Reishi & other remedies for Insomnia.

 

Terry Willard: Herbal Advice for Insomnia

 

Here’s a typical herbal regime that I use
for insomnia when other methods fail. Dosages depend on the individual.

I
start with a capsulized reishi extract. Then, for particularly rough times, I
might add a combination formula that includes valerian, kava, hops, skullcap,
passionflower, and/or lemon balm. If a person is experiencing tight, contracted
muscles or is suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome I would prescribe the
reishi and kava-kava root extract.

Herbs for sound sleep

As an
herbalist, I find most of my solutions for insomnia in the plant world. I most
often recommend reishi mushrooms, hops, valerian, skullcap, passionflower, lemon
balm, or kava-kava. The type of herb and the dose depend on a person’s specific
condition; the dosages listed here are those recommended by the official
Commission E of the German government unless otherwise noted.

Reishi
mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is the plant material I use most often to relieve
insomnia. While it’s not traditional in Western herbalism, reishi seems to
resolve disturbed shen qi, calm a person during the day, reduce anxiety, help
overcome environmental distractions, and regulate sugar metabolism. A tall order
for a single herb, but reishi has also been shown to reduce cholesterol and
blood pressure, strengthen the heart, and stimulate the immune system. Reishi’s
active ingredients include polysaccharides, which stimulate the immune system,
and triterpene acids, which reduce hypertension, among other things. The health
benefits of this herb have been demonstrated in many studies, both in the lab
and clinic, which gives me great confidence in it.

Dose: Three 1 g
tablets of the mushroom taken three times a day. So far, experimental studies
indicate that reishi is generally safe to use, although there is little reported
data on its long-term use.

Hops (Humulus lupulus) have been used as a
sleeping aid for centuries. The volatile oils of the dried fruits have a
significant sedative action. Hop tea can be taken to relieve stress during the
day or just before bedtime, or the strobiles can be stuffed into a little sleep
pillow, where their fragrance will be released whenever you turn your
head.

Dose: Use about 1 heaping tsp of whole hops for every cup of
boiling water to make a tea. Hops has been shown to be generally safe, although
some people have experienced allergic reactions. The German Commission E
recommends a daily dose of 1/2 g., which actually is a goodly amount of this
herb, which is very light in weight.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is
another herb familiar to insomniacs throughout history. Although beneficial in
inducing sleep, it can be mildly habit-forming, with stronger doses needed over
time. I therefore recommend taking it only for short periods (up to one month)
or occasionally when sleep disturbance is serious. A group of chemicals called
valepotriates and valerenic acid have been shown to depress the central nervous
system. Valerian is also antibacterial and antidiuretic and lowers blood
pressure.

Dose:To help you sleep, take a dose of 300 to 400 mg of
valerian product standardized to 0.5 percent essential oil about one hour before
bedtime. While valerian is generally considered to be safe, to err on the side
of caution, pregnant women should avoid it.

Skullcap (Scutellaria
lateriflora) was used by nineteenth-century medical practitioners to treat a
condition that today we call chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia (pain in
the muscles, ligaments, and tendons). Its calming action is mainly due to the
component scutellarin, an antispasmodic.

Dose: I generally use this herb
in combination with reishi, hops, and valerian or alone as a tincture of 15 to
40 drops two to three times daily. Skullcap leaves can also be used in a herbal
sleeping pillow. In Chinese tradition, 1 to 3 tsp of the root for every cup of
water are used to make a tea (start with boiling water and let simmer before
drinking). There are no known health hazards definitely linked to
skullcap.

Passionflower: It is believed that the alkaloids and flavonoids
of passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) significantly tranquilize the central
nervous system. I find that it gives one a feeling of well-being while reducing
spasms and anxiety and aiding sleep.

Dose: Passionflower tinctures and
extracts are generally available in health-food stores. For occasional insomnia,
I recommend drinking a cup of tea made by pouring a cup of boiling water over
1/2 teaspoon of the dried herb (your local natural food store may carry dried
herbs in bulk); steep then sip before going to bed. Passionflower contains
alkaloids that can reduce the effects of a class of antidepressants known as
monoamine oxidase inhibitors; the German government limits passionflower
preparations to a contain of no more than 0.01 percent of these harman
alkaloids.

The leaves of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) are often used
as a tea, especially with chamomile, to relax the body and induce sleep. Lemon
balm also has antiviral, antibacterial, antispasmodic, and antihistaminic
properties. Besides taking it as a tea, I use this herb as an ingredient in a
sedative formula.

Dose:Steep 1 to 2 tsp. of the herb in a cup of hot
water. There are no noted side effects.

Kava-kava, or kava (Piper
methysticum), will probably become one of the most popular healing herbs in the
next few years. Compounds called kavalactones give kava its strong relaxing and
sedative action while making a person more alert. This makes kava very useful
for highly active people who need to stay calm and mentally awake during periods
of stress.

Dose:The daily dosage used in clinical studies is 100 mg of
kava extract standardized to 70 percent kavalactones divided into three
portions. People who are pregnant, nursing infants, or going through bouts of
depression should avoid it, and it shouldn’t be taken when driving or operating
machinery.

Terry Willard is president of the Canadian Association of
Herbal Practitioners and a member of the Canadian Federal Government Expert
Advisory Council on Herbs and Botanical Preparations. He is director of the Wild
Rose College of Natural Healing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and president of
Coastal Mountain College of Healing Arts in Vancouver, B.C. He lives on an
organic herb farm on

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