“I have 5 years of anxiety about not being able to sleep to overcome,” began a query I received a month ago. “Once triggered, it is difficult to stop this downward spiral and sleep.”
Without a doubt, anxiety about sleep is one of the hardest aspects of insomnia to beat. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia can help to reduce sleep-related anxiety, as can other adjunctive therapies. But here’s an alternative treatment that might lead to calmer nights: plant-based medicines found to be effective for anxiety.
Might Ayurvedic medicine—traditional medicine practiced in India for 3,000 years—offer an effective treatment for insomnia?
If you’re looking for an alternative treatment vetted by scientists in controlled clinical trials, the answer is no. But an Indian herb called ashwagandha is receiving attention as a substance that might help people with several health conditions, including chronic stress, anxiety, and memory loss. It’s also being studied as a possible sleep aid. Here’s more about it.
First, the good news: a small body of research suggests that tart cherry juice holds promise as an alternative treatment for insomnia, especially in older adults.
Now for the bad news: tart cherry juice, already pricey, is set to become pricier still as growers weigh whether to give up on cherries and plant apple trees instead. Here’s more on the benefits of tart cherry juice for sleep and why it may soon become scarce.
Kava (Piper methysticum) holds promise as an alternative treatment for anxiety and insomnia. But I’ve refrained from blogging about kava and kava supplements due to concerns about liver toxicity.
Now a comprehensive review funded by the National Science Foundation and published in the journal Fitoterapia has eased those concerns. I can write about kava, native to Hawaii and other Pacific islands, as I would any other medicinal plant, summarizing benefits and risks.