Herbs for sleep: the best natural sleep aids


I grew up on a small, organic family farm and after a gap year spent working on an American ranch, I started studying agricultural science. Soil, organic farming practices, and plant science are what I am most drawn to. At home, when I'm not in our garden, you can find me in the kitchen, cooking and baking with our harvested fruits and vegetables.

Favorite fruit: Even if a bit boring - apples
Favorite vegetables: Bell peppers, red beets, zucchini, white cabbage

The plant world has a lot to offer – there are even herbs that can help you sleep! Read on to find out about the wonderful world of natural sleep aids.

various herbs for sleep
You can make your own sleep teas from many herbs that can also be found in the garden [Photo: teatian/ Shutterstock.com]

Nowadays, many people struggle with persistent sleep problems. Natural sleep aids, sourced from plants in your own garden, might just be the solution!

However, understanding which herbs best promote a good night’s sleep, and correcty preparing them, can be difficult. Here, we have compiled a comprehensive list of the best herbs for sleep, with information on how to use each of them properly.

Of course, sleep problems have many causes and are influenced by many factors. Relying on herbs alone can be inappropriate. If your sleep problems are chronic, seek medical assistance.

Valerian for sleep

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is one of the best-known natural sleep aids. Despite its bold, colourful flowers, it is the valerian‘s root that contains effective, calming oils and active substances. Valerian is relatively easy to grow and an effective sleep aid, just remember to harvest the root in its second year, not its first. 

To make valerian herbal tea at home, grate dried valerian roots into a pot, and pour in some hot water. It will take a while for the roots‘ active ingredients to diffuse into the water, so if you can, leave the roots to soak for 12 hours. Then, warm the water, remove the root pieces and drink away!

flowering valerian
Flowering valerian is beautiful, but its root is what makes it a useful sleep aide [Photo: Snufkin_79/ Shutterstock.com]

Hops for sleep

Hops (Humulus lupulus) are a well-known ingredient in beer. However, the perennials are much more versatile than they might appear! Not only are hop vines a beautiful addition to any garden, but their flowers are a calming sleep aid.

To make hop tea, grind up a teaspoon of hop cones, place the grind into a tea filter, and put the tea filter into a cup of hot water. Infuse the hops for 10 to 15 minutes, and enjoy. To soften the very bitter taste of hops, mix in natural sweeteners, like lemon balm. 

When growing hops, choose a sunny location, and water and fertilise the plants regularly. Plant-based fertilisers, like our Plantura All Purpose Plant Food, are ideal for this. If they grow well, your hops should be ready for harvest from the end of August. 

Tip: Dry your harvest to significantly extend its shelf life.

hope vine
Hops can naturally help with sleep [Photo: Vaclav Mach/ Shutterstock.com]

St. John’s wort for sleep

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a well-known medicinal plant that is native to Central Europe. Because it is undemanding and easy to care for, St. John’s wort is perfect for the garden, and, as a sleeping aid, works best in tea. 

To brew St. John’s wort, harvest the parts of the plant that are above ground from June. Clean the herb and pour a cup of hot water over a handful of it. Let the herb steep for about 10 minutes, strain, and enjoy! 

Tip: With its yellow flowers, St. John’s wort is also a delightful ornamental, and a magnet for beneficial insects!

cup of St. Johns wort tea
St. John’s wort flowers are good for making a night time tea [Photo: Mike_O/ Shutterstock.com]

Warning: St. John’s wort is readily found in nature. However, do not touch the wild plants: they look similar to common, poisonous ragwort, which has recently spread throughout the UK. 

Chamomile for sleep

Known to alleviate stomach pain, chamomile‘s (Matricaria chamomilla) healing properties have been touted for centuries. However, the herb is also an effective sleep aid. Because the body absorbs chamomile’s essential oils best when they are infused in hot water, chamomile is perfect as a sleep-inducing tea. 

To make chamomile tea, you will need dry chamomile blossom, which keeps for up to a year. Pour hot water over two to three teaspoons of the dried flowers and let them steep for about 10 minutes.

chamomile flowers
One of the best-known calming herbs for falling asleep is chamomile [Photo: Bjoern Wylezich/ Shutterstock.com]

Lavender for sleep

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a popular ornamental plant, and, thanks to its essential oils, like linalool, a great herb for sleep. Unfortunately, lavender’s effect on sleep quality has not yet been proven. However, because it is calming, the herb can help with stress or anxiety-induced sleep disorders. 

To help you sleep, a lavender pillow is a wonderful option, as is lavender tea. Dried lavender flowers can be harvested between June and August and used in a pillow, or in tea. To make the tea, place two heaped teaspoons of lavender in a tea strainer, pour hot water over them and let them steep for 8 to 10 minutes.

Tip: Lavender can be grown at home in a pot. In nature, lavender prefers a sunny location with well-drained and shallow soil. Our Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost is perfect for potted lavender.

lavender bush
Lavender flowers can be used to make a bedtime tea and scented pillows [Photo: Studio Barcelona/ Shutterstock.com]

Lemon balm for sleep

As a medicinal herb, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) has long been used to help sleep. Lemon balm tea is anxiety-relieving, relaxing and relieves cramp. The tea improves sleep quality and shortens the time it takes to fall asleep. To brew lemon balm tea, steep fresh or dried lemon balm leaves with hot water for a few minutes. Half an hour before going to bed, drink the tea for a good night’s rest.

lemon balm leaves
Lemon balm can easily be grown in the garden and used to brew teas [Photo: Katarzyna Mazurowska/ Shutterstock.com]

Tip: Many herbs that aid sleep are best consumed together. For example, an evening tea made from lemon balm, valerian, and hops is a perfect sleepy cocktail.

Passion flower for sleep

Originally from the tropics, passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) is well known in the Americas. This vibrant, medicinal plant has recently made a leap over the Atlantic. However, it is now cultivated in European gardens, at least in the summer. Some natural properties of the passion flower have a direct effect on the body’s nervous system – the flower tends to be sedative, which makes it a wonderful herb for sleep. 

Importantly, many passion flower species are only ornamental. To cultivate your own, medicinal passion flower, look for Passioflora incarnata flowers specifically. When the blossoms of this species are dried, they can be made into sleep-inducing tea. 

For one cup of passion flower tea, crush one to two teaspoons of dried passion flower blossom, pour in some hot water, and steep for about 10 minutes.

passion flower bloom
Passion flowers have more to offer than just beautiful blossoms [Photo: Nathan Holland/ Shutterstock.com]

Yarrow for sleep

Yarrow (Achillea) is not a well-known herb for sleep. Nevertheless, it is used, especially in gynaecology, for sleep complaints. The herb relieves menstrual pain, amongst other things, and can be made into a soothing tea. 

To make yerrow tea, harvest and dry the flowers and upper parts of the herb, chop as needed, place in hot water and steep for about 10 minutes. One teaspoon of chopped yarrow is enough for 200 ml of water.

flowering yarrow
Yarrow is mainly used in gynaecology for menstrual pain and sleep problems [Photo: Yavdat/ Shutterstock.com]

Sweet clover for sleep

Sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis) owes its sleep benefits to coumarins, which are organic chemical compounds found in the herb. Dried sweet clover can be made into a bedtime tea or into a soothing herbal pillow. 

To make sweet clover tea, pour 200 ml of water over one to two teaspoons of clover, and steep for 5-10 minutes. The herb also flowers beautifully, and is a particularly effective bee-friendly plant.

Warning: Do not drink too much sweet clover tea. Coumarin is toxic in large quantities.

sweet clover plant
Sweet clover can be used fresh or dried for herbal teas to help you sleep [Photo: Alex Egorov/ Shutterstock.com]

Fennel seeds for sleep

Fennel seeds (Foeniculum vulgare) are calming and aid digestion. If stomach pains are preventing you from sleeping, fennel might be for you! If you are looking to grow fennel plants yourself, do choose a suitable variety. Spicy fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce), for example, is a good choice. It does not form a bulb and was bred for seed production. 

To make fennel tea, one teaspoon of fennel seeds is enough for 200ml of water. Put the fennel seeds in a tea strainer or filter and pour hot water over the seeds. After steeping the seeds for six to eight minutes, sit back, and enjoy.

fennel flower
Spicy fennel is perfect for soothing sleep teas [Photo: shihina/ Shutterstock.com]

Hemp for sleep

Hemp (cannabis sativa) tea is also said to help with sleep. However, hemp cultivation is generally prohibited – only farmers are allowed to grow hemp under strict conditions – so do be careful. Fortunately, you can buy hemp leaves directly, and use them to make tea. Do remember, though, that many ingredients in hemp are poorly soluble in water, so it is best to add something fatty, like milk, to your hemp tea.

hemp flowers
The effect of hemp tea on sleep can be positive, but be careful not grow it yourself [Photo: shamiss/ Shutterstock.com]

Warning: Excessive consumption of some of these herbs can lead to side effects, including headaches and nausea. Inform yourself before taking them. If you are unsure, discuss it with a doctor.

Read on to find out more about harvesting herbs!