Sleep and Anxiety
Sleep problems and nervous disorders: the pitfalls of the pharmaceutical approach
Anxiety disorders and insomnia often go hand in hand and are highly comorbid. Anxiety disorders afflict one in five people worldwide at some point or other in their lives, while it is speculated that insomnia affects between 9 and 15% of people globally. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine points out that, among adults in the U.S., 30 to 35% suffer brief episodes of insomnia, 15 to 20% have short-term insomnia, and 10% have a chronic insomnia disorder. The symptoms are broad and debilitating: fatigue, inability to maintain focus and concentration, poor memory, mood disturbance, daytime sleepiness, low motivation or energy, proneness to errors and accidents. Also, epidemiological research suggests that there is a correlation between insomnia and other more serious health risks, including anxiety disorders and other psychological problems, as well as hypertension and decreased immune function.,
Comprehensive reviews have shown that a therapy based on anxiolytic and hypnotic pharmaceutical drugs (e.g. benzodiazepines and other drugs) is associated with a significantly increased risk of mortality., This is not to mention the dangers posed by dependence and side-effects like gastrointestinal upset, vertigo, and fatigue.
A better, more natural solution
This formula is aptly named after valerian, a classic nervine herb with anxiolytic properties. Its use can be traced back to classical antiquity. In the time of the Roman Empire, we find Galen, for example, prescribing it for insomnia. Closer to our own day, valerian was widely employed by the Eclectics—physicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries who tended to rely on herbal therapies--for treating nervousness, restlessness and anxiety as well as insomnia.,
In a double-blind trial of 48 adults, valerian was found to reduce anxiety without ancillary sedation, while another clinical trial that used a standardized valerian preparation showed an anxiety-reducing effect similar to diazepam. As well, several studies present compelling evidence of the effectiveness of valerian in the treatment of insomnia. These include a clinical trial with 202 patients that found valerian and oxazepam, a standard benzodiazepine tranquilizer, to be equally efficacious. It is thought that valerian’s mechanism of action is through GABA neurotransmitters.
A beautiful climbing plant, passion flower was introduced to Europe from the Americas by the Spanish in the 16th century. Afterwards it became popular in Western medicine as a tranquilizer and mild sedative. Eclectic physicians found it “specially useful” to treat insomnia and restlessness. More recently, a study with 41 participants that featured a double-blind, placebo-controlled, repeated-measures design found passion flower to improve sleep quality significantly. Human clinical trials have also demonstrated its anxiolytic activity., Animal models suggest that passion flower may be effective for neuropathic pain, as well as stress reduction and improving memory. It has been suggested that its mechanism of action occurs through gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors.
Native Americans used the California poppy for its relatively mild sedative and analgesic properties. Modern research studies have confirmed not only its sedative and analgesic actions, but its anxiolytic qualities as well.,, The therapeutic effects of California poppy are thought to arise from the binding of its alkaloids with opioid receptors and other neurotransmitter activity.,
The therapeutic use of chamomile can be traced back to ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures. The Eclectics valued it for calming the nervous system. A long-term double-blind randomized controlled trial using chamomile extract found that it significantly reduced moderate to severe symptoms of GAD (generalized anxiety disorder). In addition, a short-term open label trial of chamomile extract showed a clinically meaningful reduction in symptoms of GAD over 8 weeks with results comparable to those of conventional anxiolytic drug therapy.
A climbing plant best known as a bittering agent in beer, hops has a long history of therapeutic use as a sedative in a wide range of cultures, including those of India and China, as well as the indigenous peoples of North America. A clinical trial using a combination of hops and valerian for patients suffering sleep disorders according to DSM-IV criteria has demonstrated an effectiveness equivalent to benzodiazepine drugs. Other studies confirm the sedative action of hops for promoting sleep.,, Its pharmacological action is attributable to its bitter resins, which amplify the action of neurotransmitter g-aminobutyric (GABA), inhibiting the central nervous system (CNS).
A perennial and member of the mint family, motherwort can now be found worldwide, although it originates from temperate parts of Europe and Asia. Native Americans used it as a sedative among other things. Similarly, the Eclectics considered it a tonic nervine for chronic diseases accompanied by restlessness and disturbed sleep. Research confirms the sedative activity of motherwort. A clinical trial with an oil extract of motherwort found it to be hypotensive, as well as significantly mitigating anxiety and sleep disorders. Like other anxiolytic herbs, it is thought to work by way of GABA receptors.
Active Ingredients (per ml):
- 20 ml of valerian (Valeriana officinalis, root and rhizome) tincture (1:4, QCE 50 mg dry OR 1:1, QCE 200 mg fresh)
- 20 ml of passionflower (Passiflora incarnata, herb top) tincture (1:4, QCE 50 mg dry OR 1:1, QCE 200 mg fresh)
- 20 ml of California poppy (Eschscholzia californica, herb top) tincture 1:4 (QCE 50 mg)
- 16 ml of chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla, flower) tincture 1:4 (QCE 40 mg)
- 14 ml of hops (Humulus lupulus, strobile) tincture 1:4 (QCE 35 mg)
- 10 ml of motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca, herb top) tincture 1:4 (QCE 25 mg)
QCE = Quantity Crude Equivalent
Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Certified Organic alcohol, Distilled water, Certified Organic vegetable glycerine
Adults: Take 2 ml (60 drops) 3 times daily in a little water on an empty stomach. When used as a sleep aid, the full 6 ml (180 drops) daily dose may be taken in a little water on an empty stomach at bedtime.
Duration of Use:
For long-term use, contact your health care practitioner.
Health Canada Approved Use Claims
Used in Herbal Medicine as a sleep aid and to help relieve nervousness (calmative/sedative). California Poppy is traditionally used in Herbal Medicine as an analgesic.
Cautions and Warnings
Consult a health care practitioner: if sleeplessness persists continuously for more than 3 weeks (chronic insomnia); if symptoms worsen. Consumption with alcohol, other medications, or natural health products with sedative properties is not recommended. Consult a health care practitioner before use: if you are breastfeeding; if you have depression and/or related diseases.
Do not use: if you are pregnant; if you are allergic to plants of the Asteraceae/Compositae/Daisy family.
Known Adverse Reactions
Some people may experience drowsiness. Exercise caution if operating heavy machinery, driving a motor vehicle, or involved in activities requiring mental alertness. Hypersensitivity (e.g. allergy) has been known to occur, in which case, discontinue use.
Our products are all third party tested to ensure the absence of pesticides, microbes, and heavy metals and to confirm purity and stability.
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- AN Shikove et al, “Effect of Leonurus cardiaca oil extract in patients with arterial hypertension accompanied by anxiety and sleep disorders,” Phytotherapy Research 2011 April; 25(4): 540-3.
- HW Rauwald et al, “GABAA Receptor Binding Assays of Standardized Leonurus cardiaca and Leonurus japonicus Extracts as Well as Their Isolated Constituents,” Planta Medica 2015 August; 81(12-13): 1103-10.
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