Dose: Three 1 g tablets of the mushroom taken three times a day. So far, experimental studies indicate that reishi is generally safe to use, although there is little reported data on its long-term use.
Hops (Humulus lupulus) have been used as a sleeping aid for centuries. The volatile oils of the dried fruits have a significant sedative action. Hop tea can be taken to relieve stress during the day or just before bedtime, or the strobiles can be stuffed into a little sleep pillow, where their fragrance will be released whenever you turn your head.
Dose: Use about 1 heaping tsp of whole hops for every cup of boiling water to make a tea. Hops has been shown to be generally safe, although some people have experienced allergic reactions. The German Commission E recommends a daily dose of 1/2 g., which actually is a goodly amount of this herb, which is very light in weight.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is another herb familiar to insomniacs throughout history. Although beneficial in inducing sleep, it can be mildly habit-forming, with stronger doses needed over time. I therefore recommend taking it only for short periods (up to one month) or occasionally when sleep disturbance is serious. A group of chemicals called valepotriates and valerenic acid have been shown to depress the central nervous system. Valerian is also antibacterial and antidiuretic and lowers blood pressure.
Dose:To help you sleep, take a dose of 300 to 400 mg of valerian product standardized to 0.5 percent essential oil about one hour before bedtime. While valerian is generally considered to be safe, to err on the side of caution, pregnant women should avoid it.
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) was used by nineteenth-century medical practitioners to treat a condition that today we call chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia (pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons). Its calming action is mainly due to the component scutellarin, an antispasmodic.
Dose: I generally use this herb in combination with reishi, hops, and valerian or alone as a tincture of 15 to 40 drops two to three times daily. Skullcap leaves can also be used in a herbal sleeping pillow. In Chinese tradition, 1 to 3 tsp of the root for every cup of water are used to make a tea (start with boiling water and let simmer before drinking). There are no known health hazards definitely linked to skullcap.
Passionflower: It is believed that the alkaloids and flavonoids of passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) significantly tranquilize the central nervous system. I find that it gives one a feeling of well-being while reducing spasms and anxiety and aiding sleep.
Dose: Passionflower tinctures and extracts are generally available in health-food stores. For occasional insomnia, I recommend drinking a cup of tea made by pouring a cup of boiling water over 1/2 teaspoon of the dried herb (your local natural food store may carry dried herbs in bulk); steep then sip before going to bed. Passionflower contains alkaloids that can reduce the effects of a class of antidepressants known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors; the German government limits passionflower preparations to a contain of no more than 0.01 percent of these harman alkaloids.
The leaves of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) are often used as a tea, especially with chamomile, to relax the body and induce sleep. Lemon balm also has antiviral, antibacterial, antispasmodic, and antihistaminic properties. Besides taking it as a tea, I use this herb as an ingredient in a sedative formula.