Sleep like a log. Or a rock. Or a baby. However you phrase it, a good night’s sleep is important. Slumber is not just a time for us to put down our screens and close our eyes. It’s a time for our bodies to rest, recharge and repair.
Herbs can certainly support a good night’s sleep,* so we’re sharing four of our favorites — their unique history, why we include them in some of our formulas and more fun facts.
Get to know California Poppy, Passionflower, Valerian and Ziziphus.
The golden flowers of California Poppy are a sight to behold on our farm in summer, especially as evening approaches, when their flower petals begin to close. With a name that means "sleepy one" in Spanish (dormidera), California Poppy is traditionally used for calming support for the nervous system.*
California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) was recognized in the US Formulary of 1918 as "a powerful herb for calming and supporting sleep.”* It’s an herb that’s gentle enough for kids and adults, and we use it in products like Kids Fast Asleep™ and Herbs on the Go: Bed Time™, and we offer it as a single-herb extract.
Botanical name: Eschscholzia californica
Plant family: Papaveraceae
Common name(s): California Poppy
Native habitat: Western US
Parts used: whole flowering plant
Use(s): Traditionally used for calming support for the nervous system.*
Flavor profile: bitter with mild aromatic notes
Passionflower is another showstopper of an herb you’ll see on our farm, with its large fringed flowers and filamented crowns. Passiflora incarnata is prolific and evergreen in tropical climates — the climbing vine grows so fast that it’s even considered an invasive weed in some Southern states! The plant’s fruit, called Maypops, are edible and often made into jelly.
The vine is known to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, especially when its flowers bloom during summer and early fall. Wild turkeys are fond of nibbling on its tendrils.
Passionflower’s herbal use can be traced back to Native American herbalism, specifically the Cherokee and Houma tribes.
Passionflower supports disturbed sleep from mental worry, and exhaustion from cerebral fullness and excitement.* We use the flowering herb in Herbs on the Go: Bed Time™, which promotes a quiet, calm and restful sleep while providing soothing support for the nervous system.* It’s also found in Kids Fast Asleep™ and Relaxing Sleep™.
Botanical name: Passiflora incarnata
Plant family: Passifloraceae
Common name(s): Passionflower, Apricot Vine, Maypop, Wild Passionflower
Native habitat: Southeastern US
Parts used: flowering herb
Use(s): Disturbed sleep from mental worry, and exhaustion from cerebral fullness and from excitement.*
Promotes calm and relaxation.*
Support for mild and occasional anxiety.*
Flavor profile: bitter and earthy
Did you know that Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is believed to be what the Pied Piper used to lure rodents away from the town of Hamelin? Beyond its legendary critter-attracting potential, Valerian is also appealing to cats (just like Catnip)!
If you’ve ever smelled the plant, you might know why. Once bruised, it has a peculiar and aromatic smell that some love and others do not. (The root is especially strong!) During the Middle Ages, Valerian was also used as a spice and a perfume.
Valerian is among the 75 or so crops we grow on our Certified Organic farms in southern Oregon, and it has been used in herbalism for at least 2,000 years. Ethnobotanically speaking, indigenous people throughout the northern United States and Canada have used local Valerian species in diverse ways. These include as food, in charms, in herbalism for people and horses, as a smoked plant, for incense and in ceremonies.
Botanical name: Valeriana officinalis
Plant family: Caprifoliaceae
Common name(s): Garden Valerian
Native habitat: Europe and Asia
Parts used: rhizome with root
Use(s): Promotes relaxation and restful sleep.*
Flavor profile: bitter, sharp and aromatic
Ziziphus (Ziziphus jujuba (spinosa)) is used in Traditional Chinese Herbalism for irritability, mild and occasional anxiety, as well as occasional sleeplessness.* We use the seed in our Herbs on the Go: Bed Time™ formula.
However, the fruit — known as the Jujube Date or Spiny Date — is commonly used in Chinese herbalism and eaten in many Asian countries, including China, South Korea and Japan. The fruit is called Da Zao (Z. jujuba) or Suan Zau Ren (Z. spinosa) in Traditional Chinese Herbalism. Jujube Dates are harvested in early autumn, and these Chinese Dates, as they’re also known, are commonly made into a delicious and nutrient-dense dessert. Jujube Dates have a long history in China; they were mentioned in the poetry anthology Classic of Odes, which dates to the 6th century BC.
The herb is named after the Greek god Sisyphus, and this small, spiny deciduous tree is a member of the Rhamnaceae (Buckthorn) family.
Botanical name: Ziziphus jujuba (spinosa)
Common name(s): Ziziphus, Spiny Date, Jujube Date
Plant family: Rhamnaceae
Native habitat: Asia
Parts used: seed
Use(s): Used in Traditional Chinese Herbalism for irritability, mild and occasional anxiety.*
Support for occasional sleeplessness.*
Flavor profile: nutty and mild