Tag Archive for Insomnia

HERBS TO LIVE BY… Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm. The herb of many talents. This is one of the few herbs known as a veritable ‘medicine chest’. It’s actions are many. It’s mild, yet potent, acting almost like an herbal blend all by itself. However, in a herbal blend it has a reputation of being a powerful potentiator for the other herbs. Lemon Balm is definitely a “must have” herb for every apothecary.

COMMON NAME: Lemon Balm, Sweet Balm, Honey Balm, Bee Balm, Balm

LATIN NAME: Melissa officinalis

FAMILY: Lamiaceae (Mint)

PLANT PARTS USED: Leaf, Essential Oil

ENERGETICS: Warming (Ayurveda) or Cooling (TCM & Western Herbalism); Moistening

TASTE: Sour, “Lemon-y”, Aromatic

ACTIONS: Anti-depressant, Anti-spasmodic, Anti-viral, Carminative, Cholegogue, Diaphoretic, Emmenogogue (mild), Hepatic, Hypnotic, , Memory/Cognition Enhancer, Nervine, Sedative, Spasmolytic, Trophorestorative, Beneficial cardiovascular effects: Antiarrhythmogenic, Hypotensive, Infarct Size-Reducing, Negative Chronotropic & Dromotropic, Sedative Stimulation of Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthesis, Styptic, Vasorelaxant, Vulnerary

SYMPTOMS:
Internal Use Anxiety, Cold, Colic, Depression, Digestion (poor), Excitability, Fever, Flu, Gas/bloating, Graves Disease, Headache, Heart Palpitations, Herpes Viruses, Hyperactivity, Hypertension, Hyperthyroidism, Memory and Cognition Booster (in low to moderate doses only), Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Insomnia, Delayed Menstruation, Nausea, Restlessness, Stomach Cramps, Teething, Urinary Infections, Viral Infection

The juice of balm glueth together greene wounds.

John Gerard, English Herbalist

Topical Use Apply the leaves to skin diseases and wounds, including chicken pox eruptions, psoriasis, eczema and venomous stings.

It is now recognized as a scientific fact that the balsamic oils of aromatic plants make excellent surgical dressings: they give off ozone and thus exercise anti-putrescent effects. Being chemical hydrocarbons , they contain so little oxygen that in wounds dressed with the fixed balsamic herbal oils, the atomic germs of disease are starved out, and the resinous part of these balsamic oils, as they dry upon the sore or wound, seal it up and effectually exclude all noxious air.

Mrs. M. Grieve

ABOUT: Lemon Balm is a herbaceous perennial plant in the mint family. When it flowers it is an attractant for bees, hence the name “bee balm”. Originally, it comes from Greece and was spread by the Romans in their travels. It is most commonly considered a native of Europe, central Asia, and Iran.

Lemon balm… “Caus(es) the mind and heart to become merry.”

~ Nicolas Culpepper, British Botanist, Herbalist & Physician (1616-1654)

Clinical trials have revealed some of the positive effects of Lemon Balm due to its ability to stimulate the neurotransmitter acetylcholine receptors. This affects mood, memory, sleep and cognition. It also stimulates GABA A receptors which have significant physiological and therapeutic implications due to Lemon balm’s ability to inhibit certain responses in the Central Nervous System and throughout the body. GABA’s ability to attach to these receptors plays a significant role in modulating anxiety, fear and stress.

Lemon Balm has traditionally been known to relieve heart palpitations, this has also been demonstrated clinically in humans. It appears that its polyphenols have antioxidant properties and the ability to scavenge free radicals. It ameliorates oxidative stress, has anti-inflammatory effects, activates M2 and antagonism of β1 receptors in the heart, is able to block voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels, stimulates endothelial nitric oxide synthesis, prevents fibrotic changes, and more.1

There are herbalists who assert that Lemon Balm has the ability to normalize thyroid hormones. Scientific studies generally look at Lemon Balm’s ability to normalize hyperthyroid conditions such as Grave’s Disease but do not generally consider its balancing properties for the underactive thyroid.

DOSE:
Oral = Tincture 2-6 dropperfuls 3x per day
Infusion (dried or fresh)= 2-3 TSPS herb per Cup 2-3 times per day

CONTRAINDICATIONS: Using Lemon Balm as a whole herb carries no significant contraindications. However, as is it a known potentiator when used with herbs it would be wise to use it apart from pharmaceuticals as well. Additionally, its sedative properties should be considered when driving or operating heavy machinery – especially at the higher dosages. It is considered safe when used in moderation during pregnancy.

FOOD ENHANCEMENT: Beverages, add a few leaves to salad, soups, sauces, marinades, etc.

Sources:

Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine by David Hoffman

A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve F.R.H.S

HERBS TO LIVE BY… Oatstraw & Milky Oats

COMMON NAME: Oatstraw; Milky Oats, Oats Flowering Tops; Oats

LATIN NAME: Avena sativa

FAMILY: Poaceae

PLANT PART USED: Stems (Oatstraw) & Premature Seeds (Milky Oats)

ENERGETICS: Neutral to cooling, moistening

TASTE: Sweet

PRIMARY ACTIONS: Antidepressant, Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory (topically as colloidal oatmeal), Anti-insomnia, Antispasmodic, Anxiolytic, Cardiotonic, Capillary-Strengthening, Diuretic, Galactagogue, Hypolipidemic, Nervine Tonic, Nutritive, Vasodilator, Vulnerary (Demulcent & Emollient)­

CONTRAINDICATIONS: Many herbal professionals would agree there are no problems with using oatstraw or milky oats, In theory, caution should be exercised with those who are celiac or have a recognized gluten sensitivity. While oats do not contain gluten, those with Celiac disease or gluten allergies must take care to verify the oats they select are not cross-contaminated in a facility that processes other gluten-containing grains.

Milky Oats

ABOUT: ‘Milky oats’ are the premature oat that has not yet formed a seed. When harvested at the right time the premature green seed head can be squeezed and a sticky whitish “milk” will be released.

The ‘oat straw’ is the grassy stalk of the plant that should be harvested while the oats are in the milky oats stage.

As food, oats are the seed of the mature plant that is harvested for food commonly called oatmeal or baked and added to granola or muesli. Oatmeal is a calcium channel blocker that helps to lower blood pressure. When soaked and strained the oat ‘milk’ can be consumed as a beverage or medicinally added to bath water to soothe skin conditions or applied topically to soothe skin conditions including contact dermatitis, dryness, itching, rashes, eczema (weeping), and burns.

The most common herbal remedies are those made of the oatstraw infusion and of the milky oats tincture. Though they appear simple, one should not underestimate their healing potential. Oatstraw or milky oats should be considered remedies for most anyone at any time throughout life.

Oat Straw with Milky Oats

Oatstraw can help brighten one’s mood and lift depression by inhibiting the ability of monoamine oxide-B to break down a neurotransmitter called dopamine important for mood regulation. Oatstraw also keeps phosphodiesterase-4 from causing inflammation often connected to anxiety and depression. Additionally, oatstraw increases focus through vasodilation, therefore, it may be beneficial for those with ADHD.

Oatstraw infusion is supportive of those suffering from bed-wetting, boils, flu, coughs, bladder issues, joint pain and rheumatic complaints, exhaustion, frostbite, gall bladder issues, gout, heart and/or liver issues, impetigo, lung weakness, nervous conditions, sexual debility, etc.

Ayurvedic practitioners have used a decoction of Avena sativa as an elixir for opium addiction and noticed that certain people also have found it supportive for smoking cessation.1 While this may be controversial, it is not surprising that addictions stemming from anxiety may be helped by this gentle, yet powerful nervous system trophorestorative.

To make an oatstraw infusion, place 1/4 cup of chopped organic oatstraw into a mason jar. Fill the jar with steaming hot/boiling water and cover. To extract all the minerals, allow the infusion to set overnight for a minimum of 8 hours. Then strain and drink. Keep refrigerated for up to three days. An adult may consume one cup up to three times per day.

Oatstraw tea is even safe for infants (in small doses), children, women who are pregnant or menopausal, the elderly, the convalescing and in just about every life-stage and condition of health.

The milky oats of the oat plant are made into a tincture. It must be done at the premature milky stage of the oat seed. The best tinctures are made using a very high-percentage alcohol solvent as this is necessary to extract the milky white latex exudate from the immature seed.

Milky oats is a traditional remedy used to support and restore the nervous system. especially after long periods of prolonged stress The tincture would likely be faster-acting and more appropriate in an acute situation. Old-time practitioners used milky oats tincture to promote healthy heart and nerve function as well as to encourage healthy sleep patterns, An adult dose of milky oats tincture ranges from 20-40 drops 3 or more times per day.

Sleep Much? (Part II)

Welcome back! In “Sleep Much (Part I)” we learned that many of our ancestors slept in a biphasic manner consisting of two sleep periods each evening with a quiet awake time in between, especially during the winter season. Some cultures that sleep in a biphasic fashion take a siesta or mid afternoon nap, especially in the hot summertime mid-afternoons. Young children, the elderly, and some by personal preference may take a short nap in the afternoon. It is interesting to note that there remains a billion people in the earth who still practice biphasic sleep.

Myth or Not?

Are humans fundamentally different from all the other animals because our sleep has been consolidated into one continuous nocturnal session?  If one considers how other mammals such as dogs, cats, chimpanzees, horses, etc., sleep (which are actually poly-phasic in their sleeping patterns), man may not be so unique after all. In the annals of history well-known people such as Nikola Tesla, Leonardo DaVinci, Salvador Dali, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Winston Churchill have been recorded as having practiced polyphasic sleep.

The industrial revolution of the the late 18th and the late 19th centuries caused biphasic sleeping to lose popularity. Natural gas-powered street lamps increased in prevalence, especially in the cities. The first homes “wired” for artificial light were actually “plumbed” with gas pipes to gas-powered lanterns. Electricity was soon discovered, the modern light bulb was invented …and the artificial light pierced the darkness. » Read more