L-theanine is a unique amino acid found almost exclusively in tea plants (Camellia sinensis). Clinical studies have demonstrated that L-theanine reduces stress, improves the quality of sleep, diminishes the symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome), heightens mental acuity, and reduces the negative side effects of caffeine. At typical dosages, e.g., 100–200 mg, L-theanine does not act as a sedative, but it does significantly improve sleep quality. It is an excellent support agent to melatonin and 5-HTP.
When taken together, the above three ingredients exert synergistic effects to promote restful sleep. NOTE: At higher single dosages, e.g., 600 mg, L-theanine does exert a sedative effect.
In terms of herbal medicine, there is no question that valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is the most popular remedy for insomnia. Recent scientific studies have substantiated valerian’s ability to improve sleep quality and relieve insomnia. In a large double-blind study involving 128 subjects, it was shown that an aqueous extract of valerian root improved the subjective ratings for sleep quality and sleep latency (the time required to get to sleep), but left no “hangover” the next morning.
In a follow-up study, valerian extract was shown to significantly reduce sleep latency and improve sleep quality in sufferers of insomnia and was suggested to be as effective in reducing sleep latency as small doses of benzodiazepines (Valium).
The difference, however, arises from the fact that these drugs also result in increased morning sleepiness. Valerian, on the other hand, actually reduces morning sleepiness. As a mild sedative, valerian may be taken at the following dose 30–45 minutes before retiring: dried root (or as tea): 1–2 g; tincture (1:5): 4–6 ml (1–1.5 tsp); fluid extract (1:1): 1–2 ml (0.5–1 tsp); or valerian extract (0.8% valeric acid): 150–300 mg.
If morning sleepiness does occur, reduce the dosage. If the dosage was not effective, be sure to eliminate those factors that disrupt sleep, such as caffeine and alcohol, before increasing the dosage.
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Adapted from the new book, Stress, Anxiety and Insomnia! What the Drug Companies Won’t Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.
Michael T. Murray ND is a naturopathic physician regarded as one of the world’s top authorities on natural medicine. An educator, lecturer, researcher, and health food industry consultant, he is the author of more than 30 books, including his newest with coauthor Joseph Pizzorno ND, The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (Atria, 2012). Learn more at www.DrMurray.com. If you subscribe to Dr. Murray’s Fast Facts newsletter online, and you will receive a free copy of his book Stress, Anxiety and Insomnia.