These Herbs are Superfoods for your Sleep
Plant medicine is a beautiful thing.
Over millennia people have relied on mushrooms, leaves, flowers, roots, saps and other plant parts to influence the health and function of our bodies and minds. Plants, like us, are complex living systems with thousands of chemicals moving around in their cells, keeping them alive and helping with different functions. Nature is frugal and uses many of the same nutrients and chemicals for lots of different functions. As a result, natural chemicals tend to have a wide variety of effects in our bodies. They also tend to have milder effects than pharmaceuticals, or man-made isolated chemicals.
This can be both good and bad. Natural remedies often have less significant effects and take longer to get to a desired outcome than pharmaceuticals. However, their gentler effects on the body also tend to lead to fewer negative side effects and are less likely to lead to dependence and with-drawl effects.
At Thirdzy, we believe that there is a time and a place for both natural remedies and pharmaceuticals. Our goal is to create products that have natural ingredients that are gentle and effective. Over the years we've researched and used hundreds of different vitamins, minerals, herbs, proteins, enzymes, amino acids, mushrooms, and other nutrients in our quest to help our brains and bodies work their best.
Our Thirdzy Bedtime Reset capsules have 5 different herbs included in the formula. These herbs have a long tradition of use to help with rest, relaxation, sleep, and recovery:
- Passion Flower
- Lemon Balm
- Valerian Root
All herbal supplements are not created equal.
These aren't just dried out plants that are ground up. We use extracts that are standardized to the right amounts of active components. This is one of the critical differences between a supplement that works and one that doesn't. It's why you'll tend to get more consistent outcomes when supplementing with a good quality chamomile supplement than if you were to brew cups of chamomile tea before bed.
Standardized extracts are also what they use in research, so that their results can be repeatable. For example, Valeriana Officianalis, is the plant typically referred to as Valerian Root. It is a flowering plant. The useful parts for de-stressing and sleeping come from the roots. The active component is called Valeric Acid. Most research studies will say that they use a root extract that is standardized to 0.8% to 1% of Valeric Acid. Since that is what was used in research when they have seen this stuff actually work to benefit people, that is what you want to buy. If you see an herbal supplement that just says 'Valeriana Officianalis' you don't know what parts are used or if they use good quality plants - so you don’t really know what you are getting or if it is going to work.
Herbs are an exciting area of research in plant medicine. Some herbs, like chamomile, have been used for thousands of years in traditional medicines. We now have technology to look at the different parts of these plants and the individual chemicals they contain to figure out how they work. This helps us to be more effective at using plant based supplements to help people.
As we better understand the individual chemicals, we also get better at understanding the combinations of herbs that go well together - and the plants, medicines, foods, and chemicals that they should not be mixed with. This makes supplements safer and more effective for everyone. Traditional medicines were often combinations of plants in tonics, teas, or pastes. The ones that have survived the test of time have done so because they a) didn't have many (or any) dangerous side effects and b) helped people.
There is still TONS to learn about plant medicines and herbal remedies. It is expensive and time consuming to do research. Big companies are less likely to pour time and money into herbal supplements because they are not patent-able like pharmaceutical compounds, so they are not as profitable. Though this creates an information gap that Universities and other organizations are working to fill, unpatented plant products are actually a good thing for consumers. It leads to more competitive pricing and easier access to natural supplements.
Here is an overview of what the combination of traditional use and modern research say about how the herbal components of Bedtime Reset help you to chill out, rest, recover and sleep:
- Hops are members of the Cannabaceae family and are a relative of cannabis. They do not contain THC or CBD, the well known chemical compounds called cannabinoids. But they do have some other plant chemicals in common, called terpenes, which contribute to their calming effects.
- Hops contain high levels of a terpene called myrcene, a terpene with sedating and muscle relaxant effects (1).
- Hops also contain another chemical component that helps with relaxation, it's an alpha acid called 2-methyl-3-buten-2-ol (2). This chemical increases the activity of the brain chemical called GABA. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it has the effect of calming the nervous system and reducing excitement or anxiety (2).
- Chamomile has been used in herbal remedies for thousands of years, known in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
- Traditionally chamomile was used as a mild agent to help sedate agitation and anxiety, and to help with sleep-related problems.
- Modern research has found over 120 bioactive compounds in chamomile (3).
- The most promising compound for relaxation and sleep is an antioxidant called apigenin. Apigenin works by attaching to some of the same receptors in the brain as GABA (3). This is also the target of benzodiazepine medications (such as Valium, Ativan, and Xanax), which are commonly used for treating anxiety and insomnia. Apigenin has a much milder attachment and effect than pharmacueticals working on the same pathway (6).
- A 2018 study found that women using chamomile extract fell asleep more quickly and had better sleep quality than those not using chamomile (4).
- A large review study published in 2019 found consistency in research demonstrating "a significant improvement in sleep quality after chamomile administration (5)."
- These flowers are native to central and south america and have a long history of use for helping with sedation, anxiety, and sleep.
- The key active components found in passion flower are chrysin, vitexin, and apigenin (yes, the same active ingredient as Chamomile).
- Passion flower has shown several different effects in the brain including increasing melatonin levels, increasing the number of receptors for GABA, and activating GABA receptors (8, 10). This combination of effects may help improve sleep quality, as well as calming and protecting the brain.
- Many animal studies show improvements in stress and sleep when using Passion flower (9).
- A study involving healthy participants who took passion flower and then participated in a sleep study found a significant improvement in sleep quality (9) when using Passion flower, compared to placebo (9).
- A 2017 review study showed consistency in published research using Passion flower for sedation, calming and sleep (11).
- Has been used since the times of ancient Greece and in traditional European folk practices.
- Valerian promotes natural relaxation and helps in coping with stress. It is one of the most well researched herbs for promoting sleep, and one of the few natural sleep support agents that most experts agree on and recommend.
- Valerinic acid, which is a major active ingredient of valerian root, has shown to interact with GABA receptors and to help boost GABA levels naturally (14).
- Valerian root has also shown ability to act on adenosine receptors (12). These receptors make you feel sleepy when they are triggered. Caffeine works by blocking these receptors so that you don't feel tired. By acting on these receptors, Valerian root may help you feel more sleepy when you take it before bed.
- Valerian root has also been shown to work on serotonin receptors, particularly the ones that are present in an area of the brain responsible for sleep (16). Serotonin is a brain chemical that helps with mood regulation and making you feel happy, it also plays a role in helping you fall asleep (16).
- A review paper from 2020 compiled research evaluating the effectiveness of valerian as a sleep aid. It found 13 randomized control trials, using Valerian root on its own (not in combination with other sleep aids or herbs), that found valerian to be effective as a sleep aid. Study results that showed positive outcomes ranged from sleep questionnaires and a variety of sleep quality indexes, to brain scans conducted on people while they slept. Six of the studies measured outcomes after a single dose before bed. Others assessed what happened when using Valerian root for up to 8 weeks. It appears to have more significant outcomes when taken consistently (13). This study also found that dried root powders seemed to be more effective than other liquid extract solutions (13).
- Lemon Balm is native to Europe and has been used medicinally for over 2000 years to help with a variety of ailments.
- Most of the research on Lemon balm has been related to its effects as a sedative, spasmolytic (stops muscle cramps/spasms), and antioxidant (18).
- One of the main active ingredients in Lemon Balm is called Rosmarinic acid (19). Rosmarinic acid can block the activity of the enzymes that break down GABA, dopamine, and serotonin (19, 20). By blocking these enzymes, the mood boosting and sleep inducing effects of these brain chemicals may be promoted.
- A study investigating the use of lemon balm extract and its effects on anxiety and sleep disturbances found 95% of the participants had positive results and a decrease of insomnia symptoms by 42% (21).
They're better together.
While each of these herbs work on their own, they are more powerful when taken together. Studies combining valerian and hops (7), passion flower, valerian and hops (7), lemon balm and valerian (17), show beneficial effects on sleep quality, less time to fall asleep, and helping people relax and be calm. This makes sense as they all work on pathways and receptors in the brain that help with mood regulation, sedation and sleep.
If you are looking for a natural way to improve your sleep hygiene and to get better quality rest and recovery, check out Thirdzy Bedtime Reset. It contains a synergistic blend of the herbs that we have discussed here, plus other sleep supportive ingredients like magnesium and melatonin.
We recommend taking 2 capsules 30-60 minutes before bed.
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*** The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They are the opinions of the expert and do not necessarily represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
- Russo, Ethan B. “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects.” British journal of pharmacology vol. 163,7 (2011): 1344-64. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x
- Franco, L et al. “The sedative effects of hops (Humulus lupulus), a component of beer, on the activity/rest rhythm.” Acta physiologica Hungarica vol. 99,2 (2012): 133-9. doi:10.1556/APhysiol.99.2012.2.6
- Srivastava, Janmejai K et al. “Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future.” Molecular medicine reports vol. 3,6 (2010): 895-901. doi:10.3892/mmr.2010.377
- Iqbal, Kirran. "Outcome of use of High Quality Chamomile Extract on Sleep Disorders Occurring after Menopause." GENERAL SECTION-ORIGINAL ARTICLES 16.3 (2018): 766.
- Hieu, Truong Hong et al. “Therapeutic efficacy and safety of chamomile for state anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, and sleep quality: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials and quasi-randomized trials.” Phytotherapy research : PTR vol. 33,6 (2019): 1604-1615. doi:10.1002/ptr.6349
- Viola, H et al. “Apigenin, a component of Matricaria recutita flowers, is a central benzodiazepine receptors-ligand with anxiolytic effects.” Planta medica vol. 61,3 (1995): 213-6. doi:10.1055/s-2006-958058
- Maroo, Niteeka et al. “Efficacy and safety of a polyherbal sedative-hypnotic formulation NSF-3 in primary insomnia in comparison to zolpidem: a randomized controlled trial.” Indian journal of pharmacology vol. 45,1 (2013): 34-9. doi:10.4103/0253-7613.106432
- Kim, Gwang-Ho et al. “Sleep-inducing effect of Passiflora incarnata L. extract by single and repeated oral administration in rodent animals.” Food science & nutrition vol. 8,1 557-566. 19 Dec. 2019, doi:10.1002/fsn3.1341
- Ngan A, Conduit R. A double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation of the effects of Passiflora incarnata (passionflower) herbal tea on subjective sleep quality. Phytother Res 2011; 25: 1153-9.
- Appel, Kurt et al. “Modulation of the γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system by Passiflora incarnata L.” Phytotherapy research : PTR vol. 25,6 (2011): 838-43. doi:10.1002/ptr.3352
- Kim, Mijin et al. “Role Identification of Passiflora Incarnata Linnaeus: A Mini Review.” Journal of menopausal medicine vol. 23,3 (2017): 156-159. doi:10.6118/jmm.2017.23.3.156
- Müller, Christa E., et al. "Interactions of valerian extracts and a fixed valerian–hop extract combination with adenosine receptors." Life Sciences 71.16 (2002): 1939-1949.
- Shinjyo, Noriko et al. “Valerian Root in Treating Sleep Problems and Associated Disorders-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Journal of evidence-based integrative medicine vol. 25 (2020): 2515690X20967323. doi:10.1177/2515690X20967323
- Benke, Dietmar, et al. "GABAA receptors as in vivo substrate for the anxiolytic action of valerenic acid, a major constituent of valerian root extracts." Neuropharmacology 56.1 (2009): 174-181.
- Patočka, Jiří, and Jiří Jakl. "Biomedically relevant chemical constituents of Valeriana officinalis." Journal of applied biomedicine 8.1 (2010): 11-18.
- Dietz, Birgit M., et al. "Valerian extract and valerenic acid are partial agonists of the 5-HT5a receptor in vitro." Molecular Brain Research 138.2 (2005): 191-197.
- Kennedy, DO, Little, W, Haskell, CF. (2006) Anxiolytic effects of a combination of Melissa officinalis and Valeriana officinalis during laboratory induced stress. Phytotherapy Research 20: 96–102.
- Baek, Ji Hyun et al. “Clinical applications of herbal medicines for anxiety and insomnia; targeting patients with bipolar disorder.” The Australian and New Zealand journal of psychiatry vol. 48,8 (2014): 705-15. doi:10.1177/0004867414539198
- Awad, R., et al. "Effects of traditionally used anxiolytic botanicals on enzymes of the γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) system." Canadian journal of physiology and pharmacology 85.9 (2007): 933-942.
- Rebas, Elzbieta et al. “Neuroprotective Polyphenols: A Modulatory Action on Neurotransmitter Pathways.” Current neuropharmacology vol. 18,5 (2020): 431-445. doi:10.2174/1570159X18666200106155127
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