View Full Version : Herbal products for insomnia/holiday blues

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Ice Queen
12-15-2010, 05:01 PM
I'd like to know if anyone has had luck with these for their insomnia? If so, which ones do you recommend?

I have been on a prescribed sleeping pill (Trazodone) also used for depression for 8 yrs. My insomnia began when I lost my Dad to colon cancer. He suffered a massive heart attack on New years eve, right before my eyes. Dad and I were extremely close and skated together for many years. The holidays season is a difficult one for me. Just the sights and sounds of Christmas make me sad. I took anti-depressants for a few yrs., but the side effects were too much. And trust me, I've tried them all.

The trazodone still works, but is not as effective as it used to be. Add to that I am close to menopause, so my hormones are causing more insomnia. I've tried other sleeping pills, they helped with sleep, but I couldn't handle the side effects. I also know they shouldn't be used long term.

I've used herbal products for other health issues, and have had success. So would like to get some suggestions from others who suffer with insomnia. Thank you in advance.

my little pony
12-15-2010, 05:06 PM
sometimes when I change time zones I use melatonin as a sleep aid

12-15-2010, 05:46 PM
I too use melatonin, and it's the most common "herbal" treatment for insomnia. Melatonin is naturally produced by your body as a pre-sleep hormone, so for many it works well with no side effects.

However, even "herbal" or "natural" supplements can have side-effects and conflicts with other medications. You should see your doctor regardless if your current drug regime is not working for you, but especially if you're considering adding a new drug, no matter how benign it might seem. Internet recommendations are no substitute for a consultation with a qualified practitioner who knows your medical history.

I'm very sorry for your troubles, and best of luck.

12-15-2010, 06:20 PM
I take 5HTP (a form of tryptophan) for insomnia and low moods. But I have to stick to a low dosage -- 50 mg -- or else I have nightmares!

12-15-2010, 06:48 PM
Valerian root works well for me, though there are warnings of liver damage and you have to be careful about what you mix it with.

I can feel your pain, lost my mom to cancer, always had insomnia, now it's even worse. And the holidays don't help!

12-15-2010, 09:14 PM
It's easy to get insomnia as one ages, and then if you add that to holidays, times of crisis, etc., it' hopeless to sleep. When I was helping to take care of someone close who was dying of cancer, I found it useful to exercise to the point of oblivion. Good part is you don't become emotionally dependent on a pill--herbal or not--and your body gets in shape. And if it's the holidays, go spend some time volunteering to keep your mind off stuff.

12-15-2010, 10:22 PM
There are some OTC products available in the pharmacy department; can't think of the names off hand. The natural ones are next to the pharma sleeping aids.

12-15-2010, 10:42 PM
I've been using melatonin for over a year now, and it's really helped me with the quality of my sleep. It also helps me feel more drowsy if I have to get to bed early.

12-15-2010, 11:25 PM
Melatonin works for many people, though it personally has no effect on me. What other sleep medications have you tried?

I hope you feel better and are able to sleep better.

12-15-2010, 11:38 PM
Several minerals are also important for the quality of your sleep. Taken from this site Acu-cell (http://www.acu-cell.com/dis2.html), I like to use it as reference and I've found that it has helped me understand what to correct in my diet to achieve a better quality of sleep, lower anxiety, etc...

Insomnia: Low calcium level or ratio, high/low magnesium, high/low potassium, high/low copper, high zinc,
high phosphorus, high sodium, high iodine, high/low Vitamin E, high/low Vit B6, high Vit B1, high Vit B12, low
Vit B2, low Vit B5, low CoQ10, high/low stomach acid, [opt. 5-HTP, melatonin, l-tyrosine, l-theanine, GABA].

Magnesium worked for me because I needed it, at some point it was no longer magnesium but calcium, it varies from person to person so no answer fits all, if you are afraid of interactions look for a good practitioner.

Good luck.

12-15-2010, 11:44 PM
(((Ice Queen))) I'm sorry to hear about your insomnia problems. They're a pain to deal with any time of year, but it can be especially difficult when specific events or certain times of the year can exacerbate it.

I definitely understand what you're going through. The December holiday season is always a difficult time for me as well. My father and I were extremely close, and in May of 1998, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Although he fought it with as much medical treatment as possible, we knew his situation was terminal. He started going downhill in December of that year (he died in January '99), and as his health deteriorated, my depression worsened. In addition to the anti-depressant my doctor prescribed (which did nothing to help with the insomnia), he put me on Trazodone as a sleep aid.

I wound up taking Trazodone for 6 years as it helped my Fibromyalgia. Over the years, though, we had to up the dose from time to time as it lost its effectiveness (like you're experiencing). It finally quit working altogether as a sleep aid, and my doctor switched me to a prescription sleep aid that I take when my insomnia is bad.

I'm almost into my mid-forties and am also starting to experience the effects of peri-menopause, which has made my insomnia more frequent (along with some of the oh-so-lovely other side effects like night sweats and hot flashes). Since I don't take the Rx sleep medication every night, my physician recommended adding melatonin as a daily (nightly) supplement. He said that as the body ages, it produces less melatonin, so adding one tablet nightly to my daily vitamin regimen should help maintain optimal melatonin levels in my body. I was expecting it to start working immediately, but I found out that it takes about two to three weeks for it to reach optimum effects.

A lot of people I know use Valerian extract (drops) or capsules, and they swear by them, but when I tried it, it didn't seem to work at all. The main thing I did notice (actually there was no way not to notice it), valerian absolutely reeks - something akin to nasty, smelly feet :scream: .

I've never tried taking a Tryptophan supplement, so I have no idea if it works or not. My only real experience with it has been Thanksgiving, since cooked turkey is loaded with it :lol: . IIRC, milk has tryptophan in it, but it doesn't "activate" unless the milk is heated, which I find :yikes: unless it's in hot chocolate.

Most of the OTC sleep aids contain diphenhydramine, which is an antihistamine and is the "sleep aid" found in Tylenol/Advil PM, Nytol, Unisom, Sominex, etc. One might as well just take a couple of Benadryl as opposed to those OTC sleep aids as they're essentially the same thing. It works well for most people, but it has a drying effect on mucous membranes. Whenever I've taken it, I would always wake up about 5 hours later unable to breathe out of my nose and a dry throat from breathing through my mouth. Also, they tend to disrupt the deep, restorative sleep that one needs to wake feeling refreshed. I found out (as well as others I know who have taken them), that if you take them every night for a while, when you stop taking them, it can cause nightmares the first few nights without it.

Do you drink caffeinated beverages on a regular basis? I'm stating the obvious here, but the effects of caffeine can stay in the body for long periods of time, depending on one's metabolism. I'm extremely sensitive to caffeine (one Coca-cola or any soft drink with caffeine wires me to the hilt), and if I have any past 10 in the morning, it can affect my sleep schedule. I finally eliminated caffeine from my diet altogether, and while I do still have bouts of insomnia, they became less severe and frequent once I cut caffeine out of my diet.

Good luck - I'm sending you peaceful, healing vibes and hoping you can get some healthy, restorative sleep.

12-16-2010, 02:32 AM
The only one that has ever worked for me is this one.


I make sure that I have at least a 2 month supply on hand. I would hate to run out.

12-16-2010, 03:30 AM
Camomile and Valerian are the only 2 that come to mind for me. I would talk to the doc about it though. My dad swears by St John's Wart but I don't know much about that...

12-16-2010, 03:51 AM
As noted above, I totally quit caffeine to try and help - not that I was a "user," but I did used to do two K-cups per day of the high test. I actually quit because of stomach problems, not insomnia, but it's all tied in. I also think if you're Type A that this is going to be a lifelong probem. Calming down is very difficult for us Type A's.

12-16-2010, 07:35 AM
I take 5HTP (a form of tryptophan) for insomnia and low moods. But I have to stick to a low dosage -- 50 mg -- or else I have nightmares!

I take 600 mgs of 5HTP at present, the maximum daily dose. I'm a chronic insomniac and have always had a high tolerance for any drug, natural or pharmaceutical. The 5 HTP doesn't put knock me out but I find it much easier to cope with not getting a whole lot of sleep. The dreams are indeed vivid, though.

And Ice Queen, you might ask your doctor for Immovane/Zopoclone. It is a sleeping pill that mimics a benzodiazapene but is not a benzodiazapene (i.e. Valium). Not a long term solution, but can help if you have some really rough nights.