Herbs to Help Fight Nightmares

Monday Sep 3 | BY |
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If you have nightmares about feeling trapped, you may feel confined in your job or relationship in your waking life.

According to Michael Vigo, of leading dream interpretation website DreamMoods.com, a nightmare is a way for the unconscious to get your attention about a situation you’ve been avoiding, but that is obviously troubling you.

Some of the most common nightmares according to Vigo, and what they may symbolize in real life, are those where the dreamer:

  • is shot (you feel victimized somehow),
  • loses his or her teeth (fear of rejection or getting old),
  • becomes trapped (you’re feeling confined or restricted in your job, career, health, or personal relationship),
  • drowns (you’re feeling overwhelmed by emotion—repressed issues may be coming back),
  • is chased (you’re avoiding a situation you don’t think you can handle, or if you’re chased by an animal, you have unexpressed anger),
  • is propelling forward in an out-of-control car (you need to regain control of your life),
  • or can’t breathe (you’re either exhausted, or you may have asthma).

American psychotherapist Dr. Alex Lukeman describes a similar way that nightmares can give us clues about our waking life. He says that chase dreams means that we need to identify what is overwhelming us in real life, and do something to regain a sense of control. Being struck by lightning in a nightmare may signal that we’re going through a transformative change, whereas the “end of the world” dream can mean that we sense something is coming that will dramatically disrupt our lives.

Whatever our nightmares are or what they may symbolize, most of us can agree on one thing—they’re unpleasant. Psychiatrists and dream specialists encourage us to seek out the meaning and make changes in our waking life to stop the nightmares. Fortunately, there are also herbs that can help until we figure out the symbolism.

What Causes Nightmares?
Before we simply try to get rid of the nightmares, it is important to try to figure out what they’re trying to tell us. Some nightmares can be caused by medications, withdrawal symptoms, or physical conditions like illness or fever. If nightmares are plaguing you more often than usual, it’s worth a trip to your doctor to make sure everything is okay with your health.

Nightmares may also be caused by suffering a traumatic event, such as surgery, the loss of a loved one, an assault or severe accident. Veterans are particularly prone to suffering from nightmares. Stress in daily life, pregnancy, financial concerns, and other waking problems can also affect our dreams at night. While herbs can help, a couple sessions with a therapist may provide more lasting relief. Other methods such as writing down the dream, drawing or painting it, or imagining a more pleasant ending may also help bring the symbols out into the open where they are more easily interpreted.

Herbs to Help Quell Nightmares
Several herbs that have a general calming or sedative property can help you enjoy a nightmare-free, sound sleep.

  • Hops: this herb acts as a strong sedative and may help you get to sleep faster. Best used for only short periods of time.
  • Passionflower: this calming herb helps relax muscles and soothe nerves, encouraging the body to go to sleep peacefully.
  • Valerian: widely known as the sleep herb, this one can help you relax and fall asleep quickly. Some people have reported a worsening of nightmares on this herb, however, so try just a little bit to start to see how you react.
  • Chamomile: try chamomile tea before bed to help you relax.
  • Kanna: this herb has been found in studies to act in a similar way on the brain as antidepressants do, helping to retain the good-mood neurotransmitter serotonin. Taken in the morning, it can help reduce stress and relieve nightmares.
  • Siberian ginseng: this herb calms the adrenal, or stress-producing glands, helping you to completely relax before sleep, reducing the risk of nightmares.
  • Lemon balm: especially in a tea at night, this herb helps calm nerves and lift spirits.
  • Skullcap: this herb also has a reputation for healing nervous disorders, and has been effective in calming anxiety, stress, and worries.
  • Cayenne (or capsicum): this famous spice can help drop body temperature, which encourages sleep.
  • Lady’s slipper: tranquilizing and comforting attributes make this the perfect tool to calm nervousness and stress. Has a reputation for helping with panic attacks.
  • Wood betony: has a mild sedative action and can help relieve emotional tension, headaches, and facial pain.

In addition to herbs, remember to try lifestyle habits as well that can help induce a calm, peaceful sleep:

  • B vitamins: Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B every day, particularly if you’re taking medications that may deplete the body. Known as the anti-stress vitamins, these can help encourage the proper functioning of the nervous system.
  • Caffeine and alcohol: Avoid these at least a few hours before bedtime.
  • Relax: Try soft music, a warm bath, or meditation before bed. Turn off all televisions, cell phones, and computers at least an hour before.
  • De-stress: If you’re suffering nightmares, it’s not a good idea to watch violent movies or listen to heavy music before sleep.
  • Schedule: Try to wake up and go to the bed at the same time every day, even on weekends.

Do you have other methods of dealing with nightmares? Please share.

* * *

“Just a Bad Dream?” from glo.msn.com: http://glo.msn.com/relationships/9-common-nightmares–and-what-they-mean-5887.gallery#!stackState=0__%2Frelationships%2F9-common-nightmares–and-what-they-mean-5887.gallery.

Charlotte Harding, “Five common nightmares—and what they mean,” Daily Mail, from dailymail.co.uk: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-52177/Five-common-nightmares–mean.html.

International Association for the Study of Dreams, “Common Questions About Nightmares,” from asdreams.org: http://asdreams.org/subidxedunightmares.htm.

Juniper Russo, “Natural Treatments for Nightmares,” from voices.yahoo.com: http://voices.yahoo.com/natural-treatments-nightmares-2486330.html.

Juniper Russo, “Kanna, the Miraculous Natural Antidepressant,” from voices.yahoo.com: http://voices.yahoo.com/kanna-miraculous-natural-antidepressant-1960932.html?cat=68.

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


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  1. Nik says:

    Thank you Kevin * This is a wonderful article 🙂

  2. Other than some of the items listed in the lifestyle habits section of the article, has anyone noticed a personal correlation with consuming certain types of foods or herbs and their propensity to get nightmares? This may be much easier to answer for those who keep both a food journal and a dream journal.

  3. ladyslipper says:

    EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to note: this is super hard to find this as a medicine, with good reason–it is an important plant that is going extinct due to overharvesting in the wild. My suggestion and request is that people grow their own. My username is always ladyslipper not just for this comment. I do grow it and one plant only makes about 1oz of tincture. Not very economical and you can understand why it is on the extinct list. If I may go on with more of a rant, I believe it important for us to he growing all sorts of herbs in order to make sure we still will have some in the wild. With herbs becoming ever more popular, which I am so happy that people are taking care of themselves and naturally at that, we really need to make sure that they are coming from a cultivated and not wildcrafted source. Thank you if you’ve read this!! ;))

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