For centuries, they have been used around the world as natural sleep remedies.
Modern research also backs herbal teas’ ability to aid sleep.
For years, chamomile tea has been used as a natural remedy to reduce inflammation and anxiety and treat insomnia.
In fact, chamomile is commonly regarded as a mild tranquilizer or sleep inducer.
Its calming effects may be attributed to an antioxidant called apigenin, which is found in abundance in chamomile tea. Apigenin binds to specific receptors in your brain that may decrease anxiety and initiate sleep.
2. Valerian root
Valerian is an herb that has been used for centuries to treat problems like insomnia, nervousness, and headaches.
Historically, it was used in England during World War II to relieve stress and anxiety caused by air raids .
Today, valerian is one of the most popular herbal sleep aids in Europe and the United States.
It’s available as a dietary supplement in capsule or liquid form. Valerian root is also commonly dried and sold as tea.
Researchers are not entirely sure how valerian root works to improve sleep.
However, one theory is that it increases levels of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
When GABA is present in abundant levels, it can increase sleepiness. In fact, this the way in which certain anti-anxiety medications like Xanax function .
Drinking valerian root tea may help improve sleep quality without adverse side effects, but many health professionals consider the evidence inconclusive.
Lavender is an herb often touted for its aromatic and soothing scent.
In ancient times, Greeks and Romans would often add lavender to their drawn baths and breathe in the calming fragrance.
Lavender tea is made from the small purple buds of the flowering plant.
Originally native to the Mediterranean region, it’s now grown worldwide .
Many people drink lavender tea to relax, settle their nerves, and aid sleep.
In fact, there is research to support these purported benefits.
Although there is limited evidence that lavender improves sleep quality, its relaxing aroma might help you unwind, making it easier for you to fall asleep.
4. Lemon balm
Lemon balm belongs to the mint family and is found all over the world.
While frequently sold in extract form for use in aromatherapy, lemon balm leaves are also dried to make tea.
This citrus-scented, aromatic herb has been used for reducing stress and improving sleep since the Middle Ages.
Evidence shows that lemon balm increases GABA levels in mice, indicating that lemon balm may act as a sedative.
Passionflower tea is made from the dried leaves, flowers, and stems of the Passiflora plant.
Traditionally, it has been used to alleviate anxiety and improve sleep.
More recently, studies have examined the ability of passionflower tea to improve insomnia and sleep quality.
Results showed that the passionflower combination was as effective as Ambien at improving sleep quality. Also, passionflower in conjunction with valerian root and hops may reduce symptoms of insomnia.
6. Magnolia bark
Magnolia is a flowering plant that has been around for over 100 million years.
Magnolia tea is made mostly from the bark of the plant but also consists of some dried buds and stems.
Traditionally, magnolia was used in Chinese medicine to alleviate various symptoms, including abdominal discomfort, nasal congestion, and stress.
It’s now regarded worldwide for its anti-anxiety and sedative effects.
Its sedative effect is likely attributed to the compound honokiol, which is found in abundance in the stems, flowers, and bark of the magnolia plant.
Honokiol is said to work by modifying GABA receptors in your brain, which may increase sleepiness.
The bottom line
Many herbal teas, including chamomile, valerian root, and lavender, are marketed as sleep aids.
Many of the herbs they contain work by increasing or modifying specific neurotransmitters that are involved in initiating sleep.
Some of them may help you fall asleep faster, decrease nighttime awakenings, and improve your overall sleep quality. However, the evidence for their benefits in people is often weak and inconsistent.
Also, most of the current research used these herbs in extract or supplement form — not the herbal tea itself.
Given that herbal supplements and extracts are very concentrated versions of the herb, a diluted source like tea is likely to be less effective.
Further research involving larger sample sizes is needed to fully understand the ability of herbal teas to improve sleep in the long run.