How well do you sleep? I hear so many people complain that they aren’t sleeping well, particularly women, especially women between 30 and 60. What I come across commonly is that they can fall asleep, but have trouble staying asleep. There are also those that have trouble getting the mind to shut down so they can nod off. Does any of this sound familiar?
Unfortunately, I am no stranger to difficulties in sleeping. However it has improved significantly in the last few years with only a few days out of a month that I might have trouble. I have contemplated regularly what the right recipe is for good sleep. Sometimes I think I have it, only to encounter one of those rare nights where I either can’t fall asleep or can’t stay asleep. Then I heard an interview recently with my favorite herbal mentor, spilling the beans on what she believes to be the secret sauce for good sleep…Stinging Nettle!
Doh! Are you slamming your palm against your forehead right now thinking “here we go again with the Stinging Nettle?” Yes, I have written on this topic before. And if you know me personally, you know I praise this weed like it is gold and have probably encouraged you to make some. It is gold! But I have new information that may not only lead you to better sleep, but what if I told you that Nettle, along with other nourishing herbs, are the simple, affordable pathway to hormonal harmony. Friends, when I hear something that I know can empower and assist people, and they probably don’t even know about it, I want to sing it from the mountaintops!
I’m not going to repeat myself on the surplus of nourishing components to Stinging Nettle infusion. You can read about that here http://pathwaysofwisdom.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/stinging-nettle-how-i-love-theeand-so-should-you/. Instead, I want to share how this weed can lead you to the sleep you lust for along with its ability to support your body in proper hormone production, and throw in a few other golden nuggets of wisdom.
First let me say that I LOVE my nourishing infusions! What is an infusion you ask? It is NOT a tea! I repeat, NOT A TEA! Nettle tea, or any other herbal tea might be delightful to drink, but there is no nutritional, nourishing, or healing value (besides the enjoyment factor). There is simply just not enough herb in a tea and it is not steeped long enough to extract all of the goodies that any particular herb contains. An infusion is a large amount of nourishing herb “steeped” for an extended period of time, 4 to 10 hours, allowing the hot water to extract the gems our body requires.
It is also important to note that a not all herbs can be made into an infusion. The term “nourishing” indicates the type of herb that is used. There are four main categories for herbs – nourishing, tonifying, stimulating/sedating and potentially poisonous. For further information, you can check out my blog post http://pathwaysofwisdom.wordpress.com/2013/05/29/the-wisdom-of-healing-allies/. One must be mindful and respectful when working with the Earth’s healing jewels. All but nourishing herbs should not necessarily be taken excessively or indefinitely. Nourishing herbs however are essentially food and there is no known risk of overdose, nor unwanted side effects. The above referenced blog post also explores herbs in food form such as infusions or tinctures vs. capsules or pills as well as the importance of working with them one at a time.
So how does Stinging Nettle help us sleep? Well, it is an extraordinarily powerful adrenal ally. When we wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep, it is often due to adrenal burn out, or what is commonly called adrenal fatigue. Your adrenals are supremely important to the overall health of your entire body. Yes, all organs are important and they are all connected, but the adrenals are not holding up well with modern, western societal demands. Simply put, the adrenals manufacture certain vital hormones, such as cortisol, the stress hormone. Too much stress over long periods of time leads to too much cortisol, which leads to sleep impediment (along with a slew of other symptoms). Taxing the adrenals in that way with an over production of cortisol and other stress hormones exhausts the adrenal glands rendering them dysfunctional and therefore altering the appropriate balance of hormones in the body, including those that keep sex hormones stabilized. The adrenals were just not designed for an overly stressed life style.
Now Nettle won’t dissolve your stress. Only you can do that. But you can certainly support your adrenals along your journey of lowering stress in your life and continue to nourish them for the unavoidable stressors that will always be present from time-to-time. I love my Nettle infusion and have been drinking it for several years now, along with other nourishing infusions. But I too encounter busyness or forgetfulness and miss it some days. I have finally connected the dots and now notice that when I do miss it for more than a few days, my sleep is not as sound, even downright sucky if I’m gong through periods of high stress. Putting this puzzle together has motivated me even more to keep on top of my nourishing infusions, which includes Nettle. In fact, I rotate through the various nourishing herbs, but I drink Nettle daily; sometimes several glasses a day during extended activity demands or periods of high stress.
So by now I’m guessing you are also starting to recognize the connection between Nettle and hormonal harmony. Over production or under production of sex hormones, as affected by the adrenals, also impede sleep along with causing a landslide of other unpleasant experiences. Again, stress is an important factor in harmonized hormones, but we can also nourish and support our body, providing optimum nutrition that goes beyond food. Food is important of course, but most of us don’t eat perfectly each and every day. Nourishing infusions provide all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals our body needs without any need for further supplementation. It is also affordable, doesn’t require fancy machinery, or gobs and gobs of organic produce.
But Nettle certainly isn’t the only nourishing herb that is helpful to hormonal harmony. Here is an excerpt from Susun Weed (my favorite herbal mentor) in an article she wrote on how minerals make the difference:
“By 2015 half of the female population of the United States will be post-menopausal. But this group of post-menopausal women won’t be old fuddy-duddies with broken hips, heart attacks, and failing memories. Women of today expect to emerge from menopause energetic, zesty, and passionate! Are hormones necessary? No! Wise women nourish their hearts, bones, and spirits with simple, safe mineral-rich herbs.
Herbs, especially the weedy ones, are minerals powerhouses. Getting those minerals isn’t as easy as taking a tincture (alcohol extracts little to no minerals) or swallowing a pill (minerals are poorly utilized from encapsulated herbs) but it isn’t difficult either. At the Wise Woman Center we include mineral-rich herbs in our daily diet; it’s easy, tasty, and very rewarding. How do we do it? Drink 1-2 cups nourishing herbal infusion each day.
Herbal infusions differ from herbal teas: They are darker in color and richer tasting because their long brewing extracts many more nutrients — especially minerals. My favorite nourishing herbal infusions for menopausal women are oatstraw, red clover blossoms, stinging nettle leaves, and comfrey leaves.
To prepare your infusion: Put a quart of cold water up to boil. Weigh one ounce of dried (not fresh!) herb into a quart canning jar. Go brush your teeth and count your grey hairs until the teapot whistles. Pour the boiling water into the jar with your herb (only one herb at a time, please!), screw on a tight lid, turn off the light, and go to bed. Next morning strain out the herb and drink the liquid: cold, hot, or at room temperature. Add honey, tamari, or milk if desired.
Oatstraw (Avena sativa) has a mellow taste. It eases frazzled nerves, lowers cholesterol, improves circulation, strengthens bones, eases headaches, relieves depression and encourages us to be sexy old ladies!
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) infusion not only builds bones, and prevents cancer, it reduces serum cholesterol (protecting heart health) and helps maintain strong pelvic tissues –thus preventing incontinence, lowered libido, atrophic vaginitis, and uterine prolapse. Red clover contains ten times more phytoestrogens than soy, without soy’s bone-damaging, thyroid-impairing side-effects.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) infusion contains more than 500 milligrams of calcium per cup. (Nettle tea has none, neither does the tincture.) Nettle strengthens adrenal functioning, promotes sound sleep, increases overall energy, prevents allergic reactions, strengthens the blood vessels, and prevents hair loss.
Comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum x) is controversial. Ingestion of its roots can cause severe liver congestion. The leaves are safe, though labeled otherwise. Comfrey leaf infusion helps maintain good vaginal lubrication, strengthens the bones, protects against cancer, soothes painful joints, and improves mental functioning.”
I have not tried comfrey or oatstraw yet, but have an order on the way. I’ll let you know. I love the taste of red clover. Red raspberry, which is not mentioned above is also a great nourishing herb for infusion, and I drink that regularly. It has a strong taste, but a little peppermint mixed in helps, which does not interfere with the medicinal qualities of the herb. I use ample peppermint with my Nettle, and I will admit it was an acquired taste. It has such high chlorophyll content that it tastes a little like a fish tank at first. But within a day or two of first trying it, you’ll notice level energy throughout the day and excellent sleep at night, which is what we all want isn’t it?
So cheers <clink> to you! May you be blessed with hormonal harmony and a beautiful night’s sleep. And please do leave a comment and let me know your experiences with nourishing herbs.