Should we re-name these flowers ‘Cowsleep’?
These pretty flowers literally litter the grassy banks of the A41. Until recently they were protected as they had been wild harvested until near extinction – hard to believe when you see the swathes of them between the M25 turning for Hemel Hempstead and then at the slip road going back on at Hemel!
Like so many herbs, all the parts of the lant are useful medicines but, it’s the yellow corolla – the flower part of the flowering heads – which are particularly sedative.
I have recently begun using the flower as my main herb for sleep mixes. I always combine several herbs in order to address the multiple aspects of sleeplessness that the person I prescribe for is experiencing. It has a light taste which I have read described as aniseed-y but I don’t agree. Or, certainly not as a tincture. I see the point but if you don’t like aniseed don’t be put off as it’s really not that strongly so!
As with all sedatives, the ideal is that they wouldn’t be taken over a long period of time. That they be used for a short burst during a temporary sleep disturbance. If your sleep continues to be poor quality, slow in coming, short in duration, disturbed and more, it’s a really good idea to begin the journey to address why that is.
That’s what we do together. There’s loads of research about sleep and what happens to our bodies when we don’t get enough. We still don’t fully understand why we sleep or what really happens when we do. But, I have only heard it said in one place that in order to sleep and sleep well and gain good nourishment from it, we need to have plenty of energy. In chronic sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue states, we become so depleted that we don’t have enough energy to sleep!
The daytime is as important as the night! Nourishing yourself with good foods, avoiding depleting stimulants, and getting really goot relaxation are all key to replenishing the stores for better sleep.
Cautions: This remedy should not be prescribed for pregnant women, patients who are sensitive to aspirin, or those taking anti-coagulant drugs such as warfarin. Long-term use may also be inadvisable if taking hypotensive medications – PFAF
Wild harvesting: Please don’t pick these flowers yourself as we don’t want to get into the situation where they are near extinction again. It’s fine to pick a small handful to try out as a tea but if you want a plentiful supply, I suggest buying them from a sustainable source. I stock them as both a dried flower and tincture.
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.
Over-The Counter remedies
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.