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Our Top Herbs For Sleep and How They Work

Tea and Me
Our Top Herbs For Sleep and How They Work

You’d be forgiven for thinking that sleep problems are a relatively new phenomenon; that they came about in response to hectic modern lives, longer work hours, screens, coffee etc. But people have been concerned with getting a good night’s sleep for centuries, and herbalists have been creating herbal remedies for just as long.
A wide variety of herbs from Western herbal medicine are still used today to support a healthy sleep routine. Some of these herbs are included in our own range of sleep teas. Let’s take a look at them!


Valerian / Valeriana officinalis

Grows: Native to Europe, Asia and North America

History: Named after the word 'valere' (which is Latin for 'to be well'), Valerian has been used since Ancient Greek and Roman times.
Parts used: Roots
Prepared as: As tea, tincture, capsules.

Why we use it: Valerian has been shown to support sleep in humans in a number of clinical trials. It is thought that there are a number of active ingredients, one of which increases the amount of available GABA (a neurotransmitter associated with relaxation and sleep).

Did you know?

  • During WWI it was used to treat shell shock and reduce stress in the civilian population.
  • The species name ‘officinalis’ means this was an official herb of the apothecaries.
  • It was referred to as “All Heal” by some traditional herbalists.
  • Hippocrates and Galen both wrote about it and used it as a remedy.
  • The Ancient Egyptians prized it because cats, a sacred animal, love this plant.

Passionflower / Passiflora incarnata

Grows: North and South America

History: Passiflora was used by the indigenous people of the Americas to encourage restful sleep. It became an official herb in the US National Formulary from 1916-1936 where it was recommended to support sleep.
Parts used: Aerial parts are used as a herbal medicine. Fruits are eaten.
Prepared as: As tea, tincture, capsules

Why we use it: Passionflower supports restful sleep partly by helping people to relax. Similarly to valerian, scientists believe that passionflower can increase amounts of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, which helps to relax the body in preparation for sleep.


Did you know?

  • The name comes from the intricate pattern of petals, sepals and rays on the flower which were thought to represent key symbols of Christianity. The name often mistakenly leads people to think it’s an aphrodisiac. Sorry to disappoint, but it’s not.
  • It’s particularly useful where there is nervous excitability.
  • The delicious passionfruit is produced by most Passiflora species but the most common is from Passiflora edulis.
  • There are over 200 fruit-bearing species of Passiflora.

Camomile / Matricaria chamomilla 

Grows: Europe

History: Camomile has played an important role in folk medicine since at least the times of Ancient Greece. It is a very versatile herb which can help to encourage restful sleep, soothe irritated skin and support healthy digestion.
Part used: Aerial parts
Prepared as: A tea, tincture, capsules

Why we use it: Camomile promotes relaxation and in doing so can encourage restful sleep. It contains a chemical called apigenin which is thought to affect the sleep receptors in the brain.


Did you know?

  • The genus name ‘Matricaria’ is derived from the Latin word for ‘mother.’ The other well-known type of camomile is Roman Camomile which has much larger flowerheads and is used in similar ways. At Twinings, we use the smaller German Camomile.
  • Both types of camomile have been used since at least Ancient Greece.
  • Its wonderful scent meant that it was used as a strewing herb in Medieval Europe to keep rooms smelling nice. Strewing was the practice of scattering fragrant plants on the floor to repel insects and improve the aroma of spaces.
  • The essential oil of German Camomile is a bright blue colour due to the presence of chamazulenes in the oil.
  • Camomile is used as a base for many herbal blends because of its versatility, aroma and pleasant taste.

Linden / European Lime / Tilia spp.

Grows: Europe (also Western Asia and North America although these may be different species)

History: The flowers have a delicious honey scent and a delicate flavour. They have long been used to instill calm, encourage restful sleep and relieve stress.
Part used: Flowers
How consumed: As tea, tincture, capsules
Why we use it: Linden encourages relaxation and so promotes restful sleep. It is thought that this might be due to the flavonoid content.


Did you know?

  • Linden flower tea is one of the most popular herbal teas in Europe and the trees are a common sight in local parks.
  • In May or June, you can find Linden trees by listening for the buzz of bees feeding on their nectar.
  • In France, it was traditional to park an irritable baby in its pram under the branches when the tree was in bloom so that the aroma of the flowers could settle them.
  • The very fine, white wood is known as basswood and has long been prized for carving stringed instruments, like violins, and detailed carving in churches.
  • A thick, sugary sap is often found stuck to cars parked underneath Linden trees in city streets.

Orange blossom / Citrus aurantium flores

Grows: Native to Asia, now grown widely in Southern Europe.

History: The bitter orange has been used as a food for thousands of years.
Part used: Fruit, peel, leaves, blossom.
Prepared as: A tea, tincture, aromatic water or essential oils.

Why we use it: Orange blossom is thought to aid sleep because it calms and promotes relaxation.


Did you know?

  • The bitter orange is a cousin to the more common orange.      
  • The well-known essential oil ‘neroli’ is made from the flowers, and petitgrain from the leaves and young shoots. Both are used extensively in perfumery and the orange flower water (a by-product of the distillation process) is often used to flavour desserts and confectionery.
  • The peel is thought to support healthy digestion.

Lavender / Lavandula angustifolia

Grows: Native to the Mediterranean now grown around the World.

History: Lavender has been used since ancient times as a perfume, antibacterial and relaxing herb used to help promote sleep.
Part used: flowers
Prepared as: While dried lavender can be used as a herbal infusion, it’s a strong flavour and needs to be expertly blended. It’s more common to see lavender being used as an essential oil.

Why we use it: The essential oil in lavender contains chemicals like linalool and linalyl acetate which has been shown to reduce agitation and restlessness. This in turn promotes relaxation and can help make it easier to drift off to sleep.

Did you know?

  • Before WWII, lavender was commonly used as a dressing for wounds.
  • Lavender flowers are edible and are an essential ingredient in the traditional culinary mix of spices known as Herbes de Provence.
  • It was a popular strewing herb in the Middle Ages, thrown on floors to help refresh the smell of the room.
  • Traditional lavender pillows can help support sleep through the aromatic oils released when the flowers are crushed.
  • It’s widely used in perfumery, particularly where aromatherapy is used to scent candles, and bath oils to promote relaxation.

How Twinings does sleep.


Sleep Well – Twinings Australia

This is a delicious blend of highly aromatic herbs traditionally used to help support sleep. By using a blend of herbs, we employ the traditional skill of combining herbs that work in synergy to ease tension, promote relaxation and restful sleep.
Including both orange leaf and blossom we harness the subtle differences in each part of the plant to support the nervous system. Linden flowers are naturally honeyed in flavour and this partners beautifully with the honey pieces in this blend.


Sleep + – Twinings Australia

By combining four of the best loved traditional herbs to support sleep, the Twinings Sleep + blend helps to promote relaxation in several different ways. Chamomile, passionflower, lavender and valerian all work together to soothe nervousness and tension leading to a better night’s rest.
This could be thought of as the stronger of the two Twinings Sleep blends as valerian has a slightly stronger action than the other herbs and is traditionally used to support good sleep.