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Herbal Healing-Herbs to help sleep problems

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

A recent study by Pharmaton show that 89 per cent of people are not getting the recommended eight hours of sleep. It's not surprising then that 62 per cent of people find it difficult to get up in the morning, (source: Irish Times)

Herbalist Ciara O Meara is in studio today with her tops tips on how to beat sleep problems, and her top 5 herbs to help aid sleep.

Ciara O'Meara - Medical Herbalist
"I have a long standing interest in natural medicine. From a young age I found myself allergic to antibiotics, this prompted a proactive approach to preventative medicine, ensuring that through diet and exercise I was always doing my best to stay healthy. I completed an honours Science degree in University College Dublin in 1997 followed by an MSc in Medical Genetics at Aberdeen University. I then spent a number of years working in the field of academic research in areas such as The Human Genome Project at Oxford University, UK, and on Cancer research at Cancer Research UK. It was during this time that I took up a yoga practice and further cultivated an interest in holistic medicine.

"First hand experience of successfully using herbal medicine prompted me to pursue an interest in the subject. I soon realised that this interest was part of a much broader, richer and complex area of natural medicine which required dedicated study to appreciate both its subtleties and power. To deepen my knowledge on the subject and acquire the ability to confidently use it as a health professional I completed a four year degree at Westminster University in London.

"This University is a long established centre for excellence in the training of medical herbalists. Its facilities encompass a central London clinic for herbal medicine where members of the public can avail of treatment. This is where I completed 500 hours of clinical training as part of my degree, treating members of the public from young to old with a range of illnesses. This was an integral part of the educational programme, in the interests of maintaining a high level of safe practice. This training included differential diagnosis of illness up to a high standard of training clinically on par with that of a GP."

Some Top Tips for a Good Nights Sleep
. Ensure the room you are sleeping in is in complete darkness
. Avoid caffeinated drinks in the evenings this includes fizzy drinks, avoid diet tablets containing caffeine.
. Avoid having the bedroom too hot about 20 degrees is warm enough, if you have poor circulation in your feet wear a pair of loose fitting socks to bed.
. Although alcohol can sometimes make you feel drowsy it should never be used as a sleep aid. Apart from health risks associated with it, it will prevent you reaching the deeper sleep state.
. Obesity can cause increased risk of sleep apnoea, snoring and mouth breathing.
. Try to avoid working at a computer or watching television right up to bedtime.
. If you do have trouble sleeping remove the clock from your view it will only add to your frustration if you are counting the hours away.
. If there are any hormonal factors such as menopause or PMS exacerbating sleeping problems have this looked at independently.
. Make sure you are getting some exercise everyday at least 30 minutes; try not to exercise too close to bed time.
. Establish a routine at bedtime. This might be burning some relaxing oils, doing some breathing exercises, listening to a meditation tape or an audiobook.

Valarian Valariana officinalis
Valarian has a very particular smell it can be taken in a tea, tincture or capsule for the purposes of relaxation and as a sleep aid. It is a sedative action relaxing the central nervous system, it can be very useful where nervous tension has led to headache or spasm of the gut, as it also has antispasmodic properties.
Valarian does not cause any sedation the morning after it has been taken and there is no effect on concentration abilities. It can be useful if you are trying to come off sleeping tablets.
Directions as per product

Hops Humulus lupus
Hops combines well with valerian as a night time sedative. It is quite bitter in taste. It is made from the strobles of the hops plant. Fresh hops strobiles can be placed into a pillow and the scent from them is said to induce a restful sleep.
Hops will also relax smooth muscle tension so it is useful if you find you are tense and restless in bed at night worrying about work the next day or indeed worrying about falling asleep!
Directions as per product.
Avoid if experiencing significant depression

Passiflora Passiflora incarnate
This is a useful herb for occasional sleeplessness where it is associated with stress. It is particularly useful for menopausal anxiety and insomnia, especially if there is elevated blood pressure or palpitations. It is also effective for the insomnia some women experience premenstrualy.
This herb can be taken in small frequent doses throughout the evening for a restful sleep.
Avoid in pregnancy

Skullcap Scuttilaria laterifolia
Skullcap is a very nourishing relaxing nervine remedy. It is particularly useful where exhaustion is a feature. As well as rapidly relaxing the nervous system overall over time it will also strengthen it too. This is an ideal herb for new mums who might find they are very tired but can't sleep due to changing routines.
This herb is best taken as a tincture prepared from a fresh plant, dried plant preparations are not as effective.

Lavender Lavendula officinalis
Lavender is a very good all round relaxing remedy. Most people will be familiar with the essential oil and its uses. You can place a few drops on your pillow case or burn some in an oil burner in your room before retiring.
I also use the tincture internally for relaxation it is very uplifting and can be of use where there is an element of depression to the insomnia. Today I am going to demonstrate how you can make your very own tincture.

Lavender Tincture
Buy some dried lavender
1. Weigh out 100grams of lavender
2. Add 200mls of vodka, ensure all the lavender is covered with the liquid
3. Leave for 14 days shaking every day, on day 14 strain out the lavender using a piece of muslin cloth
4. Label and store the remaining liquid
5. Take 2.5 t-5mls in the evening in a small quantity of water for a restful nights sleep.