I tend to think of herbs as slow medicines. As a gradual shift back into health and wellness. As a re-education. But, sometimes, they are just as powerful as pharmaceuticals. And, they can surprise me at how little can have such a positive impact on someone!
I gave a talk for a local WI this week. After a few days, I got an email. It went like this:
I was at the W I on Tuesday evening,and I had the best nights sleep I have had for months
WOW! What an amazing testimonial. I am so thrilled that herbs have had this effect for her (I don’t think it was the effect of my talk as I am far too bouncy for that!)
One of the actions of Rosemary is sedative but I had always assumed it was only mild because it has such a perky smell and is stimulant in some of its actions! A great lesson for me.
I gave each person in attendance a fingerful of tea in a cup. To my mind, it was enough to truly get a taste of it and that was about all.
It seems I was wrong.
And, I am delighted to have been wrong. It shows me that there are other ways to think about what I do and reminds me that there are other outcomes from those which I might expect. It’s good to be pushed out of our zone of comfort.
It also reminds me not to underestimate the power of the herbs. After all, our most potent anodynes come from plants, as do our most addictive substances.
I now welcome Rosemary with open arms to my sleep herb armoury. I have used it in many ways prior to now but never considered it for a sleep mix. This also has a poweful potential in symbiosis with the other actions of Rosemary. There are many situations in which I would now add this herb to a blend for someone. How very exciting.
Thank you for showing me your other side, little green one.
You’re not sleeping well. You feel like you haven’t had a proper night’s sleep in a long time. I hear you. It’s an awful feeling. You know that everything in your body is not functioning optimally and you are putting yourself at higher risk of every ailment and serious disease going.
So, what do you do?
First things first, the research shows that the more we worry about not getting to sleep or having enough sleep, the less well we sleep! So, STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT!
What do you mean that didn’t work?
It’s so much easier said than done. I remember right in the midst of my new-baby no sleep phase that I felt like I was broken. That my ability to sleep had been broken. I thought I would never sleep again. And, I thought I would die through lack of sleep. I felt terrible. I spent so long teetering right on the edge of being asleep but as soon as I noticed, or my partner moved, or the radiator creaked, I would ping back into wakefulness. I lay awake in my bed for hours failing. It became a place I loathed.
So, how do we stop thinking about not sleeping? How do we shift out of being ‘a bad sleeper’ into being someone who doesn’t have a label for their sleep, they just do it.
Warning: no quick solution!
We start with the daytime. We listen to our inner voice and hear how we are talking to ourselves. How are we mentioning our sleep? What do you hear?
What do you hear?
‘I’m such a bad sleeper’ ‘I’m an insomniac’ ‘I just can’t seem to get a good night’s sleep’
I think our brains and our thoughts are very powerful. When we tell ourselves these things repeatedly even if it seems as though it is just the truth of the situation, how can our bodies do anything but continue to obey?
I think this is a very powerful concept and one I use a lot when I work with my herbal patients and EFT clients.
I needed a lot of extra help to get back the skill of sleep. I wish I had known of the tools I now have and use with my patients. I think I would have been in a very different situation from the one I actually found myself in. And, in spite of that wish, I know that I learned a huge amount from my experience as that drove me to look for more tools. I also firmly believe that the best we can do with our toughest paths is to find the silver lining and use it to our eventual advantage which is where I am now. I know that my skill set is so suited to that kind of situation that I can help more and more people who feel like they are beyond help.
Read Part 5 in my series on sleep to hear about how I help myself and others to get a good night’s sleep.
There are lots of over-the-counter (OTC) sleep preparations. They can really help and some are excellent. There are two things about them which I don’t like:
They are often standardised extracts rather than full profile herbs
They usually contain valerian root
They may not actually have all that much herb in them.
Valeriana officinalis is a go-to sleep herb for many people and lots of herbalists. However, if you’ve ever taken it and found yourself MORE AWAKE after taking them than before, the chances are you’re like me (and roughly 5% of people), and you react in the opposite way to valerian!
Wow. Yes, it is possible to take a sleep herb and be more awake.
That kind of experience tends to give herbs a bad reputation. If you take something and it doesn’t work, you’re then likely to assume that all things like it also don’t work. After all, it’s been manufactured and then sold in a pharmacy, so it must be good.
Also, valerian root can leave people feeling a little muggy the day after, like they have a bit of a hangover. So, taking larger quantities may not be a great idea.
I prefer that the herbs I take are whole plant. If it is root, then I mean all of the root rather than pulling out the known constituent from the herb which is currently shown by research to be the active one. As a herbalist, I like the synergy which occurs between the constituents and how they inter-react. This is something which is hard to quantify and get scientifically accepted proof for. But, it has been shown that for example, the plants from which we can derive salicylic acid have constituents which protect stomachs unlike the synthetic derivative known as aspirin. There is an intelligence in the full spectrum of the plant and I prefer to have that in its entirety in my medicines.
I like collections of different herbs in a sleep mix. Then you get the benefits of a range of different ways in which your sleep is improved. It might be that you need to still your mind, relax your body or cool down from overheating.
I talk more about the different ways to improve your sleep in further posts on sleep. Look for Parts 5 and beyond.
Do you want to work on your sleep? Please get in touch as herbs are a gentle, non-addictive way to really improve the quality and length of your sleep.
Make an appointment to see Lucy Blunden, Medical Herbalist by visiting the contact page