If you find yourself tossing around in the bed late after everybody has dozed off, this article is for you. COVID-19 has brought unprecedented times of stress in everyone’s lives. Working from home and staying safe indoors has reduced our exposure to the sun. Add to this, the excess screen times and anxiety from economic concerns. It is not surprising that the pandemic has now led 1 in every 4th person to suffer from insomnia (prevalence ranging from 19% to 37% in latest studies).[1,2]
Herbs that aid in sleep most of the time relieve anxiety too. Let’s explore some of them that are well known and scientifically proven to aid sleep:
Also known as Passiflora or Passion vines, they are a diverse genus consisting of 550 species of flowering plants. They are used ornamentally, as edible fruit (passion fruit) and traditionally as a sedative (in form of tea). Due to the alkaloid content, passionflower extract is used as a nutritional supplement to relieve nervousness and restlessness. Recent literature has reaffirmed that passionflower similar to Valerian, acts on the GABA receptors in the brain, facilitating their opening. Good thing about: it does not open GABA receptors directly unlike some addictive sleep aids such as barbiturates. Apart from its sedating effect, passionflower extract was also found to be as effective as a popular anti-anxiety drug oxazepam (Serax, Zaxopam) in relieving anxiety.
Otherwise known as a raw material for the brewing industry, the seed cones/ hop cones/ Hops of Humulus lupulus are rich in polyphenolic compounds. Further research led to the discovery that the sleep inducing properties of hops are due to three pronged action. Firstly, hops can act on GABA receptors, helping GABA on its way to open its receptors. Secondly, hops can also activate melatonin receptors. Melatonin is also known as the sleep hormone.[5,6] Thirdly, hops has also been found to bind to adenosine receptors in the brain. Still wondering why beer makes you feel drowsy?
- Lemon balm
Melissa officinalis is a lemon scented herb native to Europe, North Africa, and West Asia. Apart from promoting sleep, it has also been found to reducing anxiety, agitation and modulate mood. Lemon balm works by increasing the GABA levels in the brain (by reducing its breakdown). On the other hand, the positive effects of Lemon balm on memory are due to its action on cholinergic receptors in the brain. Its long history of use combined with the safety profile makes it a common constituent of herbal sleep aids.
The roots of Valeriana officinalis have been used in Europe since decades to promote sleep and it is not surprising that 1.1% adults in United States reportedly use Valerian, making it the commonest herb used for insomnia. Patients taking valerian had an 80% greater chance of reporting improved sleep compared with patients taking placebo. However, in order to be effective, valerian may have to be taken longer as a 2 week study reported no improvement in sleep. Valerian acts by supporting GABA to open GABA receptors. Read more about the sedative effects of GABA in our blog ‘What causes insomnia? A look into sleep cycle & neurotransmitters’.
Withania somnifera is found across India and south Asia and is known for the widespread use of its root in Ayurvedic medicines. Extensively anecdotal literature confirm its benefit in sleep and in a recent 2019 study, Ashwagandha extract was found to improve sleep onset latency (time from lying in bed to dosing off), sleep efficiency and Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. it is also known for its rejuvenating property (adaptogen) for those under stress, recovering from major illness, elderly and for memory enhancement, so much for a tiny plant!
- California poppy
Eschscholzia californica is a native plant o the United States. Traditionally used to treat nightmares in children, it is known for its pain relieving, sedative as well as anxiety relieving properties. The alkaloids present in the plant seem to act on serotonin, noradrenaline as well as GABA receptors.[15,16] Unfortunately, a study revealed that California poppy can cause drug interactions and medicine levels in the body to fluctuate.
We’ve been so impressed with the research on Hops, Passionflower and Lemon balm for sleep, we’ve used them in our own sleep supplement. Before you try these herbal supplements, we suggest that you try out some simpler ways of getting a good sleep, read more in our blog ‘How to beat Insomnia the natural way?’
At Refine Naturals, we realize that not all natural health supplements are created equal. We concentrate our expertise in choosing quality and evidence backed medicinal as well as non-medicinal ingredients. We keep our labels and marketing practices compliant to advertising standards, so as to never mislead consumers in their decision making.
At Refine Naturals: We believe “You Deserve Better than FINE!”
- Voitsidis P, Gliatas I, Bairachtari V, Papadopoulou K, Papageorgiou G, Parlapani E, et al. Insomnia during the COVID-19 pandemic in a Greek population. Psychiatry Res 2020;289:113076.
- Kokou-Kpolou CK, Megalakaki O, Laimou D, Kousouri M. Insomnia during COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown: Prevalence, severity, and associated risk factors in French population. Psychiatry Res 2020;290:113128.
- Akhondzadeh S, Naghavi HR, Vazirian M, Shayeganpour A, Rashidi H, Khani M. Passion¯ower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam. J Clin Pharm Ther 2001;5.
- Zanoli P, Zavatti M. Pharmacognostic and pharmacological profile of Humulus lupulus L. J Ethnopharmacol 2008;116(3):383–96.
- Franco L, Sánchez C, Bravo R, Rodriguez A, Barriga C, Juánez J. The sedative effects of hops (Humulus lupulus) , a component of beer, on the activity/rest rhythm. Acta Physiol Hung 2012;99(2):133–9.
- Butterweck V, Brattstroem A, Grundmann O, Koetter U. Hypothermic effects of hops are antagonized with the competitive melatonin receptor antagonist luzindole in mice. J Pharm Pharmacol 2007;59(4):549–52.
- Kennedy DO, Little W, Scholey AB. Attenuation of Laboratory-Induced Stress in Humans After Acute Administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm): Psychosom Med 2004;66(4):607–13.
- Pineau S, Legros C, Mattei C. The Medical use of Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) and Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) as Natural Sedatives: Insight into their Interactions with GABA Transmission. Int J Clin Pharmacol Pharmacother [Internet] 2016 [cited 2020 Aug 19];2016. Available from: https://www.graphyonline.com/archives/IJCPP/2016/IJCPP-112/index.php?page=abstract
- Kennedy DO, Scholey AB, Tildesley NTJ, Perry EK, Wesnes KA. Modulation of mood and cognitive performance following acute administration of Melissa officinalis (lemon balm). Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2002;72(4):953–64.
- Bent S, Padula A, Moore D, Patterson M, Mehling W. Valerian for Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Am J Med 2006;119(12):1005–12.
- Taibi DM, Vitiello MV, Barsness S, Elmer GW, Anderson GD, Landis CA. A randomized clinical trial of valerian fails to improve self-reported, polysomnographic, and actigraphic sleep in older women with insomnia. Sleep Med 2009;10(3):319–28.
- Busti A, Nuzum D. The Mechanism of Action for Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) In the Treatment of Insomnia [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2020 Sep 3];Available from: https://www.ebmconsult.com/articles/valerian-valeriana-officinalis-treating-insomnia-sleep
- Langade D, Kanchi S, Salve J, Debnath K, Ambegaokar D. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study. Cureus [Internet] [cited 2020 Sep 4];11(9). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6827862/
- Health Canada. ASHWAGANDHA - WITHANIA SOMNIFERA [Internet]. 2004 [cited 2020 Sep 4];Available from: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=ashwagandha&lang=eng
- Chamberland G. Night Pain – Vital Functions (Sleep & Pain) Interact: Use of a California poppy agent to improve restorative sleep. :5.
- Fedurco M, Gregorová J, Šebrlová K, Kantorová J, Peš O, Baur R, et al. Modulatory Effects of Eschscholzia californica Alkaloids on Recombinant GABAA Receptors [Internet]. Biochem. Res. Int.2015 [cited 2020 Sep 8];2015:e617620. Available from: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bri/2015/617620/
- Manda VK, Ibrahim MA, Dale OR, Kumarihamy M, Cutler SJ, Khan IA, et al. Modulation of CYPs, P-gp, and PXR by Eschscholzia californica (California Poppy) and Its Alkaloids. Planta Med 2016;82(6):551–8.