Can a cup of chamomile tea before bedtime really help with insomnia? And what about valerian, is it useful for relaxing and thus improving the quality of sleep? Tradition has handed down various plant and flower remedies to treat sleep disorders. Is it just a matter of beliefs or is there a scientific basis? Well, natural remedies are really precious allies to improve sleep quality, as emerges from a recent review published a few months ago in the Nutrients magazine thanks to the work of a team from the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan (Bruni et al, Nutrients, 2021).
A good, restful sleep
Sleeping is a requirement of our body. Through a good sleep, body and mind are regenerated, guaranteeing during the day attention, concentration, optimal cognitive functions but also a solid immune system and a good functioning of the endocrine and metabolic systems. This is why any sleep disturbances have important consequences in daily life, weakening the defenses, worsening mood and the functioning of biological and mental processes. Medicines for insomnia are among the most commonly prescribed medicines all over the world today. However, these medicines often have side effects and can be addictive. This is why scientists are working to verify the calming and soothing properties of herbs and plants, often already known from tradition. To bring order to all the research carried out on the topic, the scientists of the San Raffaele Hospital therefore developed the review we are talking about today by discussing the effects on the sleep quality of different plants, let's see them.
Valerian root contains 150 substances, including terpenes and flavones. Thanks to these compounds, valerian, scientific name valeriana officinalis, acts by modulating GABA neurotransmitters, which are responsible for regulating sleep and relaxing the nervous system. In particular, valerian has been shown to reduce sleep onset time and improve the quality of rest. You can find valerian root both in the form of a dried plant to make herbal teas, but also as a mother tincture and tablets.
Chamomile flowers contain apigenin, which has shown hypnotic activity thanks to its ability to activate GABA receptors. Therefore, an infusion of chamomile flowers can actually bring calm and act with a mild anxiolytic action. Apigenin is also contained in the passion flower, or passiflora incarnata. Therefore, you can also use mother tincture or dry extract tablets of passion flower to regulate sleep and improve sleep quality.
Moringa and lemon balm
Moringa oleifera, also called the tree of life, improves sleep quality just like lemon balm, both by acting on the neurotransmitter GABA.
Essential oils of orange and lavender
The essential oil of bitter orange, or citrus aurantium, has an anxiolytic action and is capable of extending the duration of sleep. These properties are due to the effect of this essential oil on serotonin levels, as shown by scientific studies. Serotonin is also called the good mood hormone and regulates the sleep-wake rhythm. Similarly, lavender essential oil also acts on serotonin, counteracting disturbed sleep.