN.
A group of researchers studied the effect of an aqueous extract of valerian root on sleep measures of 128 people. Each person received samples to test of which 3 contain 400 mg valerian extract. Valerian produced a significant decrease in sleep latency scores and a significant improvement in sleep quality; the latter was most notable among people who considered themselves poor or irregular sleepers, smokers, and people who thought they normally had long sleep latency! Every person reported that they felt more sleepy than normal.
Another group of researchers studied the sedative and anxiolytic activity of alcohol and refined extract derived from valerian after oral administration. The experiment revealed that valerian extracts have a pronounced anxiolytic effect as well as an antidepressant activity. Therefore, they concluded that valerian possesses considerable sleep-enhancing properties.
Passiflora, known also as the passionflowers or passion vines, is a genus of about 500 species of flowering plants. Passiflora incarnata is a traditional herbal sedative, anxiolytic and a popular sleep aid. Herbalists used it for the treatment of sleep disturbance. Based on pharmacological data, Passiflora extracts are an important factor in the phytotherapy of tenseness, restlessness and irritability with difficulty in falling asleep.
A study showed that the hydroalcoholic extract has anxiolytic properties at 400 mg/kg. Moreover, the aqueous extract induced sleep after treatment with a sub-hypnotic dose of pentobarbital.
In another study, 41 participants (18–35 years) consumed a cup of passionflower tea and filled out a sleep diary for 7 days. The results suggested that the consumption of a tea containing low dose of Passiflora incarnata yields short-term subjective sleep benefits for healthy adults with mild fluctuations in sleep quality.
Hydroalcoholic and aqueous extracts of the aerial parts of passionflower contain many chemical constituents such as indole alkaloids (harman, harmin, harmalin, harmol, and harmalol) maltol and flavonoids (orientin, isoorientin, vitexin and isovitexin). Chrysin is another flavonoid found in passionflower that is able to reduce locomotor activity. Chrysin also exhibited a clear anxiolytic effect.
Chamomile is the common name for several daisy-like plants of the family Asteraceae. Two of the species are commonly used to make herb infusions thought to serve various medicinal purposes.
Chamomile extract contains flavonoids such as apigenin that is able to reduce locomotor activity and significantly decreased sleep latency. These flavonoids have a benzodiazepine-like hypnotic activity.
A group of researchers found that chamomile extract decreases basal motility in a dose-dependent manner and significantly reduces exploratory and motor activity. This extract also has a mild hypnotic effect and potentiates sleep induced by other hypnotic and sedative drugs. Researchers have also demonstrated that the extract has no toxicity at high levels. They concluded that chamomile displays a depressive action on the central nervous system.
Humulus lupulus (common hop or hop) is a species of flowering plant in the Cannabaceae family, native to Europe, western Asia and North America. It is a perennial climbing plant which sends up new shoots in early spring. In autumn, it dies back to a cold-hardy rhizome.
A group of researchers found that the ethanolic and CO2 extracts from Humulus lupulus reduced the spontaneous locomotor activity. These extracts also increased the ketamine-induced sleeping time and reduced body temperature, confirming a central sedating effect. They also reduce the arithmetic mean nocturnal activity and effectively decreases nocturnal activity in the circadian activity rhythm.
This sedating activity could be attributed to three categories of constituents of lipophilic hops extracts. Though the α-bitter acids proved to the be most active constituents. The β-bitter acids and the hop oil clearly contributed to the sedating activity of lipophilic Humulus extracts. The mechanism of action of the resin of hop consists of increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric (GABA), inhibiting the central nervous system (CNS).
Lemon balm :
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a perennial herbaceous plant in the mint family Lamiaceae. This plant is native to south-central Europe, the Mediterranean Basin, Iran, and Central Asia.
According to the traditional use of Melissa officinalis, low doses of the plant extract produces sedative effects by the decrease of behavioral parameters. With high doses, a peripheral analgesic activity is obtained by reducing the acetic acid-induced pain. Moreover, the plant extract induces the sleep after treatment with an infrahypnotic dose of pentobarbital, a central nervous system depressant, and potentialised the sleep induced by a hypnotic dose of pentobarbital.
Melissa officinalis is also an anti-stress and anxiolytic agent. It contains phytochemicals that inhibit gamma-aminobutyric acid catabolism. In a study, stressed volunteers with mild-to-moderate anxiety disorders and sleep disturbances received lemon balm extract. The results showed improvement of symptoms. The extract reduced anxiety manifestations by 18%, ameliorated anxiety-associated symptoms by 15% and lowered insomnia by 42%. As much as 95% of subjects responded to treatment. 70% achieved full remission for anxiety, 85% for insomnia, and 70% for both. Therefore, chronic administration of Melissa officinalis L. relieves stress-related effects.
Another study on 18 healthy volunteers showed that the 600-mg dose of Melissa ameliorated the negative mood effects of the Defined Intensity Stressor Simulation. It increased self-ratings of calmness and reduced self-ratings of alertness. In addition, a significant increase in the speed of mathematical processing, with no reduction in accuracy, was observed after ingestion of the 300-mg dose.