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Phytotherapy: plants to help you sleep

Sleeping problems can have a major impact on quality of life. How these problems are managed varies depending on the type of problem (insomnia, delayed sleep phase, jet lag, etc.) and on its severity and requires an individualised approach which may combine non-medicinal and medicinal approaches.

Plants offer a valuable non-medicinal approach that can help you fall asleep. Some plants have anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) and sedative properties, whereas others may suppress an excessive rise in the stress hormone, cortisol. Other plants relieve somatic symptoms that can affect sleep quality such as muscle contractions or heartburn indigestion.

This article reviews some of the plants which can become an insomniac’s best friend!


Valerian offers anxiolytic and sedative properties. The roots of the plants are used in phytotherapy; making it easier to fall asleep and improving sleep quality.

Valerian has the following properties: 

  • Sedative
  • Relaxant
  • Calming
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Antispasmodic


Eschscholtzia, also known as California poppy, is the ultimate sleep-promoting plant. In phytotherapy, it is primarily the flowering aerial parts of the plant which are used.
Eschscholtzia has the following properties:

  • Sedative
  • Hypnotic
  • Anxiolytic
  • Relaxant
  • Antispasmodic
  • Analgesic


Hawthorn grows throughout Europe and is used to treat sleeping problems due to its impact on heart muscle. The combination of hawthorn and rhodiola is recommended to people with heart palpitations that are disturbing the quality of their sleep. 
The active ingredients responsible for its various properties are found in the plant’s flowers:

  • Hypotensive (lowers blood pressure)
  • Regulation of heart rhythm   
  • Calming, anti-stress 
  • Sedative for the central nervous system

Lemon balm

It is the calming properties of lemon balm which make it attractive for anyone with sleeping problems. The plant helps to reduce the effects of stress and also relieves digestive disorders which may have a somatic cause. The leaves of the plants provide the beneficial properties: 

  • Antispasmodic 
  • Neurosedative 
  • Tranquilliser, calming, relaxant
  • Anti-inflammatory effects on the digestive and bronchial mucous membranes
  • Antiviral, antimicrobial and antiparasitic
lemon balm

Passion flower

Passion flower is an effective sedative and antispasmodic used to treat sleeping problems as well as anxiety and stress. Its properties are obtained from its aerial parts in phytotherapy:

  • Sedative
  • Anxiolytic
  • Tranquilliser
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Muscular antispasmodic
  • Analgesic
  • Cardiac sedative
passion flower


Rhodiola is known for its ability to improve physical and mental performance and to reduce fatigue. It is particularly well suited to people with high anxiety levels, since it allows them to control an excessive rise in levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), the effect of which is to reduce anxiety over the course of the day.


How to use plants to sleep better?

Rhodiola can be combined with another plant to provide bespoke solutions for individual requirements:

use plants to sleep better

Important: ask your doctor for advice about how to optimise your intake of plant-based food supplements for the treatment of sleeping problems.

For more information about the use of phytotherapy to treat sleeping problems, read the article written by Dr Marc Beck.

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