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Fleetneedles Forage: Sweet Dreams

May 6, 2015 Blogs, Fleetneedles Forage Comments Off on Fleetneedles Forage: Sweet Dreams
Lavender

Getting a good night’s sleep is incredibly important for your physical and mental well-being. But with the fast pace of life, constant sensory stimulation and a heavy reliance on caffeine-based drinks, many of us struggle to get an unbroken night’s sleep.

Most of us live a life far removed from nature but the natural world has a great deal to offer to those who cannot sleep. I have sometimes suffered from insomnia and these are some of the remedies I either tried or considered.

Lime flower

Linden, or lime flower tea, is known to combat anxiety and promote relaxation. With a delightful honey flavour, the tea has been used for centuries to aid a peaceful and refreshing sleep. The tea is available commercially but it is possible to make it yourself.

The tree flowers in late June to early July and this is the best time to harvest the bloom. To dry, either lay the flowers on brown paper in a shaded dry place with good ventilation for a few weeks, or alternatively dry them quickly on a very low heat in the oven for about 15 minutes. Two teaspoons of the dried herb in a cup of boiling water before bed should bring a restful night’s sleep.

Horse Chestnut leaves are rich in vitamin K, so are useful for those with circulatory disorders (but never ingest them raw). The leaves are also an ancient natural treatment for insomnia. A single leaf in a teapot full of boiling water makes the correct strength of tea while half a wine glass-full of cool tea is just enough to ensure a deep and tranquil sleep. It is probably best not to rely on this herbal remedy too heavily though as the leaves are known to have narcotic properties.

Heather and WimberrysHeather tea can be bought in most health food shops, but living so close to the West Pennine Moors I prefer to collect and dry my own. Wild flowering heather smells divine and the perfume alone has a relaxing quality. A few fresh, washed sprigs in a cup are more than enough to make a bedtime brew. The plant in bloom can easily be hung indoors out of direct sunlight to dry for later use through the colder months. Herbalists prize heather flowers for their ability to cure cystitis and other persistent urinary ailments. Chamomile is also a mild diuretic and another recognised relaxing tea but I have never had much success with it.

Cowslips are now rare in the wild and should be left alone if you are lucky enough to spot some. Fortunately, many varieties of the plant are grown in gardens and plant pots so they are relatively easy to source. The plant is a natural painkiller and a weak infusion of the leaves has been used to treat headaches, joint pains and spasms for centuries. It is also a natural sedative and tea made from the leaves is an old remedy for insomnia and frayed nerves. Syrup of Cowslip was once a recognised cough medicine and was a common home remedy used specifically for its combined sedative and decongestant qualities.

Cowslip

As mentioned in a previous article, dried Sweet Woodruff can be used to make a calming, sleep-inducing tea. Sweet woodruff is a common plant, growing under hedgerows and in woodland. It has a freshly-mown grass scent which intensifies once the plant is dried. The easiest drying method is to put the washed leaves on a baking tray and leave on a low heat for about 20 minutes. A few dried leaves in a cup of boiling water is just enough to calm the mind.

Lavender is an age-old relaxant and I find that when I have an over-active brain at night that a bath with several drops of oil can really help. Alternatively I have mixed it with my usual body butter or put a few drops on some tissue and tucked it inside my pillow case.

It is important to mention that not all of these remedies will work for everyone. I have chosen to list several options because different things work for different people. The wide variety of reasons we suffer from insomnia can also affect the results of each remedy. Nevertheless, many of these cures have been used for centuries which would suggest that they have some validity, even in our modern world.

Happy Snoozing.

By Claire Fleetneedle

 

Cautions

Lime Flowers

  • Lime flowers have a strong sedative quality which can intensify as the dried herb ages; this can have a narcotic effect so should be used with caution
  • Do not drive or operate machinery after taking this herb
  • Do not take Lime flower tea if you are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • Avoid Lime flowers if you have a heart condition or if you are taking heart medication

Horse Chestnut leaves

  • Never ingest raw horse chestnut leaves, as they contain aesculin which is poisonous
  • Horse Chestnut can slow blood-clotting so is best avoided by those suffering from bleeding disorders
  • Do not take Horse Chestnut if you are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • Horse chestnut can lower blood sugar so should be avoided by diabetes sufferers
  • Avoid entirely if you have a latex allergy
  • Should be completely avoided by those suffering from kidney or liver disease
  • The leaves are narcotic so should be used occasionally rather than regularly
  • Do not drive or operate machinery after taking this herb

Heather

  • Do not take Heather tea if you are pregnant or breast-feeding

Chamomile

  • Do not take Chamomile tea if you are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • Do not use Chamomile if you are allergic to members of the ragweed family
  • Avoid Chamomile if you are on warfarin or similar drugs
  • Do not drive or operate machinery after taking this herb

Cowslip

  • Avoid ingesting Cowslip if you suffer from high or low blood pressure as research has shown the plant can slightly affect blood pressure control
  • In very rare cases Cowslip can cause digestive upset and allergic reactions
  • Do not take Cowslip if you are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • Cowslip is mildly narcotic so should not be used too regularly
  • Do not drive or operate machinery after taking this herb

Sweet Woodruff

  • Do not use Sweet Woodruff if you are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • Excessive use of sweet woodruff can cause sickness and dizziness; it is suitable for occasional rather than everyday use
  • Do not drive or operate machinery after taking this herb

Lavender

  • Do not use Lavender if you are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • Lavender is known to slow the nervous system. If you are due to have surgery please stop using it for at least two weeks before your operation. Combined with anaesthesia and other meds it can slow the nervous system down too much and can cause complications

 

DISCLAIMER: These are some of my personal experiences of using the above herbs combined with information I have researched over a number of years. I am not encouraging people to self-medicate. In the treatment of specific conditions it is best to consult a herbalist or your GP. Always check if any pharmaceutical medication you are taking is compatible before trying herbs.  If you should develop an adverse reaction to any of the herbs mentioned above then please stop using them immediately. Always take care when identifying plants.

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