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Women's Health

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Natural Sleep Aids and Remedies

What is 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)?

5-HTP is a derivative of the amino acid tryptophan. It is used to boost serotonin in the body. 5-HTP is also the precursor of melatonin, which regulates sleep cycles.

Some findings show that 5-HTP may ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Other studies show that 5-HTP may be useful in controlling appetite and pain. There are also a few studies that show no benefit with supplementation of 5-HTP.

How much 5-HTP is used as a sleep remedy?

Follow package instructions with 5-HTP, and talk to your doctor about other medications you may be taking. All natural products have the risk of interacting with drugs.

What about catnip, passionflower, and hops as sleep remedies?

Catnip is a stimulant for cats, yet some claim this herbal remedy works as a sedative similar to valerian in humans.

Passionflower (also known as maypop) is another natural sleep remedy and sedative that's widely used for insomnia and "nervous" gastrointestinal complaints. A few studies indicate a benzodiazepine-like calming action with passionflower.

Hops is another herb that may promote sleep. But the jury is still out on claims that hops is beneficial.

Are natural sleep aids and remedies safe?

Like all drugs, natural sleep remedies can have side effects and risks. Pre-market evaluation and approval by the FDA are not required for OTC aids, dietary supplements, or herbal products. The particular brand you buy may have inappropriate dosing. You may get less or more of the herb than intended, which could make it dangerous to use to treat children or the elderly.

It's important that you understand all about the natural sleep remedies you take. Know what you're putting into your body and how to discern which natural remedies will enhance your health and which ones might increase your chance of illness. In addition, talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of natural sleep remedies.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on September 02, 2015
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