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5 herbs instead of sleeping pills

Written by Simon Mills

If you have trouble sleeping you will know how desperate you can get to find something to help, preferably something to knock you out! Various conventional sleep medications aim to do just that: benzodiazepines like lorazepam (Ativan), temazepam (Restoril), nitrazepam (Mogadon) or other hypnotics like Zolpidem or Zopiclone work by downregulating various alert mechanisms in the brain. Even the popular antihistamine versions (eg. Nytol) in effect do the same thing.

Some familiar herbal approaches are gentler versions of this approach. There are many calming ‘relaxant’ herbs well suited as a late night drink to reduce restlessness, temporary difficulties in settling down, children’s wakefulness, or simply to improve sleep quality. Chamomile is probably the most well-known family remedy here, being particularly used for children. Here we can highlight two other relaxing sleep remedies that are well worth trying for the same purpose.

I am a Cambridge medical sciences graduate and have been a herbal practitioner in Exeter since 1977. In that time I have led the main professional and trade organizations for herbal medicine in the UK and served on Government and House of Lords committees. I have written standard textbooks used by herbal practitioners around the world, including with Professor Kerry Bone from Australia.

I was involved in academic work for many years, co-founding the University of Exeter pioneering Centre for Complementary Health Studies in 1987 (where we built a complementary research and postgraduate teaching programme from scratch), then at Peninsula the first integrated health course at a UK medical school, and the first Masters degree in herbal medicine in the USA, at the Maryland University of Integrative Health.

I am particularly fascinated by the insights we can distill from the millions of intelligent people who over many centuries needed plants to survive. Mostly I want to learn and share the old skills, to experience healing plants as characters, that can help us fend off ill health. My passion for offering people tools to look after themselves and their families has led me to work with the founders of the College of Medicine on pioneering national self care and social prescribing projects. I am now the College Self Care Lead and also Herbal Strategist at Pukka Herbs

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