The herbs that help you rest
Not many people are given good instructions on how to get to sleep. Up until recently, it’s been posed as a binary, and indeed, the more stress you put on oneself, the less likely you’re going to get the sleep one needs.
The moment to start preparing begins, interestingly enough, when you first wake up. According to sleep scientist Matthew Walker, both your circadian rhythms and the sleep pressure built up by the steady increase of adenosine throughout the day will eventually intersect to bring your waking life to a halt. But over time, for various reasons, this mechanism may only work so well for some people, and will therefore need some assistance with the proper lifestyle and dietary choices. Herbs such as valerian, lemon balm and skullcap may help with that.
Medicine Box has worked with these and a few other herbs for many years to create our prize-winning Equanimity sleep tincture — or formulation, as we prefer to call it around here, and we’ve learned quite a bit about them. So we’re going to drill down into both the ancient wisdom and the modern science that surrounds some of our formulary choices.
Nervines and sedatives
Many of nature’s relaxants are classified as nervines. These plants can affect the nervous system throughout the entire body. In addition to encouraging good sleep and relaxation, they can also release muscular tension, work against spasms and even strengthen nerve tissues. These are all big wins for a sleep-positive lifestyle, since a restless mind and body, as a rule, gets no rest. Chamomile, Skullcap, Valerian, Catnip and Lemon Balm have all been classified as such, but each have their own unique histories and properties.
Chamomile: Ever since Dioscorides listed this in his De Materia Medica compendium of medicinal herbs, chamomile has been a go-to resource for several maladies over the years. It’s been prized for its anti-anioxolytic effects, and for invoking drowsiness. I’ve used it in a tea form during my power-down nighttime ritual. And while I don’t partake anymore, one can even avail oneself to chamomile beer as well.
Valerian: Also examined by Dioscoridies, Valerian comes in many varieties, and was historically used for menstrual issues, antidotes and for body aches of all kinds. We often refer to Valerian as “nature’s valium,” without the scary dependency issues of a benzodiazepine.
Skullcap: Along with Valerian, Skullcap is recommended by Rosemary Gladstar (a former Nevada County resident and master herbalist whose Mountain Rose Herbs we order from) for those looking to take their sleep lifestyle more seriously. A 2018 study found “significantly enhanced global mood without a reduction in energy or cognition” amongst a 43 person cohort
Lemon Balm: AKA Melissa (or, being an old Allmann Brothers fan, Sweet Melissa) or Bee Balm, lemon balm is a sight for sore eyes and noses, since its welcoming smell exerts an aromatherapeutic effect on people. The ancient Greeks saw this mint family member as a life extender. Amongst herbalism circles it is considered a helpful mindfulness tool, helping to quiet the mind, which indicates possible mental benefits.
Catnip: While this flowering species is best known for driving the cats crazy, it’s been used by humans consistently, and at one point quite extensively. Prior to the adoption of Asian teas, catnip tea was favored by the British. Catnip has historically been used to calm body and mind, and at least one of its compounds, nepetalactone, resembles the sorts of valepotriates one finds in Valerian
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Over the millennia, these herbs have been used in combination with each other for homemade headache remedies, sedatives and yes, even flatulence suppressants. What we’ve learned, however, is that it’s all about the effective concentrations which makes it more than a mere remedy. This takes a lot of time to dial in. So just remember that it’s rarely, if ever, one herb or element of nature that will help you rest. With Medicine Box, it’s all of the above, with the seven pillars, the herbs, and as we’ll find, the right elements of hemp that seals the deal.