Herbs for Stress and Sleep

Herbs have the advantage of providing a non-addictive sleep aid that will not leave you feeling groggy in the morning like some pharmaceutical medicines can. You can make your own herbal teas to calm you or use a licensed over the counter remedy.


Some useful herbs include: 

Scullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia) helps to relieve tension and support the nerves. Combines well with limeflowers for exhaustion caused by stress and an excellent remedy for tension headaches. 

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is an age-old remedy for restlessness and anxiety, used by herbalists as a relaxing nerve tonic to reduce anxiety and tension. It was used during the first World War to help civilians cope with panic and anxiety during air raids. Clinical trials have proved that Valerian exerts a positive effect by promoting a longer, deeper sleep. It is usually taken in tincture form. Particularly useful in treating insomnia, it promotes a natural restful sleep but does not make you feel drowsy if taken during daytime to cope with anxiety.

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a traditional remedy for insomnia, used by many herbalists. It is gently soothing to the nervous system and helps promote deep sleep when taken regularly as a tea or tincture. 

Oat (Humulus lupus) seed is a gentle, yet effective tonic for the nervous system, especially where there is fatigue due to overwork or illness. Combines well with skullcap and passionflower as a general nerve tonic. 

Jamaican Dogwood (Piscidia piscipula) is a useful remedy because it is a painkiller and sedative. This makes it ideal for sleep disturbed by pain. It can be taken as a tincture. 

Hops (Humulus lupulus) is known to powerfully relax the nervous system and induce sleep. Hops is usually taken in tincture form but is not advised for anyone with depression. 

Limeflowers (Tilia europaea) have a reputation for lowering blood pressure, especially where it is due to stress and tension. Combines well with hawthorn and yarrow. 

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is an excellent herb for calming anxiety, relaxing muscle spasms and supporting digestion to encourage a sound sleep. It is often taken as a tea before bed but can also be taken as a tincture or the essential oil can be added to a warm bath. Chamomile is also useful for the few people who find Valerian too heavy.  

Feverfew (Tanecetum parthenium) is helpful for headaches and migraines. Scullcap, ginger and capsicum are also beneficial. Feverfew was traditionally eaten between two slices of bread. Do not eat it raw as it can cause mouth irritation.


Aromatherapy can help to reduce stress levels, relax the muscles and break patterns of insomnia. Essential oils can be used singly or in combination to promote relaxation and reduce tension and anxiety.

Essential oils of Clary Sage and Rose Geranium are often used by aromatherapists for deep relaxation to help improve sleep. Geranium is a deeply relaxing oil that combines well with lavender, ylang ylang and vetivert. Choose a calming blend of oils for massage or add them to an oil burner. 

 Taking a warm bath before bed can help you to unwind. Add a few drops of relaxing essential oils like Lavender or Sandalwood to your bath water to help you relax and to help you sleep. You can also add dried herbs like Chamomile or Lavender by tying them in a muslin bag and hanging them over your bath taps. The herbs then infuse the warm water and the aroma is released. 

Lavender pillows can be made by filling a fine cloth bag with dried lavender flowers. Keeping lavender next to your head means that the relaxing aroma can easily help to induce a deep sleep. A few drops of lavender essential oil on a hanky popped inside your pillow case (away from direct contact with your skin) has a similar effect. Lavender is well known for it‘s calming properties and is safe for all the family to use.

Other beneficial oils for stress relief include sweet marjoram, neroli, rose, and frankincense.