Herbs

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    It is advised for anyone wanting to use herbs or plants for medicinal purposes to consult their physician prior to treatment.  The Federal Regulations, 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, allows herbal products and dietary supplements to be marketed without proven safety or efficacy, denying all consumers reasonable protection against poor manufacturing practices and fraudulent advertising.

    Using herbs as an alternative treatment has been a practice used for many years.  Although many are still skeptical on their effect many studies have taken place in the last few years to further the understanding and the chemistry behind the mystery of herbs.  The are four ways in which herbs can function.  Herbs can be used as tonics, purgers, consolidators, or dispersers.  A tonic is used when the body is insufficient in one area, it will help make up for the deficiency.  A purger helps to gets rid of what is unnatural or harmful to the body.  Consolidators are astringents that tighten or pull areas of weakness together.  Dispersing is the distribution of something that has become stagnant in the body. Herbs used to treat insomnia usually have a depressant effect on the central nervous system.  The most common herbs used for insomnia are hops, passionflower, and valerian.

    There are several vitamins and minerals that are known to help in the treatment of insomnia.  vitamins B, D, thiamine, pyridoxine, and niacin are in many of the plants or herbs used to treat insomnia.  Minerals such as calcium, iron, and potassium are known to help, as well.  Herbs known for being able to treat insomnia include the following:

Catnip

Chamomile

Chaparral

Dandelion

Don Quai

Elderberry Flowers

Ginseng

Gotu Kola

Hawthorn

Hops

Jimson Weed (CAUTION! Highly TOXIC!)

Kava Kava

Lavender

Lemon Balm

Lobelia

Mullein

Oats

Passionflower

Peppermint

Primrose

Red Clover

Sage

Seven Blossoms Tea

Skullcap

Squaw Vine

Taheebo

Valerian

Yarrow

   

Catnip

Catnip is made as a tea to treat insomnia.  The whole plant is used for this purpose.  Catnip, or Nepeta cataria, is also known for settling stomach aches, reducing fever, and has sedative effects.  It is also said to be safe to infants.  The chemical compounds that are found to help in the treatment of insomnia are iridoids, tannins, a-nepetalactone, b-nepetalactone, citronellol, and geraniol.

    

Chamomile

Chamomile, also known as Matricaria recutita, is known to promote sleep.  This is widely known herb that is also used for digestive problems, to ease muscle tension and irritability.  It is internally and externally antiallergenic.  By putting a couple of drops of chamomile oil in an infants bath it is known to safely induce sleep.  Its main active components that help with insomnia are chamazulene, apigenin, and bisabolol.

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Elderberry Flowers

    Elderberry flowers, scientifically known as Sambucus nigra, are used to treat insomnia in the form of a tea.  They are however advised to be avoided if pregnant for they can be very dangerous to the mother and fetus.

 

Ginseng

    Panax ginseng is also known as Ren Shen.  It is most commonly known for treating impotence, short-term stress, and poor sleep.  The root is the part of the plant used for treatment.  It is said that if the roots are harvested from four year old plants the active constituents are the most concentrated at that time.  They can either be taken as capsules or in the form of a soup.  Its active ingredients are triterpenoid saponins, ginsenosides, acetylenic compounds, panaxans, and sesquiterpenes.  It can be dangerous in some cases.  It is advised to avoid caffeine when taking this herb and not to take it when pregnant.  

 

 

    

Hops

Humulus lupulus is widely known as hops is a commonly used herb to treat insomnia.  The dried fruiting bodies, strobiles, are used from the plant.  It is recognized by most people as the flavoring ingredient in beer.  Hops is used as a sedative, antipasmodic and digestive stimulant for nervous tension, restlessness, sleep disturbances, and lack of appetite.  By stuffing the pillow with hops of the person with insomnia, sleep can be easily attained by many simply through the fragrance.  No side effects or adverse interactions from the use of hops are known.  The chemical found in hops that has been found to aid in the treatment of insomnia is dimethylvinylcarbinol (2-methyl-3-buten-2-ol).

                                                         

Kava Kava

    Piper methysticum better known as kava kava has been found to have constituents that could aid in the treatment of insomnia.  It enhances sleep and reduces sleep latency, which is the time it takes to fall asleep.  It also increases slow-wave sleep without altering rapid eye movement, REM, sleep.  The suspected components that help to accomplish this are lactones and pyrones, such as, methysticin, kawain, dihydromethysticin, and yangonin.

                                        

 

                      

 

Lavender

Lavandula angustifolia is widely used for aromatherapy.  Lavender aromatherapy has been studied and it can lead a person to have electroencephalographic changes that reflect a more relaxed mental state, thus relaxing the person and allowing them to have a better chance of sleep.  These effects are thought to be caused by the sedative linalyl acetate and linalool compounds found in lavender.  An allergic reaction to lavender is possible yet is very rare.

                                       

 

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is scientifically known as Melissa officinalis.  It is used to treat nervous sleep disorder.  It is sometimes combined with other herbs such as valerian, hops, and passionflower.  Lemon balm is on the FDA GRAS list (Generally Recognized As Safe list).

 

 

     

Oats

Avena sativa is known for lowering cholesterol, improving stamina, treating insomnia, and soothing itches.  The seed and straw are the useful parts of the plant.  Its chemical substances known for treatment are saponins, alkaloids, sterols, flavonoids, silicic acid, starch, protiens, vitamins (especifically B vitamins), and minerals (especially calcium).

 

 

 

Passionflower

Passionflower or Passiflora incarnata is a commonly used herb to treat insomnia.  The fresh or dried whole plant, excluding the roots, is used in the treatment.  It is made into a tea or a tincture.  The known chemical compounds found in passionflower that help with insomnia are maltol and ethylmaltol.  They lead to central nervous system sedation and reduction in caffeine-induced agitation and spontaneous motor activity motility.

                                                                                             

Sage

   Sage is considered a "ghost medicine" because it was used in the prevention of nightmares.   Although scientific data has not proven any sedative compounds existing in sage, it was used by burning as incense to aromatically allow better sleep. 

 

Skullcap

   Skullcap, also known as Virginian skullcap and mad dog, is used for insomnia.  Scatellaria lateriflora is used to treat anxiety, tension, migraines, panic attacks, headaches, and insomnia.  The whole aerial plant is used in the treatment.  It can either be taken in capsules or as a tincture.  The chemical components that have a part in the treatment of insomnia are flavonoids, iridoids, and tannins.

   

Squaw Vine

Mitchella repens is known for helping during labor in birth, relieving menstrual pain, diarrhea, and insomnia.  The leaves and berries are the essential parts of the herb used in treatment.  It is advised not to take during the first six months of pregnancy.  Its chemical components important for insomnia are tannins, glycosides, and saponins.

 

Valerian

   Valeriana officinalis is one of the most important herbs used for insomnia.  It is also called "emperor's sleeping pill."  Its roots and rhizones (modified roots) are the parts used to make the tea.  It is native to Europe and Asia but now grows in most parts of the world.  Although there are 200 species of valerian, this one is the most commonly known and studied.  It has mild sedative qualities and were used for in epilepsy treatment thousands of years ago.  It also has spasm-reducing ability, increases coronary blood flow, and relieves mild qualities of pain.  Valerian is also an herb on the FDA GRAS list.  Its active components are monoterpenes (such as valtrate, baldrinal, and homobaldrinal), sesquiterpenes and alkaloids.  It could have side effects such as:  headache, stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea, agitation, and heart palpitations. 

                                       

 

                                                

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