8 Herbs to Help You Sleep

Fight insomnia the natural way.

If you've spent too many hours in bed lately tossing and turning, with frequent glances at the clock to calculate how much sleep you’ll get if you can just manage to drift off NOW, you might be tempted to reach for a prescription or OTC sleeping aid to get you through the night. While sleeping medications have their place, most leave you feeling groggy and unrefreshed the next day. If you know your insomnia is due to stress from the daily grind -- not from a medical issue better addressed by...MORE your doctor -- why not try a few natural methods to calm your mind and body before reaching for drugs? Along with yoga and meditation, herbs can be very effective in quieting your overactive mind and relaxing your body enough for that trip to dreamland.

  • 01 of 08


    Valerian is a natural sleep aid.
    Along with it's sedating powers, valerian is a lovely flower for your garden. Emilio Ereza/Getty Images

    Valerian has been prized since ancient times for its effectiveness at reducing anxiety, sleeplessness, and restless feelings. The active ingredient is unknown; most likely, an interaction between several components of the plant produces its sedating effect. Valerian is helpful for difficulty in falling asleep and also to prevent nighttime waking.

    Valerian is usually taken in capsule form, as it has a strong smell and unpleasant flavor. You’ll often find it combined with other calming herbs,...MORE especially hops and passionflower.

  • 02 of 08

    Passion Flower

    Passion flower helps you fall asleep.
    Passion flower was once used by missionaries to teach the story of Jesus Christ. huayang/Getty Images

    The unusual blooms look beautiful in your garden, but passionflower has uses that go far beyond looking pretty. The dried flowers, leaves and stems increase levels of GABA in the brain, leading to a relaxed, calm mood, and reducing insomnia and anxiety.

    The flavor of passionflower tea isn’t for everyone – it’s often described as tasting like grass or hay. You can improve the flavor by adding honey, or choosing an herbal sleep tea that combines better-tasting herbs with the passionflower. You can...MORE also take it in capsule form, or as a concentrated tincture.

  • 03 of 08


    Chamomile tea helps fight insomnia.
    Chamomile's mild, pleasant flavor is enjoyable with or without honey. Tetra Images/Getty Images

    The daisy-like flowers of chamomile have been used for centuries to relieve anxiety and insomnia, and improve a person’s overall mood. The plant contains a flavonoid called apeginin that has a similar effect on the brain as prescription benzodiazepines like Xanax. Unlike Xanax, however, chamomile is non-addictive, mild, and soothes your busy mind without morning grogginess or fatigue.

    Steep the dried flowers in hot water for ten minutes to brew a mild, pleasant cup of tea. Add a bit of honey to...MORE make the tea even more soothing before bedtime. If tea isn’t your preference, you can also take chamomile capsules, inhale the concentrated oil, or even add the oil to a warm bath.

  • 04 of 08


    Hops help you sleep.
    Hops: not just for beer!. David Marsden/Getty Images

    You might know hops best as the flavoring ingredient in beer, but the dried flowers have also been used for centuries to calm the mind and promote sleep. The active ingredient in hops is believed to be methylbutenol, a mild sedative.

    While you can brew hops tea, the flavor is strong and rather bitter. Most people prefer to take hops in capsule form. You’ll usually find it combined with valerian, as the two herbs complement each other in their calming effects. Another option is stuffing a small...MORE cloth bag with dried hops flowers and placing the bag near your pillow while you sleep.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08


    Not just for cats, catnip helps humans relax.
    Raid Boot's supply of catnip for your own cup of tea. pasmal/Getty Images

    You might have to fight Mittens for a dose of catnip; the plant is renowned for its stimulating effect on felines. While cats seem to go crazy after a taste of catnip, humans react to the active ingredient, nepetalactone, in just the opposite manner. Catnip is useful as a sedative, a sleep aid, and a remedy for tension headaches.

    A member of the mint family, catnip makes a pleasantly flavored, mild tea that is tasty on its own, or mixed with other calming herbs. You can also take catnip extract...MORE or capsules, if you prefer not to drink tea.  

  • 06 of 08

    Lemon Balm

    Lemon balm tea will help you relax.
    Lemon balm tastes good enough to drink on its own, but a bit of honey makes it even better. small-frog/Getty Images

    This pleasantly lemon-flavored member of the mint family contains several flavonoids that work to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve memory and help soothe an upset stomach. It’s often combined with other herbs that are known for their mood-lifting, stress-reducing effects, particularly valerian, hops and chamomile.

    Try lemon balm tea for a pleasant before-bedtime drink. You can also take it in capsule or tincture form. You’ll often find it sold by its botanical name, Melissa...MORE officinalis, or just as Melissa.

  • 07 of 08


    Lavender is renowned for its sleep-inducing powers.
    Lavender is gorgeous in your drought-resistant garden. Sharon Lapkin/Getty Images

    One of the most well known herbs for promoting sleep and reducing stress is lavender. The distinctive fragrance comes from aromatic volatile oils, which reduce blood pressure, calm the mind, and encourage deep levels of restful sleep.

    Lavender is most often used dried in dream pillows, or as an essential oil added to the bath, diffused into the bedroom, or sprayed onto the bed linens. You can also drink lavender tea or take it in capsule form.  

  • 08 of 08

    California Poppy

    California poppy is a natural sedative.
    This pretty poppy will help you sleep. Richard Cummins/Getty Images

    Although it’s a member of the poppy family, the active components of California poppy are bioactive alkaloids, not opiates. Once dry, the pretty orange petals and lacy foliage of California’s state flower are mildly sedating and reduce pain, insomnia, and anxiety.

    While you can make California poppy tea, the taste is bitter and you’ll find better relief from taking capsules or a concentrated tincture of the herb.