Top 15 Herbal Natural Sedatives to Calm Anxiety and Improve Sleep


15 Powerful Soporific Herbs (Natural Sedatives)


The intricate purple flower pictured above was shown to be as effective as sedatives in the benzodiazepine (valium) family. The aerial parts of this herb are great for nervous tension and anxiety. In recent research, passionflower extract at 45 drops daily (tincture) was shown to be as effective as oxazepam (similar to valium). This nervine herb is also “antispasmodic,” which makes it great for people with constant nervous twitching.


This is probably one of my favorite herbs, which is why it got the award for “Best Herb of 2007.” Unlike most of the herbs on this list that are designed to be taken at night or at least late afternoon, both Ashwagandha and Schisandra (listed below) are terrific “adaptogenic” herbs that help us tolerate our stressful days that much better. You can make some tea or grab some capsules of the organic root and take two capsules twice a day.

This herb is specifically intended for those who are exhausted and agitated or debilitated by stress. In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is a renowned anti-aging and rejuvenating herb.


Referred to as “Chinese Prozac,” this herb is commonly unappreciated and underutilized in American herbal practice. Schisandra is a terrific daytime adaptogen herb and should be taken as recommended with Ashwagandha, two capsules with breakfast and lunch, or a cup of tea in the morning and afternoon. The berries can be made into a nice aperitif for those with low libido.

California Poppy

The bright orange flowers of the California poppy, leaves, and other aerial parts are sedative, antispasmodic, and mild pain relievers. This is also a gentle herb used for colic and agitation in children. Do not use this herb or any other sedative herbs in pregnancy.


No, I am not recommending that you drink more beer to calm down. However, the herb commonly used to make beer bitter also works as a sedative. It is extremely bitter, though, so it is best to give a small part in your herbal tea formula for insomnia or stress. Do not combine with prescription sleep aids due to an additive effect.

Kava Kava

A well-known Polynesian psychotropic sedative, this herb is sedative and “spasmolytic” and thus helpful for chronic pain conditions. Several conflicting studies debate the safety of using this herb with alcohol. Liver damage is thought to occur if used in large doses in conjunction with alcohol. This research, however, was used to scare many people away from using kava kava for whatever reason.

People need to simply remember that herbs are medicines and that a herb with actions similar to prescription sleep aids and analgesics will, of course, pack the same side effects. A strong herb demands respect. When used ceremoniously or occasionally, this herb does not run the risks it runs when it is heavily abused.

The best way to safely use kava kava is in an organic tea form. Look for a tea blend that includes kava, or make your own. This herb should not be used in large doses, and large doses should not be used over the long term. Do not combine with alcohol or use during pregnancy or nursing. Chronic abuse will result in a horrible, scaly skin rash.


Try adding lavender to your favorite baked goods recipe. Purple lavender flowers will offer a sophisticated herbal makeover to your favorite shortbread cookies or white tea cakes.

Lavender is great in your herbal medicine blend and can also be used to stuff pillows or as an aromatherapy stress reliever throughout the day. Lavender should not be used in pregnancy due to its emmenagogue effect.


Lemon Balm

Also known as “Melissa officinalis,” this herbal sedative should not be used by those with hypothyroidism as it inhibits the thyroid and is used to treat hyperthyroidism, however for everyone else, it is a common simple herb to grow in your garden and make into your own calming sedative tincture each summer. Do not use this herb in pregnancy.

I grow lemon balm in my garden and harvest it, rinse it, let it dry, and then pack it in a jar with enough room for it to swim around in some vodka. Shake the jar once a day for two weeks. The vodka will extract the constituents, and after a few weeks, you can strain out the plant part leftovers and put half a teaspoon of this liquid “anxiety medicine” in a little bit of water when you need something to calm you down.

St John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort

While St. John’s Wort is commonly associated with its potential benefits for depression, it’s important to note that this herb also has mild sedative properties. It can be particularly useful for individuals who experience both depression and anxiety, as these two conditions often go hand in hand. St. John’s Wort has shown a lower risk of side effects compared to conventional antidepressants, making it an option worth considering for those who have milder forms of depression and want something to alleviate symptoms and improve mood.

If anxiety with a depressive component is your primary concern, St. John’s Wort can be a valuable addition to your herbal sedative blend. However, it’s crucial to ensure that you are not currently taking any antidepressants or antipsychotic medications, as combining St. John’s Wort with these medications or other herbs and supplements that increase neurotransmitter levels may lead to a condition called serotonin syndrome.

It’s also important to be aware that St. John’s Wort can increase the activity of the cytochrome p450 enzyme system, which may result in a more rapid detoxification of drugs from the body. As a result, if you are taking oral contraceptives or any other medications, it’s best to avoid using St. John’s Wort, as it may reduce their effectiveness.

The standard dosage of St. John’s Wort for individuals not taking any other medications is typically 300 mg three times daily of the 0.3% standardized extract. It’s always essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new herbal supplement to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your specific health needs..

Red Clover

Not traditionally recognized as a sedative but as a mineral source and blood thinner, this “cooling” herb calms the system and has a special affinity to the lungs, throat, and salivary glands.

This is a terrific balancing herb to include in your herbal sedative blend, as the dried flower blossoms make for a beautiful addition to a glass teapot. Do not use in pregnancy or if on blood-thinning medications.


Not just for cats. Catnip is actually a gentle nervine herb for humans. No, it won’t make you roll around on the carpet or chase after things (at least not to my current knowledge), but it is still a great mild sedative.

This herb should absolutely NOT be used during pregnancy, as most herbs should never be used during pregnancy without checking with your naturopathic midwife. However, it can safely be used in children by making a very weak tea. Be sure to only give your children organic herbs and check with their pediatrician or naturopath prior to use.

Valerian Root


Definitely one of the more potent herbal sedatives, valerian is also a great painkiller for those with chronic pain. Some people prefer not to use this herb because it can cause quite the herbal hangover the next morning, and most complain that it makes them feel really groggy or desire to sleep through the day.

Look for a tea formula that includes a bit of valerian to avoid the hangover, and if you have severe anxiety, chronic pain, or insomnia, talk to your naturopathic doctor about using this at a more therapeutic dose. Always use organic roots.


The perfect herb for fried and frazzled mothers, it strengthens a weak heart and is great for nervous palpitations. Motherwort is best taken over a prolonged period of time, and because it is a uterine stimulant, it should not be used in pregnancy.


It is a bitter, cooling, sedative herb that is best used for nervous fear and restless sleep and is also thought to lower blood pressure. This herb is great for people with the inability to pay attention—huh, what was that? And has been used effectively to calm down children with ADHD. Some kids concentrate better when they are sped up, and some do better when they are calmed down.

Chamomile tea


One of the most common kitchen herbs, chamomile is a great mild sedative and digestive bitter.

Be careful in using chamomile tea if you experience ragweed allergies, formally known as the “Asteraceae family” and previously recognized as a “composite family.”

If you have a history of seasonal allergies, it’s important to approach the consumption of chamomile tea or any herbal remedy with caution. Allergies can vary among individuals, and some may be sensitive to specific herbs like chamomile.

However, if you don’t have a history of allergies, you can make a stronger chamomile tea by using a heaping tablespoon of chamomile flowers instead of a teaspoon for every 8 oz cup of water. To ensure you extract the full flavor and benefits of chamomile, it is recommended to cover the tea while steeping for approximately 15 minutes. This practice helps prevent the loss of the calming essential oils through evaporation.

Covering your chamomile tea during steeping is considered a technique that is known by experienced herbalists. By doing so, you can fully enjoy the relaxing properties of chamomile. Embrace your newfound knowledge and consider yourself part of the community of herbal enthusiasts who are aware of this valuable tip. Welcome!

Traditional Herbal Tranquilizers Usage

Establishing a nighttime or daytime tea ritual is a great way to reduce stress, avoid binge eating, and help those who fight insomnia get to sleep at a decent hour.

Don’t forget to have your pot of tea with one of my favorite “Bedtime Snacks for Insomniacs.” Also, if you tend to be one of those who gets troubled by having to use the restroom in the middle of the night, be sure to drink your tea at least 90 minutes prior to your expected bedtime.


For most of these herbs, make tea with about 1 tsp (milder herbs, use a tablespoon) to 8 oz cup of boiling water. Allow to steep covered for 15 minutes. Or if you aren’t a tea drinker, look for a pre-made organic herbal formula to take in tincture or capsule form and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.


All sedatives can cause physiological and psychological dependence when taken regularly over a period of time, even at therapeutic doses. When dependent users decrease or end use suddenly, they will exhibit withdrawal symptoms ranging from restlessness, insomnia, and anxiety to convulsions and death.

When users become psychologically dependent, they feel as if they need the drug to function, although there is no biological dependence. In both types of dependence, finding and using the drug becomes the focus of life. Both physical and psychological dependence can be treated.

All sedatives can be abused, but barbiturates are responsible for most of the problems with sedative abuse due to their widespread “recreational” or non-medical use. People who have difficulty dealing with stress, anxiety, or sleeplessness may overuse or become dependent on sedatives.

Heroin users take them either to supplement their drug or to substitute for it. Stimulant users frequently take sedatives to calm excessive anxiety. Others take sedatives recreationally to relax and forget their worries.

Barbiturate overdose is a factor in nearly one-third of all reported drug-related deaths. About half of all the people admitted to emergency rooms in the U.S. as a result of the nonmedical use of sedatives have a legitimate prescription for the drug but have taken an excessive dose or combined it with alcohol or other drugs. Others get sedatives from friends who have authentic prescriptions or by using fake prescriptions.

Q&A: Herbal Sedatives for Better Sleep

What is the strongest herb for sleep?

When it comes to finding an herb known for its sleep-inducing properties, valerian has often been mentioned as a top contender. Valerian root has a long history of use as a natural remedy to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. This herb contains special compounds, such as valerenic acid and valepotriates, which are believed to contribute to its sedative effects.

Valerian is known to work by slowing down the central nervous system and promoting a sense of calmness, making it easier to fall asleep. Many people have reported experiencing improved sleep after using valerian as a sleep aid.

It’s important to keep in mind that while valerian is generally considered safe for short-term use, it may not be suitable for everyone. It’s always wise to consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating valerian or any other herbal remedy into your sleep routine, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications.

While valerian is often recognized as a potent herb for sleep, there are other herbal options worth exploring as well. Chamomile, lavender, passionflower, and lemon balm are a few examples of other herbs that have traditionally been used to promote relaxation and support a restful night’s sleep. Each herb works in its own unique way, but further research is needed to fully understand their mechanisms and effectiveness.

Remember that individual responses to herbs and natural remedies may vary, and it may take some trial and error to find the best herb or combination of herbs that work for you. It is also important to seek professional guidance when dealing with chronic or severe sleep disorders.

Ultimately, finding the strongest herb for sleep depends on personal preferences and individual responses. Exploring different options and seeking guidance can help you discover the herb or herbs that can potentially improve your sleep quality and promote a peaceful, rejuvenating night’s rest.

What is the strongest natural sedative?

When it comes to identifying the strongest natural sedative, it’s important to recognize that the effectiveness of sedative herbs can vary from person to person. While several herbs are commonly mentioned for their sedative properties, their strength can depend on individual responses and the specific herb used.

One herb often regarded for its potent sedative effects is valerian. Valerian root has a reputation for promoting relaxation and improving sleep quality. Many people have reported experiencing tranquilizing effects and improved sleep after using valerian as a sleep aid.

Another herb known for its calming properties is lemon balm. Traditionally used as a natural remedy to reduce anxiety and enhance sleep, lemon balm is believed to have sedative properties that can help promote a sense of calmness.

Passionflower is another herb that has shown promise as a sedative. Research suggests that passionflower can be as effective as benzodiazepine sedatives in reducing nervous tension and anxiety, further highlighting its potential sedative effects.

Lavender, with its soothing aroma, has also been used for centuries to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. It is often found in products such as essential oils, sachets, or herbal teas, and many individuals find the scent of lavender to be calming and helpful in inducing sleep.

It’s essential to remember that the strength of natural sedatives can vary for different individuals. What may be strong for one person may not have the same effect on another. Due to these variations, it’s always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional to find the best approach that suits your specific needs and health conditions.

In your search for the strongest natural sedative, it may be beneficial to explore different herbs and techniques to determine which ones work best for you. Experimentation and personalized approaches can help you discover the herb or combination of herbs that may have strong sedative effects in promoting relaxation and improving sleep.




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