The Forager's Path - School of Botanical Studies

How to Create a Balanced Herbal Sleep Formula

Valeriana arizonica

Valerian is a well known and commonly used plant in western herbalism that has been categorized as a sleep herb. Many people have used it late at night when they are tossing and turning and are disappointed when it doesn’t provide the sleep results they were hoping for. This article provides further information on this plant and some ways to combine it that may provide better results for the sleep deprived.

The common valerian in commerce is Valeriana officinalis. It is native to Europe and has naturalized in wetter areas of North America. It is commonly found in cultivation east of the Mississippi River. The ponderosa forests of northern Arizona have a native valerian, Valeriana arizonica. Therapeutically, it can be used in place Valeriana officinalis.

The energetics of valerian is warm, bitter and dry and it is slightly stimulating to the mind. The chemistry of the plant is physically relaxing. Taking valerian alone can leave a person feeling relaxed and sleepy but not quite able to shut off a busy mind.

Valerian often works better if paired with another plant native to the ponderosa forest: Hops (Humulus americanus or H. lupulus). Hops has a cooling energy with a stronger sedating effect. Taken together in a tincture with equal parts of each, valerian and hops form a more balanced formula than either one used alone.

Herbal Pairs
Hops + Valerian is known as an herbal pair. There are many herbal pairs and triplets in traditional herb systems around the world. These combinations work more effectively than any of the plants do as singles.


Another herbal pair that can be helpful for those chasing sleep is Passionflower + Skullcap. Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is traditionally used to relax the mind and is a premier sleep herb. Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) has some relaxing affect on the mind but is stronger as a muscle relaxant. Taken together in tincture form, this pair is often effective as a sleep formula.

Not surprisingly, taking both herbal pairs together (Passionflower + Skullcap + Valerian + Hops) makes for a very nice balanced formula that many people have found helpful for sleep. Use equal parts of each plant extract in tincture form.

The best way to wind down at the end of a busy day is to take a smaller amount (½ dropper) 60 minutes before bedtime, then another ½ dropper at 30 minutes before bedtime. Finally, a full dropper at bedtime. This gradual slowing and relaxing of the nervous system is better than trying to instantly shift an overactive mind into sleep mode.


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