Not Just Valerian Root: 6 Herbs for Insomnia


Humans need sleep to survive. While the medical community isn’t clear on the exact reasons, anyone who has experienced restless nights knows that sleep is integral to our happiness, health, and wholeness.

Over 60 million American’s suffer from sleep disorders.

Yet, over 60 million American’s suffer from sleep disorders. Some have a hard time falling asleep, others wake in the middle of the night, and still others wake early and can’t get back to sleep.

Good sleep hygiene and proper diet both contribute to a good night’s rest.  Herbs also offer helpful support.

Valerian Root

Valerian root is the most well-known herb for insomnia. It sedates the higher nerve centers of the cerebrospinal system, promoting sleep without any of the after-effects of narcotics. It can even help people come off of habit-forming sleeping pills. Yet, in rare cases, valerian root can be counterproductive and actually create insomnia and anxiety. Luckily, there are other herbs we can turn to.


When sleepless, try a pinch of nutmeg. Nutmeg has a volatile oil that helps us feel drowsy. While it has been used in small doses by grandmothers since the 1500s, larger doses can be toxic, hallucinogenic, and even deadly. To take nutmeg safely, put 1/8 – ¼ TEASPOON in warm milk before bed.


Chamomile is considered quite safe for most people, as it is a mild sedative that is soothing and easy to find in most grocery stores. To make the tea medicinal, steep two to three bags in 10 ounces of water for 10 minutes. Cover the cup so the volatile oils, which are the active ingredient, don’t escape. Chamomile has very mild blood thinning effects, but usually just in high doses for long periods of time. It should not be used prior to being given anesthetic drugs.

California Poppy

Not to be confused with the opium poppy, California poppy contains a different kind of alkaloid, which happens to be mildly sedating to the nervous system. California poppy also lowers stress, anxiety, and pain, which is helpful for inducing a comfortable state of sleep. Take California poppy as a tincture before bed for up to three months. Avoid if pregnant or taking psychiatric medications.


Passionflower lowers the activity of some brain cells, causing us to relax and be able to fall asleep. It has been used traditionally for hundreds of years as a calming herb for anxiety, insomnia, and hysteria. Do not take passionflower if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Ashwagandha Root

Sometimes sedating herbs are ineffective. It’s not that the herb doesn’t work; it’s that the nervous system needs more nourishment. When we are “wired and tired” and can’t shut down even with herbal assistance, we need to turn to herbs like ashwagandha. It is an adaptogen, which supports the optimal health of the nervous system while helping it handle stress more efficiently. Simmer a teaspoon of the powdered root (ideally organic like Banyan's) in milk before bed to promote restful sleep.

NOTE: While these herbs are considered safe for most people, they may be contraindicated under certain conditions, or while taking certain other herbs or medicines, so it's best to check with your doctor before using them.

About the Teacher

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Jackie Dobrinska
For almost 10 years, Jackie has apprenticed with world-renowned leaders in mind-body health. She teaches... Read more