Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., MegaFood Chief Medical Advisor | Sept. 2020
Millions of Americans struggle with getting a restful night’s sleep due to stress. Who can sleep when there’s so much to worry about? Whether your mind starts racing the moment your head hits the pillow, or you wake in the middle of the night consumed by your list of to-dos, stress may be keeping you from getting the rest your body needs to function optimally.
While I can’t make the world a less stressful place, I can offer you guidance regarding natural allies for sleep and stress support. Trusted for centuries before us, my family and I have used the following for years and I have recommended them to countless patients.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
I love to grow valerian in my garden. Standing around five feet tall, her delicate, aromatic, whitish flowers, simply delight. The strong-smelling root is typically harvested in the autumn of the second year, then dried and made into products that help promote restful sleep for those with occasional sleeplessness.* I find this herb to be particularly helpful for those with muscle tension that keeps them awake. While many can feel valerian’s gentle effects almost immediately, the research and my own experience shows that valerian works best when taken for at least 10-14 days.Footnote 1
Hops (Humulus lupulus)
Hops have been highly valued for the brewing and preserving of beer for many years. Interestingly, hops are in the Cannabaceae family, a relative of hemp and marijuana. In addition to beer making, the hop cones, or hops, are used as an aid for restlessness and occasional sleeplessness. It is said that Abraham Lincoln slept on a hops pillow, a very common sleep aid in centuries past. The crushing of the hops likely released aromatic compounds into the air, acting perhaps as aromatherapy. I find hops to be a highly reliable ally when it comes to helping me to fall and stay asleep.*
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
These exquisite flowering vines have long been treasured for their edible fruits and the calmative effects of the herb and flowers. Passionflower helps to ease nervousness, restlessness, and tension. I find passionflower to be particularly good for those who have a hard time saying no, who wear themselves out in service to others, and as a result, feel overwhelmed and exhausted at the end of the day. I think of valerian, hops, and passionflower as the three sisters of ease, calm, and rest.
When I worked with MegaFood on their sleep supplement Herbal Sleep, which includes a blend of time-tested botanicals to help you wake up ready to tackle your day*, we actually included all three of these ingredients, plus my beloved ashwaganda, see below.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
This small semi-woody shrub grows 2-6 feet tall and can be found in the warm climates of India, the Mediterranean, and parts of Africa. Its species name, “somnifera” is Latin for sleep-inducing. Revered in the Ayurveda tradition of India, ashwagandha is considered a rasayana, or plant that strengthens the body and mind, enhancing health and vitality. These types of rejuvenating plants are also referred to as adaptogens and ashwagandha is hands down one of my favorites for supporting resiliency during times of stress. Studies repeatedly show that ashwagandha can help ease tension, promote feelings of wellbeing, and encourage restful sleep.*
Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted primarily by the brain’s pineal gland and cells found in the gastrointestinal tract. It has been widely established that melatonin plays a crucial role in helping the body maintain its 24-hour circadian clock. Supplemental melatonin can help support quality sleep, particularly for those who find it hard to surrender to sleep at their normal bedtime* which is why I love the Megafood melatonin gummies. They’re made with organic wild blueberries and tart cherry, natural sources of phytonutrients that give the gummies their berry color and delicious taste without artificial flavor.*
Magnesium is a cofactor for hundreds of enzymes in our bodies. Magnesium supports the nervous system, helping to promote muscle relaxation and ease tension.* However, surveys show that roughly half of adults in the United States may not be getting enough magnesium through their diet to support nutritional adequacy.Footnote 2 I recommend 200-300 mg per day of magnesium for many of my patients. I feel magnesium is essential which is why I formulated MegaFood’s two new Relax + Calm Magnesium Powders, as well as their new Magnesium Soft Chews. These easy to use powders provide 300 mg per scoop of magnesium citrate, malate, and glycinate. The soft chews provide 250 mg of magnesium citrate and malate and are great for those on the go.
There are eight B vitamins — thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, B6, biotin, and B12. These key nutrients are easily depleted during times of emotional, mental, and physical stress, which is why people often refer to them as “stress” vitamins. B vitamins are central to the Megafood B-UnStressed™ supplement, which also contains soothing and supportive herbs like ashwagandha and chamomile.*
We are living in a uniquely stressful time, and many of us are struggling to process what’s happening around us. Making time for relaxation and laughter, staying connected to loved ones however possible, eating wholesome foods, and getting exercise will all go a long way to enhancing your resiliency. And, if you need some additional support, remember there are many natural aids available to help you.
Learn more about products that can power your immune system. 1 European Union herbal monograph on Valeriana officinalis L. www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Herbal_-_Herbal_monograph/2016/04/WC500205376.pdf2 Tarleton EK. Factors influencing magnesium consumption among adults in the United States. Nutr Rev 2018 July 1; 76(7):526-538.