8 Natural Sleep Remedies From African Traditional Medicine
Africa is gifted with a wide variety of flora, and more than 4,000 plant species are being used for medicinal purposes, according to Health24.
The sleep-aid industry has grown steadily in recent years, raking in tens of billions of dollars a year. People are willing to pay for a good night’s sleep, but they’re paying more than just cash. Many of the pharmaceutical remedies available have unwanted side effects, can cause addiction problems and often don’t even give a quality sleep that leaves users feeling rested. Sleep experts say there is nothing that will help you sleep better than developing good sleep habits — like exercising and going to bed at the same time each night. But insomnia sufferers still need a little extra help without worrying about unwanted side effects.
In much of rural Africa, traditional medicine is the only form of treatment that exists. Traditional medicine appears on the shelves of almost 80 percent of the South African population, according to Health24.
Here are 8 natural sleep remedies from Africa that may help supplement better sleep habits.
Griffonia simplicifolia is a climbing shrub that grows in West Africa and Central Africa. It’s a source of the compound 5-HTP, which works with the calming, anxiety-reducing neurotransmitter serotonin and the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. The seed pods from the shrub are sometimes made into a supplement and used as a natural sleep aid, according to Naturalhealthadvisory.com.
A resin used to make perfumes and oils, frankincense comes from the trees of the genus boswellia. Frankincense has been traded in African cultures for thousands of years, with most of it coming out of Somalia. Its essential oils can help your body reach ideal temperatures to fall asleep, and can help reduce chronic stress, according to Draxe.com.
West African Black Pepper
West African black pepper, or piperaceae, can be used to treat some ailments including mental disorders and fever. It’s primarily found in the southern states of Nigeria, where natives take the essential oil out of the plant’s fresh fruit and use it for medicinal purposes. One study done by the National Institute of Health found that the essential oil decreased ketamine-induced sleep latency and prolonged total sleeping time.
East and North Africa are two of the few places where lavender grows naturally. Studies have found that the scent of the purple plant can ease insomnia and anxiety. In fact, studies have found that people who sleep in a room infused with the scent of lavender sleep 20 percent better than those who do not. Lavender increases what researchers call slow-wave sleep — the deep kind of rest during which your heartbeat slows down, and your muscles relax, according to Prevention.com.
Silene capensis has been used by Xhosa tribes of South Africa during rites-of-passage rituals. It comes from the roots of a plant that South African natives call undlela ziimhlophe. It’s mostly known for helping people have lucid dreams, or at least very vivid dreams, and improving recollection. Many people who take this supplement report waking up feeling incredibly well-rested, so there is evidence that it helps with the quality of sleep too. The roots can be chewed on and eaten, or boiled down and steeped in tea, according to Thebotanicalsource.com. Some buyers list their experience with the root on the website, too.
Coconuts grow in tropical climates all over the world today, but before anyone learned about how to grow them, the one of the few places they occurred naturally was on the coast of East Africa. Before European exploration, there were no coconut palms in the Americas, the Carribean or even West Africa. The healthy fats found in coconut oil provide your body with “necessary building blocks to manufacture sleep hormones” says Wellnessmama.com. Just one or two tablespoons of coconut oil daily should help you see results, but you can find an exact dosage chart based on your weight on Thevirgincoconutoil.com.
Red Bush Tea
Red bush tea is another name for the popular rooibos tea, which is showing up in major coffee and tea chains around the world. Rooibos is a herb found on a small shrub that grows around Cape Town, South Africa. The herb contains the antioxidants aspalathin and nothofagin which have nerve-relaxing properties. Rooibos is also naturally caffeine-free, so if you are a tea fiend who needs better sleep, it may be a good switch to get your fix. It also contains muscle-relaxing magnesium and several other minerals known to induce relaxation, according to Thealternativedaily.com.
Snakeweed is the nickname for the Nigerian plant stachytarpheta. Nigerian natives also call it rat tail and researchers have found that the plant’s leaves may have sedative properties. The leaves are used medicinally in Nigeria and other parts of the world for insomnia and anxiety among other uses. Studies show that extracts from the leaves reduced spontaneous locomotor activity and increased sleep time in mice. The plant also grows in Ghana and Cameroon according to Ngrguardiannews.com.
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