Using helpful alternative remedies

Alternative remedies to the standard over-the-counter medications are effective in helping some people get to sleep. Some key alternative remedies are valerian, kava kava, and melatonin.

Be sure to let your doctor know that you plan to take or are already taking herbal medicines or other supplements. These alternative remedies can interact with other medicines you're taking.


Clinical studies in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany on the use of valerian as a mild sedative have proven that this herbal root does help some people with their insomnia. Studies also indicate that valerian doesn't appear to affect sleep stages negatively or to impede the concentration or reactions of users on the day after they use it.

According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, valerian may boost the effects of some antiseizure medicines. If you take an antiseizure medicine, be sure to ask your doctor if you can safely take valerian. Better yet, try a different remedy.

Kava kava

What about the herbal remedy kava kava? People have used this herb (also known as Piper methysticum) for problems of insomnia, stress, anxiety, and premenstrual syndrome. In a study reported in Phytotherapy Research in 2001, researchers treated subjects who suffered from stress-induced insomnia with kava kava for several weeks and then treated them with valerian. The researchers found that both herbs were effective. The most frequent side effect found with valerian was vivid dreams, experienced by 16 percent of the subjects. The most frequent side effect experienced with kava kava was dizziness, experienced by 12 percent of the subjects.

jflNG/ In late 2001, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that some people in Europe who've used kava kava have experienced severe liver toxicity (damage to the liver, a crucial organ that you can't live without), suffering from such problems as hepatitis, cirrhosis, and even liver failure. In addition, the FDA also received reports on Americans experiencing liver problems with taking kava kava.


The hormone melatonin has proven effective at helping some people get to sleep, and studies indicate that melatonin may be especially helpful for travelers who are plagued with problems of jetlag. The drug appears to reset the natural body rhythm of the user. Your body actually produces melatonin naturally (it's produced by the pineal gland in your brain). But you may need an extra boost from nature from time to time, and taking supplemental mela-tonin may help you. Keep in mind, however, that melatonin has been reported to cause headaches, stomachaches, strange dreams, and even depression in some people.

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