Whatever the cause of insomnia (stress, anxiety, digestive disorders, etc.), plants have always been used to help you sleep better. The famous “evening herbal tea” with Linden or Verbena is still part of these comforting and soothing rituals before going to bed. Nowadays, given the side effects of sleeping pills, plants are the subject of growing interest as an alternative approach, especially since scientific studies have confirmed their benefits. It is also important to know which herbal teas and other drinks to avoid in order to sleep well.

This article was updated on 04/12/2023

What is the benefit of herbal teas in cases of insomnia?

Plants are mentioned in all traditional medicines to treat sleep disorders with research which today confirms their usefulness in cases of insomnia thanks to a better knowledge of their properties and their modes of action:

  • On the central nervous system : sedative, calming, anxiolytic, hypnotic effect to improve falling asleep and the quality of sleep;
  • On stress management : antispasmodic and muscle relaxant effect to limit cramps and promote a state of relaxation of muscle tone and relaxation, conducive to falling asleep;
  • On the digestive system to limit gastric pain and intestinal spasms which often cause sleep disorders.

Nowadays, given the side effects of sleeping pills, plants are the subject of a growing interest as an alternative approach. Among the many plants used for insomnia, we most often cite Valerian (also called “vegetable valium”), Passionflower, Hawthorn or even Eschscholtzia, a cousin of the poppy (just like the Poppy of which we have extracts the famous opium, one of the first sleeping pills)... However, these plants are rarely used in herbal teas but rather in the form of fluid extracts or capsules, notably because of their bad taste or to guarantee their content in active ingredients.

To allow you to fully benefit from their benefits in infusion, other plants have been selected for use, alone or in a mixture. They will be your allies for the “traditional” evening infusion which, with its comforting side, sets the mood for a good night's rest. A ritual not to be missed!

Herbal tea recipe for better sleep

The plants traditionally used in cases of sleep disorders can each be used alone as an infusion but it is interesting to combine them to obtain a ready-to-use mixture, more complete and versatile in cases of insomnia, with a pleasant aroma.

The mixture

In a kraft bag, add:

  • About ten bracts of Linden
  • 2 tablespoons of leaves of Melissa
  • About ten sheets of Fragrant Verbena
    (or a tablespoon ofSweet Woodruff)
  • 2 tablespoons of leaf Marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons of flowers Lavender

The Linden bracts and the Verbena leaves should be cut or crushed before incorporating them into the mixture.
Store the mixture away from light, heat and humidity.
Close the package tightly after each use.

Preparation of the infusion

Pour the equivalent of 1 tablespoon of the mixture per cup of hot water. Cover and let steep for 5 minutes. Filter.

In case of insomnia, drink 1 to 2 cups at the end of the day (after the evening meal and at least ½ hour before bedtime). Limit the quantities to avoid waking up too often in the night to go to the toilet.

In case of stress and associated digestive disorders, drink 2 to 3 cups per day after meals.

Authorized users

YES. Adults, adolescents, children over 12 years old, pregnant women over 3 months and breastfeeding women.
NO. Children under 12 years old.

Special precautions

  • Seek medical advice in the event of anticoagulant treatment, antihypertensive treatment and thyroid disorders.
  • Drink the infusions away from medicinal treatments because the mucilages can modify their absorption.
  • Compliance with the recommended doses is recommended because an overdose can cause side effects.

Why are these plants in the mix?

Linden to help you fall asleep

THE sedative, antispasmodic and anxiolytic properties of the linden bracts make it an essential plant in case of problems falling asleep and nervousness. It is therefore not only for its honey aroma that Linden remains inseparable from “evening herbal tea”.

Furthermore, the interest of Linden is not limited to infusions. Linden bud macerate is also a reference in gemmotherapy with similar indications in cases of insomnia, while having a more profound and global regulatory action on the nervous system.

Lemon balm, tranquilizer and antispasmodic

Lemon balm has been cultivated since Antiquity, both as a honey plant (hence its name) and as a medicinal plant, particularly to chase away sorrow and melancholy. In the 19th century, it was still used in nervous conditions (hysteria, depression). More recently, studies in animals and humans have highlighted the action of the plant both on the central nervous system, but also on smooth muscles and the digestive system, without necessarily being able to do so. explain by the identification of this or that molecule.

The sedative and tranquilizing effect of lemon balm leaves is however comparable to that of benzodiazepines (drugs most prescribed as sleeping pills). Through its sleep-inducing and antispasmodic properties, the interest of Melissa is therefore twofold. It is therefore ideal in cases of sleep disorders associated with cardiac and especially digestive manifestations, anxiety.

Melissa being slightly hypothyroid, it can interfere with the functioning of the thyroid. Medical advice will be necessary in the event of drug treatment.

Verbena or Sweet Woodruff in cases of associated digestive disorders

Close to Melissa in its indications, the fragrant Verbena herbal tea is also traditionally used in cases of nervousness and sleep disorders, especially when they are associated with digestive conditions (bloating, flatulence, painful spasmodic colic). Its leaves contain different active molecules including citrals which are found concentrated in the essential oil. It is in particular the citrals which give it antispasmodic properties, but also its lovely lemony scent.

As for theWoodruff, his antispasmodic and hypnotic properties are conferred by the presence of coumarin, with a sweet scent which develops as the plant dries. It was once appreciated for scenting linen or in the form of an aromatic drink, “May wine”. It is also traditionally recommended in the symptomatic treatment of minor sleep disorders, insomnia in children, digestive disorders such as lack of appetite or gastric spasms.

Lavender and Marjoram for their sedative effect

We especially know the benefits of Lavender in the form of essential oil, but the lavender flowers infusion are also traditionally indicated in nervousness and difficulty falling asleep. When used alone, its taste may not be appreciated, but added to the mixture, Lavender will complement the action of other plants while providing the colorful appearance of its flowers.

Marjoram, like Lavender, is part of the large botanical family Lamiaceae. A 2011 study made it possible to compare its pre-anesthetic, sedative and anxiolytic effects with diazepam, a reference chemical molecule used as a drug. This is certainly a study relating to an extract administered to animals, but it confirms the activity of this plant on the nervous system and the choice of marjoram leaves in this mixture.

Herbal teas and other drinks to avoid in the evening

Even before using plants in herbal teas to promote sleep, it is just as important to know the drinks to avoid in the evening. We know the disruptive effects of alcohol or caffeine, but there are other plants with toning properties, useful in cases of fatigue, which are better to consume in the morning rather than in the evening.

  • Caffeinated stimulant plants. Coffee is known, especially in cases of excessive or late consumption, to disrupt falling asleep, but also the quality and duration of sleep. These effects are attributed to caffeine, a stimulating molecule of the central nervous system. It favors wakefulness and opposes sleep, hence its benefit in cases of fatigue. But caffeine is present in other plants such as Tea (we then speak of theine, but it is in fact the same molecule), the Mate (also consumed in the form of an infusion) or even Guarana. Note that for people who are particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine, coffee, even taken in the morning, may be problematic.

  • Adaptogenic plants. Plants are said to be adaptogenic when they allow the body to adapt to stressful situations by improving physical and mental resistance capacities. They are mainly used in cases of fatigue, exhaustion, concentration problems and in convalescent people. They do not have an exciting effect like caffeine plants, but given their stimulating effect, it is generally advisable to take them in the morning to avoid insomnia. Among these adaptogenic plants, the best known is Ginseng. We also find theEleutherococcus or even Rhodiola.

  • Vitamin C plants? Plants such as Rosehip or Hibiscus are also indicated for combating fatigue given their vitamin C content. Often described as invigorating or energizing, they will not, however, have no disruptive effect on sleep. Indeed, vitamin C helps reduce fatigue, but it is neither exciting nor stimulating like caffeine plants or adaptogenic plants.
    It will therefore be the same for orange juice, but also for Acerola, Camu-Camu, Maqui powders or even Goji berries, all these "superfoods" particularly rich in vitamin C. However, we do not consume them just before going to bed to avoid acid reflux which can be unpleasant when falling asleep and during the night.

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Publication: Rezaie, A., Mousavi, G., Nazeri, M., Jafari, B., Ebadi, A., Ahmadeh, C., & Habibi, E. (2011). Comparative Study of Sedative, Pre-Anesthetic and Anti-Anxiety Effect of Origanum majorana Extract with Diazepam on Rats. Research Journal of Biological Sciences, 6(11), 611-614. https://doi.org/10.3923/rjbsci.2011.611.614

Work : Fleurentin, J., Pelt, JM, & Hayon, JC (2016). Good use of healing plants. Rennes, France: Ouest-France.

Work : Corjon, G. (2018). Heal yourself with plants. Quitin, France: Jean-Paul Gisserot.

Website : WikiPhyto, the encyclopedia of phytotherapy. (n.d.). Accessed November 3, 2022, at http://www.wikiphyto.org/wiki/Accueil

About these tips

This aromatherapy article was written by Théophane de la Charie, author of the book “Treat yourself with essential oils”, accompanied by a multidisciplinary team made up of pharmacists, biochemists and agronomists. 

La Compagnie des Sens and its teams do not encourage self-medication. The information and advice provided comes from a reference bibliographic database (books, scientific publications, etc.). They are given for information purposes, or to suggest avenues for reflection: they should in no case replace a diagnosis, consultation or medical follow-up, and cannot engage the liability of the Compagnie des Sens.