Today’s episode of Witch’s Garden focuses on sedative plants. These are great for people who suffer from all kinds of sleep related issues, like having problem falling or staying asleep, shallow/low quality sleep, and general insomnia. In addition they may be a great help for dealing with anxiety and nervousness as they have an overal calming effect.
Of course, each and every one of the herbs has more than one effect, but in this episode, we will only focus on the calming, sleep inducing properties.
Let’s start with the most gentle ones – chamomile and lemon balm. Both of these herbs have a mild pleasant taste and soft nonintrusive calming effect. Both are safe for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and even very small children – this makes them a common ingredient in various baby teas. They can be certainly used during the day for their calming effect without risking affecting reaction time or other focus related issues. They can be enjoyed by themselves or together, perhaps with honey and lemon, or used very freely in all kinds of herbal blends as they don’t really clash with anything.
1-2 tablespoons of dried flowers steeped in a cup of hot water
for 5 minutes
1-2 tablespoons of dried leaves steeped in a cup of hot water
for 5 minutes
Tea blend tip
Try mixing 1 part chamomile, 1 part lemon balm and 1/2 part crushed anise seeds for wanderful good night tea, very much suitable for small children as this tea calms both the mind and the belly (thanks to anise), resulting in an undisturbed sleep.
Next on the list is hops and lavender. While both are great for inducing sleep in the form of herbal tea, I would like to especially recommend their alternative use for aiding sleep – herbal pillows! Simply stuff a small pillowcase or a small textile pouch with either or both of these herbs, throw it in your bed, and prepare to be impressed by its amazing effects! In the Czech Republic, the land of beer (of which hops is one of main ingredients), the powerful sedative effects of hops are poetically refered to as “the illness of the hops pickers” – a colloquial term for the very common situation where hops pickers, touching and smelling the sleep inducing hops flowers, were falling asleep during the work.
I cannot recommend this enough as it is both very functional, and the lavender makes your bed smell just aaaaamazing.
– Lavender (even just the smell) can cause reaction in sensitive individuals, use with caution.
– Both hops and lavender also contain phytoestrogens – not recommended to be used by young boys and pregnant women as those can affect hormonal balance.
– Hops is also not recommended if you suffer from depression.
1-2 teaspoons of dried flowers steeped in a cup of hot water
for 5-10 minutes
1/2-1 teaspoon of dried flowers steeped in a cup of hot water
for 5 minutes
Tea blend tip
1 part hops, 1/2 part lavender, 1 part dried ginger root, 1/2 part cinnamon – best to pimp up with freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 orange per brewed cup!
Now, the next two sleepy herb are my personal favorites – valerian is just amazingly effective, it’s my go to herb for sleeping issues. Also – the cats LOVE it. Seriously, they are obsessed! So while I am brewing my trusted sleeping potion, I throw them some of the valerian root, and they are overjoyed. One thing needs to be said – brewed valerian root has a distinctive smell that can be quite unpleasant to some people – if that is your case, consider steeping valerian root together with a bag of some aromatic fruit tea.
Passionflower is one of the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen. It looks almost supernatural – and its many healing powers support this notion. It is a great sleep aid on its own, but especially combined with valerian… *chef’s kiss* …This combination is just an amazing power combo! I often use higher dosages of both in my mixtures to promote both deep sleep and LUCID DREAMING (there will be an episode about herbs helpful for lucid dreaming and vivid dreams in the future – stay tuned!), but I strongly advise to start with low doses, as with all new herbs.
– If you are using any medicine, consult your physician before using valerian
– Do not drive a car or operate heavy machinery after using these herbs (especially higher doses of valerian) as both herbs can cause drowsiness and dizziness – I would strongly recommend to use them before night time only.
– Passionflower shouldn’t be used by pregnant women – there are some reports of early labors and other complications.
– While there aren’t any confirmed risks for breastfeding women regarding both plants, it’s always better to stay on the safe side. Mommas, stick to the chamomile!
– Valerian can have some unpleasant side effects, so be aware of that: headache, stomach upset, mental dullness, excitability, uneasiness, heart disturbances, and even insomnia in some people (!) – another good reason to start with small doses and see what happens.
– After higher doses of valerian, some of you can expect a kind of a “hangover” where you will be slow and generally good-for-nothing in the morning – so thats something to count with! Basically, treat high doses of valerian like alcohol.
2 teaspoons of dried valerian root steeped in a cup of hot water for 15 minutes OR simmered for 15 minutes for stronger effect
1 tablespoon of dried passionflower steeped in a cup of hot water
for 10 minutes
Tea blend tip
1 part valerian root, 1 part passionflower, 1 part lemon balm, 1 part dried and crushed cherries, 1/2 part licorice root – quite a yummy blend that also masks the valerian smell very well!
So, these were the 6 sedative herbs I commonly use for both my own purposes and to help others. There are of course many more calming herbs, and there is one in particular that I wanted to mention – even though it hasn’t been a part of my usual “arsenal” – and that herb is beautiful blue star-shaped BORAGE. Recently, I found a recipe for traditional Persian CHAI GOL GAV ZABAN, which I would like to share with you. There are, as it is with every traditional recipe, several different versions – I am bringing one that doesn’t require prolonged steeping, and can be brewed in 15 minutes. The original recipe uses Persian dried lime (limoo amani), but I understand that it’s often replaced by lemon or lime juice – which is also my choice as the limoo amani is not accessible where I live.
Chai Gol Gav Zaban
for 2 people
Combine 2 heaping tablespoon of dried borage flowers with
¼ teaspoon of saffron in a teapot and pour over 2 cups of boiling water.
Brew for 15 miutes on lowest possible heat (no boiling).
Pour into cups.
Serve with Persian rock candy “nabat” and lemon/lime juice.
NOW, THIS SOUNDS ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS,
If you try one of my own suggested tea blends or the amazing Chai Gol Gav Zaban, let me know what you think in the comments!
This was the first episode of Witch’s Garden, a blog based series about herbalism.
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