This natural sleep tincture recipe is made with some of my favorite herbs. It’s naturally relaxing, soothing, and great for a better night’s sleep. We don’t need it often, but if I have a sick child, or if we travel and the schedules are crazy, this is the one I’m looking for.
And it doesn’t just work for kids. Adults who struggle with sleepless nights and anxious feelings may also benefit from a sleep tincture.
What is a sleep tincture?
A tincture simply extracts the health benefits of the herbs in a concentrated liquid form. If you’ve tried ‘sleep time tea’ before and felt more relaxed and slept better, a tincture may work even better. Tinctures rely on alcohol to extract and preserve the beneficial components of the herb.
This is my basic dyeing process. If you have a herb garden you already have a lot of ingredients! I rely on tinctures for a wide variety of complaints, such as stomach aches, colic, toothache, sore throat or as a multivitamin. I even have one that I like to use for postpartum care.
If you want to avoid alcohol, you can make glycerite or herbal-infused vinegar instead. These don’t have such a long shelf life but will last for several more years.
A popular strategy is to put the dose of alcohol tincture in a cup of boiling water and let it evaporate before drinking it. However, this only reduces the alcohol very little and you lose volatile oils and some other constituents in the process, according to the USDA.
Sleepy Time Herbs
Each herb in this blend has a unique role to play. Here’s what each herb does and why I chose it for my sleep tincture recipe.
Yarrow helps increase circulation in the body and has an affinity for blood. When circulation is functioning optimally, the body can better deliver the nutrition it needs to different areas.
Catnip is a nervine and sedative that helps calm and relax. The active ingredient in catnip is similar to the sedatives found in valerian root. It has been used since medieval times as a strengthening tonic.
Chamomile is a gentle yet powerful nervine that soothes and calms. It is useful for restlessness, crankiness and anxious feelings.
Stevia is a super sweet herb, about 200 times sweeter than sugar, according to a 2019 article in the journal PNAS. We’re using it here for flavor, although it can be omitted if you wish.
Oat straw and milk oat tops
Oats help restore the nervous system, especially during times of stress, to rebuild energy and stamina. They help build resilience and induce rest, which in turn can boost libido. This relaxing herb responds to anxious feelings and insomnia and is a great addition to a sleep tincture.
You can even use oats to reduce night sweats, hot flashes, and mood swings during menopause (which can interrupt sleep). Our family has also used it to help stop bedwetting at night.
The stem and head of immature milky oats are rich in minerals and nutrients, including:
- The iron
- Vitamins A, B, C, E and K
Rich in minerals and vitamins, peppermint is a delicious addition to foods, like this peppermint mocha. Mint helps stimulate digestion, improves circulation, and supports toning and cleansing of the liver. It relaxes and stimulates both the nervous system to help ease tension and anxious feelings. Mint can therefore calm you down while providing a feeling of lift.
Hops were used by native tribes and the Arab world for centuries before becoming a popular addition to beer brewing. They help induce drowsiness and even King George III reportedly slept on a hops-stuffed pillow to have sweet dreams. Most of the evidence on hops shows that it works as part of a blend of herbs.
Are the tinctures safe?
Tinctures have been used safely in herbal remedies since ancient times and are still widely used today.
There are as many uses for tinctures as there are herbs, but be sure to research thoroughly before creating a new concoction. Just because something comes from nature doesn’t mean it’s safe to focus and ingest! Quite the contrary sometimes, in fact.
This sleep tincture recipe contains a blend of herbs that I have used successfully for years. There are, however, some security considerations.
Safety and contraindications of sleep tincture
Herbs are largely safe options, but not all herbs are suitable for everyone. This is one of the reasons I keep a variety of herbs in my DIY herb cabinet. The following information comes from The Academy of Herbs, certified herbalist David Hoffman, and Yale-trained herbalist and physician Aviva Romm, MD.
Yarrow – Yarrow is not safe during pregnancy, and its safety during breastfeeding is unknown.
Catnip – This herb is used to induce menstruation. High doses are not recommended during pregnancy.
Oat straw – The stem and top of milky oats may contain traces of gluten due to cross contamination. Oats themselves do not contain gluten, but they can be processed in a facility that does. People with celiac disease who are very susceptible can either grow and harvest it themselves, or find certified gluten-free oat straw.
Pepper mint – Large amounts may irritate existing acid reflux or decrease breast milk production. The amount used in this recipe shouldn’t have these effects unless someone is really sensitive.
Chamomile – Not recommended for people on anticoagulants. Care should be taken with those who use hormonal contraceptives, sedatives, and drugs that pass through the liver. Chamomile can also cause allergic reactions in people who are allergic to plants in the Asteraceae family.
Hops – As Red clover, hops naturally contain estrogenic compounds, so it should not be used during pregnancy or in young developing children. Some find it can worsen already existing depression or cause vivid dreams at night.
Sleep Tincture Safety Changes
Insomnia during pregnancy can be severe. Although I prefer to stick with natural relaxant remedies, a few modifications are needed. Moms-to-be should skip hops, yarrow and catnip. In general, it is recommended to avoid the medicinal use of herbs during the first trimester, but check with your midwife or doctor If in doubt.
Breastfeeding mothers may want to skip yarrow and mint, although this is not totally necessary. I would also forget about the hops if I was breastfeeding.
Children can safely use this hop free sleep tincture. Although alcohol is not for children, the amount used in a tincture is incredibly small and many consider it to be good for children. According to a 1996 article, Alcohol from Bananas, there is actually more alcohol in a ripe banana!
Sweet Dreams Sleep Tincture Recipe
This relaxing sleep blend is my choice for a restful night’s sleep. Be sure to check the above safety precautions to change them if necessary. You can also replace the omitted herbs with more than one.
Place all the herbs in a clean, tinted glass jar or out of direct sunlight.
Pour the alcohol over the herbs until they are completely submerged, leaving about 1 to 2 inches of space on top.
Cap with a tight fitting lid and leave in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks and up to 8 weeks, stirring daily.
After the desired soaking time, strain the herbs through muslin or cheesecloth and store them in small tincture bottles for use as needed. I use 2 ounce bottles and the droppers that come with them
Consult a health care practitioner before using herbs, especially on children, if you are pregnant, or have any medical condition.
How to use: The normal daily dose is 2-3 drops for adults and 1 dropper for children over two years old. Start with a small amount and increase as needed. I have found it to work great even at low doses.
Shelf life and storage: Alcohol tinctures last for many years when stored in a cool place away from direct light and heat.
Some people find that over time the rubber in the dropper bottles begins to break down. For long-term storage, use a regular screw-on lid or store it in a glass jar. It is easy to fill the dropper bottle with more tincture as needed from a larger supply.
Where to find the ingredients
I grow up a lot herbs in my garden and put the rest online. You may be able to find some of these herbs locally. Starwest Botanicals sells high quality organic herbs you can get their website or on Amazon.
Other dyes to try
If you like to have a homemade tincture on hand, try these other recipes!
If you don’t DIY
Infused herbs aren’t everyone’s cup of tea (pun intended) so I also keep homeopathic kids’ sleep pills from Genexa on hand for the occasional restless or anxious night. I love that they are independently tested for safety and purity (no toxins, artificial flavors or fillers or ingredients derived from GMOs). The tablets seem to help my the children fall asleep.
And if you prefer to buy a sleep tincture, Herbpharm also sells a alcohol-free sleep glycerite it is of good quality.
This article has been medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a family doctor approved by the board. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk to your doctor.
Have you ever had trouble sleeping? What is your remedy?