Insomnia

Difficulty in sleeping, or disturbed sleep patterns leaving the perception of insufficient sleep.


There are many herbs with reputations as being effective sleep remedies, but there are no legal plants that will put a person out! The key to successful treatment of insomnia is to find the cause and deal with it. This may be anything in the realm of human life, from deep grief to constipation. Psychological issues often need attention, but then so health problems causing pain or discomfort. Dietary indiscretions must be identified, as must environmental factors (e.g. freeway noise or a snoring spouse). Insomnia can push the practitioners diagnostic skills to the limit, making the allopaths free and easy prescribing of benzodiazepine sleeping medications at least understandable!

Actions indicated for the processes behind this disease:

Hypnotics are herbs with a reputation as easing the person into sleep. They are usually strong nervine relaxants rather than plant `knockout drops’!

Nervine Relaxants ease the tensions that often produce sleeplessness.

Anti-spasmodics address any somatic muscular tightness that might be involved.

Nervine Tonics are indicated if there is any suspicion that the insomnia is associated with nervous exhaustion (as it often is).

Adaptogens will help in a similar way to the nervine tonics, but should only be used in the morning to help deal with stress as they might be too energizing at night.

System Support


Often the key to successful treatments lies in focusing upon some part or function of the body that is experiencing problems. This must be identified and the appropriate system tonic, action or specific be used. Hypnotics and nervines can be used within the context of such treatments. These can be selected by the role they play upon the system in question and not simply their strength as hypnotics. Thus:


Circulatory system: Here we can mention Motherwort, Lime Blossom, Balm.


Respiratory system: All of the hypnotics can help as anti-spasmodics in conditions such as asthma, if used at the right dose. Wild Lettuce eases irritable coughs.


Digestive system: The relaxing nervines and carminatives are important, of which we can mention Chamomile, Vervain, Balm, Hops and Valerian. The anti-spasmodic herbs will help with intestinal colic, for example Hops, Jamaican Dogwood, Passion Flower and Valerian.


Urinary system: Hypnotics are important here when used as muscle relaxants.


Reproductive system: The same remarks hold good. Of especial relevance would be Pasque Flower and Black Cohosh.


Muscles and skeleton: All hypnotics will aid in reducing muscle tension and even the pain associated with problems in this system. They may be used internally or as lotions. Especially important are Jamaican Dogwood, Valerian and Black Cohosh.


Nervous system: All these remedies work on the nervous system.


Skin: Chamomile and Cowslip are healing, but otherwise the value of hypnotics here is to ensure that the body has a good recuperative rest each night.

Specific Remedies:


The many sleeping remedies known can be selected on the basis of their secondary actions or system affinity. This is explored in the section on hypnotics and nervines. They can also be selected on the basis of their strength, bearing in mind the very subjective nature and individual variability of human response to these herbs. We can very roughly identify three groupings:

`Mild’

Chamomile, Balm, Linden, Red Clover

`Medium’

Pasque Flower, Mugwort, Motherwort, Skullcap, Vervain

`Strong’

Californian Poppy, Hops, Wild Lettuce, Passion Flower, Jamaican Dogwood, Valerian


By selecting herbs that address specific health needs that are compounding the sleep difficulties, better results are obtained than simply going for a strong hypnotic. Thus, for example, an involvement of palpitations would indicate Motherwort.

One possible prescription:

Passion Flower

Valerian equal parts

5ml. of tincture 30 minutes before bedtime

One possible prescription:

Insomnia associated with menopausal problems

Passion Flower

Valerian

Motherwort equal parts

5ml. of tincture 30 minutes before bedtime in addition to appropriate daytime treatments.



One possible prescription:

Insomnia associated with `indigestion’

Passion Flower

Valerian

Mugwort

Balm equal parts

7.5ml. of tincture 30 minutes before bedtime in addition to appropriate daytime treatments.

An infusion of Chamomile, Linden or Balm at night would be helpful.

One possible prescription:

Insomnia associated with hypertension and headaches

Passion Flower

Valerian

Linden

Cramp Bark equal parts

7.5ml. of tincture 30 minutes before bedtime in addition to appropriate daytime treatments.

(refer to the chapter on the cardio-vascular system.)

An infusion of Tilia or Matricaria at night would be helpful.

One possible prescription:

Insomnia associated with depression

Passion Flower

Valerian

St. Johns Wort

Mugwort equal parts

7.5ml. of tincture 30 minutes before bedtime in addition to appropriate daytime treatments.

Avoid the use of Hops in depression.

David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH Written by David L. Hoffmann BSc Hons MNIMH

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