Can’t Sleep? Try This Herbal Combo

Healthnotes Newswire (June 28, 2007)—A new study finds that taking a combination extract of the herbs valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and hops (Humulus lupulus) can help people with insomnia fall asleep faster.

“Valerian and hops are traditionally used as sleep aids,” said Dr. Uwe Koetter, head of research and development at Max Zeller Söhne in Romanshorn, Switzerland, and the study’s lead author. Dr. Kotter and colleagues produced a fixed extract combination that they claim has “distinct pharmacological activity.” The combination is sold in the United States under the brand name Alluna.

Brattström and colleagues looked at the sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep once the lights are out) of 27 people with sleep disturbances not caused by any known underlying diseases. To be included in this study, sleep latency had to be greater than 30 minutes. Sleep parameters were recorded by means of a portable home recorder system.

Participants were randomly assigned to receive either placebo, valerian extract alone, or the fixed valerian–hops extract combination. The amount of the single valerian extract was identical to the amount contained in the fixed extract combination (500 mg). In the extract combination, 120 mg of hops extract was added.

The results, published in Phytotherapy Research, found that the fixed extract combination was significantly superior to the placebo in reducing sleep latency (from 56.5 minutes to 12.0 minutes); the single valerian extract also reduced sleep latency (from 45.9 minutes to 23.8 minutes) but this improvement was not significantly better than the improvement in the placebo group.

In previous research, valerian has been shown to exert physiological effects that are the opposite of those produced by coffee. Caffeine in coffee blocks the binding of a chemical called adenosine to its receptors. Normal adenosine binding causes us to feel tired and ready for sleep. Whereas caffeine interferes with this process, valerian extracts appear to enhance it. The mechanism by which hops induces restful sleep is not known, but the herb is known to interact with receptors for melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep–wake cycle.

While further research is needed to support these findings, insomniacs may find a valerian–hops combination to be worth trying for a better night’s rest.

(Phytother Res 2007 May 8 [e-pub ahead of print])

Jeremy Appleton, ND, CNS, is a licensed naturopathic physician, certified nutrition specialist, and published author. Dr. Appleton was the Nutrition Department Chair at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, has served on the faculty at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, and is a former Healthnotes Senior Science Editor and a founding contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. He has worked extensively in scientific and regulatory affairs in the supplement industry and is now a consultant through his company Praxis Natural Products Consulting and Wellness Services.

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