Monday, 5 September 2011

SAD and Herb Pillows

Make a SAD syrup or tincture from Lemon balm and SJW. What other herbs might you combine to make a sleep pillow or SAD tonic vinegar/elixir?
When I received this task I took advantage of my St John’s Wort being in flower and an abundance of self-seeded Lemon Balm and made a tincture. It should be ready to strain now; I will need to taste it as I had a slight mishap. I filled my jar halfway with SJW flowers and topped it up with chopped lemon balm leaves as planned but I decided to use vodka as the menstrum and just before the top I ran out. The only other thing I had to hand was brandy so I hope it’s all mixed OK, doesn’t sound very tasty but I think it might help to pick up mood in people feeling low or depressed.
Lemon Balm

 Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) is a particular type of depression induced by a lack of light, so the onset is in the autumn and wintertime as the nights draw in. A disrupted body clock (circadian rhythm) may cause depression and lethargy. In addition, low serotonin (neurotransmitters carrying messages to the brain) and melatonin levels (the hormone which makes us sleep) can be found in people suffering from SAD which lead to low mood and poor sleep.
 In Matthew Wood’s Book of Herbal Wisdom he feels Calendula might help and looks back at the old English practice of putting Calendula flowers in soup in the wintertime. I’d never heard of this myself but I do love making soups and I shall try it. Wood says it will help immunity by cleansing the lymphatics so it could help keep winter colds and coughs away as well.
Calendula Flowers

Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal in Hedgerow Medicine say a spoonful  of St. John’s Wort tincture “will light you up inside with a warm glow” , bringing back some summer light and warmth could be a lift on darker days. Wood remarks on the golden yellow colour of SJW flowers which indicates its use for all types of depression, including SAD. He suggests that a tincture catches the best ingredients in SJW.
 In 1996 German researchers released results of trials using St. John’s Wort as a successful antidepressant. Following this, British researchers did a trial with people experiencing SAD using either light therapy alone or light therapy combined with SJW. There was a slight but not significant improvement with the participants who had both light and SJW but those that had received the SJW as well reported more restful and refreshing sleep (Michael Castleman, The New Healing Herbs).
St. John's Wort

 The first thing that springs to my mind for a sleep pillow is hops. At a workshop on a lovely summer’s day last year Sarah kindly gave us some hops, but on the way home in the warm car myself and friends Kerry and Maria were all complaining of feeling really tired, we then we realised that the hops were taking effect. We spent the rest of the journey making sure I didn’t fall asleep at the wheel! Hop pillows are reported to have been used by King George III and Abraham Lincoln.

 A herbal sleep pillow is made to be placed near to where you sleep, under your usual pillow or inside the pillow case with your pillow.
 Lavender is known to be relaxing and is often used in sleep pillows. A few drops of lavender oil can have the same effect but too much has the opposite effect and is stimulating.
I have a lovely little book called Making Herbal Dream Pillows by Jim Long, he says that Rosemary adds feelings of warmth and safety to dreams and leads to peaceful sleep. His peaceful slumber recipe has ¼ cup Rose petals, ¼ cup Rosemary, ¼ cup Lavender flowers, ¼ cup of hops.
 Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal in Hedgerow Medicine suggest using St. John’s Wort in a herb pillow to be used for nightmares, bad dreams and fear of the dark, use the dried leaves and flowers. They also give instructions for a Wood Betony pillow: “Sew a small cloth bag, leaving one end open. Fill loosely with dried wood betony leaves. Some dried lavender or rose petals can be added for their fragrance. Stitch or tie up the open end, and place the bag under your pillow.” This is recommended for insomnia or nightmares.
 Other herbs to consider for insomnia are Catnip, Lemon Balm (and the essential oil), Valerian, Motherwort, Passionflower, Skullcap, Wild Lettuce, Mullein, Lime flower, Mugwort, Sweet Marjoram and Yarrow.

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