In our busy world, it seems that stress and lack of sleep are unavoidable, which can affect how we function on a day-to-day basis.
“Almost two thirds of Australians report that stress negatively impacts their mental wellbeing and one third of Australians will experience sleeplessness at some point in their lives. If these issues are left unaddressed, they can have serious long-term health impacts,” explains Clinical Biochemist and Nutritionist Dr Elizabeth Steels.
Dr Steels goes on to explain that seeking out herbal support can naturally assist in breaking this cycle. Here, she shares five herbs that can help nourish your nervous system and support better sleep:
Dr Steels explains that Kava is commonly used in the Pacific Islands to aid in muscle and mind relaxation, along with sleeplessness.
“It is the kavalactones present in the root of Kava that are recognised as being responsible for its relaxing and calming effects,” she says. “Research has shown that Kava may be beneficial to health by reducing reactivity during stressful events and by reducing sleeplessness.”
In Australia, Kava can be obtained in standardised amounts in products such as teabags and supplements, Dr Steels adds. “To ensure you are getting the highest quality and correct dose, it is recommended it be used under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner,” she says.
It’s no surprise lavender is on this list, as it has long been used to help restlessness and nerves.
“Lavender oil is one of the most studied essential oils in terms of its relaxing effects,” Dr Steels tells. “It has been to shown calm the nervous system, help maintain healthy blood pressure and heart rate, lower skin temperature, as well as changing brain waves to a more relaxed state.”
Valerian has been used for years to help ease sleeplessness, nervousness, headaches and stress, and harks back to ancient Greece and Rome. Dr Steels reveals that it is believed to work by slowing down the central nervous system.
“Although some conflicting research exists, most studies show that taking valerian can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep by about 15 to 20 minutes, and it may also improve sleep quality,” she adds. “Valerian can be used as a tincture, capsule, or as a tea. It is, however, best avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding.”
“Ashwagandha is an important herb in Ayurveda – one of the world's oldest holistic healing systems based on Indian principles of natural healing,” Dr Steels says. “Also known by its botanical name, Withania somnifera, as well as Indian ginseng and winter cherry, it has been used in Ayurvedic and indigenous medicine for thousands of years to relieve stress, increase energy and improve concentration.”
Dr Steels goes on to explains that Ashwagandha is known as an ‘adaptogen,’ meaning that it can help your body manage stress. “It does this by reducing levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, and by helping to stabilise mood,” she says.
“Standardised Ashwagandha root extract is commonly taken in the form of capsules. Although safe for most people, certain individuals should not take it, including pregnant and breastfeeding women,” she advises.
Chamomile has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for a broad spectrum of ailments, including inflammation and sleeplessness, Dr Steels tells.
“Consumed mainly in the form of tea, it contains an antioxidant called apigenin that may promote sleepiness, and drinking chamomile tea has been shown to improve overall sleep quality,” she says.
Dr Steels adds that although a few people may be allergic to chamomile, it is safe for most people to drink.
It is advised that natural herbs are used under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner, particularly if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or when taking other medications.
Sleep disturbances may be caused by serious medical conditions and you should consult your healthcare practitioner to discuss your particular needs to optimise your health. To find a healthcare practitioner, please visit Eagle Natural Health.