Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Herbal Remedy for Sleeplessnes- Shou Wu

I have been talking for several days about sleeplessness, stress, anxiety and insomnia. Today, I will begin talking about herbal remedies for these conditions.

One of the reasons I have researched these subjects is an experience I had several years ago.

Most of my life, I had absolutely no problem sleeping, I could decide that i was going to sleep, and be asleep in 10 minutes or less, and awaken within 10 minutes of whatever time I wanted to get up, without an alarm clock.

This all changed when I was injured by a tractor trailer crashing through the wall of a building I was standing in. The person I was talking to was killed, and I was hospitalized. I only spent several days in the hospital, but I was confined to a hospital bed at home for several weeks, because I could not get up or down without the help of the bed raising and lowering.

My injuries healed, but I had great difficulty sleeping, at first because of the intense physical pain, then later because of nightmares, and the psychological effects of the accident, (including survivor guilt). I spent several years working with a trauma counselor, who told me I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Even now, years later, I still find it difficult to sleep through the night. So this is a subject where my experience is not from suggesting treatments to clients, but from my own experience using these remedies to help myself.

So the first herbal remedy that I would like to talk about is a traditional Chinese herbal remedy, and one of my very favorite herbs. It is known by various names, He Shou Wu, Ho Shou Wu, or simply Shou Wu; Fo-Ti; the botanical name is Polygonum multiflorum.

It is a famous tonic herb in China, said to have a rejuvenating effect on anyone who takes it for some length of time. Shou Wu has many tonic effects according to Chinese tradition, it is tonic to the blood, the Liver and Kidneys; it is said to keep the hair from turning grey, and restore it's color if it has already turned; and to be tonic to that part of the body called the Jing. Jing is difficult to translate, it is sometimes described as the "essence" of a human, the "original qi (chi); I don't want to say much more than that about Jing, I could write for pages about it, trying to explain it.

But the reason I bring up Shou Wu here is that it also is said to help calm the heart spirit, and in traditional Chinese medicine, restlessness, sleeplessness, and anxiety may all be related to a restless heart spirit. (In Traditional Chinese Medicine, they talk about different spirits inhabiting different body organs, Heart Spirit, Kidney Spirit, Liver Spirit, Lung Spirit, and Spleen Spirit; each having specific functions, as well as disorders.)

When the Heart Spirit is restless or unsettled, it may manifest as insomnia, anxiety, or restlessness; in extreme cases , even what we would call psychosis.

Shou Wu is a safe and gentle herb, with a calming and tonifying effect. (Some authors say it's calming effect comes from the tonifying properties, which make the Heart a more comfortable place for the spirit to reside.)

This talk about "spirits" may seem like hokum, but this herb does have a calming effect on whatever it is that produces the effect we call "restlessness", "anxiety", and "insomnia". It is generally one of the first herbs I suggest to people who are having trouble with these problems.
For myself, taking this herb helped me get past the nightmares; and, when I take it regularly, it helps me sleep.

Even though this is a very safe herb, you should discuss it with your doctor, or an experienced herbalist, before you begin using it, especially if you have any medical condition, or are taking any medications.

The material presented in this blog is for informational use only and should in no way be used as a substitute for needed medical treatment. I am not a doctor, I do not diagnose or treat disease. If you need medical care, please consult the appropriate medical professional. And please discuss with your doctor if you are taking or planning to take any herbal preparations.

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