Valerian and Lemon Balm: Restorative Sleep Without Grogginess
October 4, 2001
The herbs valerian and lemon balm together form an integral part of the treatment protocol of Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., author of the bestselling CFS book, From Fatigued to Fantastic. In his book he discusses lemon balm's ability to promote healthy sleep; his own studies showed that valerian and lemon balm in CFS patients helps induce deep sleep.
Not only does he recommend these herbs to nutritionally support sleep, he finds they decrease the amount of prescription sleep medications that a patient needs. Even when, and if, prescription sleep aids are no longer necessary, he reports that some of his patients rely only on valerian and lemon balm to ensure a good night's sleep.
In addition to its sleep-enhancing benefits, Dr. Teitelbaum recommends valerian for its adaptogenic properties, meaning it adapts to what the body needs. He writes, “Valerian is a mild sleep aid that has the interesting effect of calming people when they are anxious while at the same time acting as a stimulant when people are fatigued.” One study using Valerian for anxiety found that 100mg three times per day was more effective than placebo.
Slip into Slumber
Dr. Teitelbaum is not the only one who has found the benefits of herbal remedies for sleep. Countless studies, in this country and in Europe confirm the effectiveness of Valerian for enhancing sleep quality. Equally important, there have been no major side-effects associated with the use of Valerian, unlike the use of barbiturates or even over-the-counter sleep aids.
In one study, the effectiveness of valerian and lemon balm was tested against Halcion, a prescription sleep medication. Study participants were monitored for nine nights and study results found that the Valerian/Lemon Balm combo matched the prescription counterpart in ability to induce sleep and in quality of sleep. The big difference was felt the next day: those taking the prescription reported feeling “hungover” and had trouble concentrating, while those taking the herbal remedy reported no next-day side effects.
In another study, sleep scores improved dramatically for those taking Valerian, the biggest improvements seen in those who considered themselves poor or irregular sleepers. The study also looked at young, healthy sleepers who took valerian, and the results showed they experienced an easier and quicker descent into sleep.
You've probably heard of, or even taken valerian, but what makes lemon balm such an important addition? Lemon balm has been used for centuries to nutritionally promote sleep and ease anxiety. The herb also has other properties of specific interest to those with CFS and FM, including nutritional support of the nervous system and digestive systems. The addition of lemon balm to a base of valerian makes a versatile combination; one that can be taken at night for sleep and in lighter doses during the day for relaxation and mood and easing muscle spasms.
Just as important as restful sleep is restful rest - the time spent during the day that allows your body to rejuvenate and recuperate. For many, rest time is spent feeling nervous, anxious, or restless - anything but restorative. Valerian and lemon balm is safe enough to take during the day, without feeling drowsy or unable to function. It simply ensures that the time spent in rest, a vital component of healing, allows the body to do just that - rest.
Another common daytime use for valerian and lemon balm is to soften feelings of anxiety. Dr. Andrew Weil recommends lower doses of valerian for “daytime calming.”
In a study published in the Quarterly Review of Natural Medicine, the combination of valerian and lemon balm was found to be a “safe and effective way to reduce general anxiety or to withdraw from anti-anxiety medications.”
Is it safe?
The safety of valerian and lemon balm is its hallmark. In study after study it has found to exert powerful relief for a variety of ailments, without negative effects. One study published in a German medical journal found that no participants suffered from “residual hangover” after taking valerian. In fact, most participants felt more active and alert the next day. It's powerful, not overpowering. HW
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