Bedtime Tea: Best Herbs to Grow for Sleep

Getting good sleep is key to a happy life. For some folks, adding a cup of herbal tea to their evening routine can help them have a restful night. Try adding these herbs to your garden this spring to craft your own bedtime teas.

Chamomile

Chamomile has a long history of being used as a sleep aid. The cheery white and yellow flowers contain a compound called apigenin which is believed to promote relaxation and sleep. Chamomile has a distinct apple-like flavor and fragrance.

To make chamomile tea you’ll want to collect the flowers. It’s best to harvest them in the morning just after the dew has dried. Pinch off the stem just below the flowers.

Use your chamomile fresh or dry it for later. Dry the flowers in a dehydrator on low or spread them on a screen somewhere warm and dry. To make tea with dried flowers bring your water to a boil and then steep 2-3 teaspoons for 10 minutes. Use 4 teaspoons if the flowers are fresh.

Skullcap

This Native American herb has been used for centuries to promote sleep, calm the nerves, and treat anxiety and depression. It’s thought that skullcap’s sedative properties come from its ability to stimulate gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that helps calm nerves.

Skullcap is most effective when harvested in flower. Harvest the aerial parts of the plant, leaves, stem, and flowers. Dry in a dehydrator on a low setting or on a screen in a warm dry place.

To make skullcap tea, pour boiling water over 1 tablespoon of dry skullcap and let steep for 10 minutes. Start with one cup a day and increase of needed.

*Pregnant women and those suffering from liver disease should avoid taking skullcap.

Catnip

This member of the mint family isn’t just for felines! Catnip flowers and leaves contain the compound nepetalactone which has a mild sedative effect. It has been used to treat insomnia, anxiety, and headaches.

Like skullcap, it’s best to harvest catnip in flower. Clip the leaves and flowers and dry in a dehydrator on low or on a screen in a warm dry place.

Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of dried catnip and let steep for 10 minutes. Some people enjoy catnip tea best with a touch of lemon and honey.

Lavender

Lavender may be best known for its relaxing smell but it’s also a wonderful herbal tea. It’s commonly used to treat anxiety, stress headaches, depression, and insomnia. Some studies have shown that it boosts the production of dopamine, a hormone that helps you feel good.

To harvest, clip the lavender stems right after they begin to flower. Cut them about 2 inches above the woody base of the plant. Gather small bundles and hang upside down to dry.

You can make tea from fresh or dried lavender. Strip the buds from the stem by running your fingers down it. Boil about 1 cup of water and pour over 2 teaspoons of fresh lavender or 1/2 teaspoon of dry lavender.

Valerian

Some studies have shown valerian to be an effective tranquilizer and calmative. It has been used for centuries to help ease headaches, anxiety, and insomnia. Scientists think it works by increasing the levels of a chemical known as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your body which helps you to relax.

Valerian has tall sprays of small white flowers but it’s actually the roots you want for tea. To keep this perennial growing for years to come you should wait at least 1 year before harvesting. Then, divide the large plants in fall taking half of the roots. Wash the roots thoroughly and chop them into 1/2 to 1-inch pieces. Dry in a dehydrator or on a screen somewhere warm and dry.

To make tea, steep 1 teaspoon of dried roots in about 1 cup of hot water for 10-15 minutes. It’s recommended to drink your tear about 1 hour before bedtime for best results.

*Valerian can interfere with other prescriptions. Consult your doctor.

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort is believed to help with insomnia and depression. Scientists think it works by elevating the levels of the chemical serotonin in the brain. Serotonin helps balance your emotions and boost your mood.

Harvest the flowers and buds of St. John’s Wort when it’s in bloom. Dry them on low in a dehydrator or on a screen in a warm, dry place.

Tea can be made from fresh or dried St. John’s Wort. Steep 3 teaspoons of fresh flowers in about 1 cup of hot water for 4 minutes or steep 2 teaspoons of dried flowers in water for about 10 minutes.

Lemon Balm

A member of the mint family, lemon balm is thought to promote sleep by increasing the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your body, helping you relax. It has been used historically to relieve anxiety and insomnia.

Lemon balm is a hardy perennial that can be harvested for fresh use throughout the growing season. Cut and use the stems, leaves, and/or flowers. Dry lemon balm for later us by cutting stems off about 2/3 of the way down and tying them in bundles. Hang the bundles upside down in a warm, dry place. You can also lay them flat in a dehydrator to speed up the process.

To make tea, steep about 2 teaspoons of dried lemon balm or a loose handful of fresh lemon balm in about 1 cup of hot water for 10 minutes.

**We’re not doctors. Consult a physician before treating any ailment. Always start with a small dose of unfamiliar herbs to make sure you’re not allergic.**

You can find growing information for these herbs under the individual plant listings, just click the link on the plant’s name.

Try growing a few of these herbs this summer and making your own bedtime teas. Many of these herbs are great when blended. Let us know what your favorite tea mix includes!

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