Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier - The Best Alternative Medicine

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Insomnia: CAM Therapies for Specific Conditions

  • Qi Gong exercises helped patients with insomnia, according to a 1996 review of literature by Dr. Kenneth Sancier, President of the Qigong Institute in Menlo Park, California.


  • Melatonin, a hormone, is among the most popular aids for overcoming insomnia. Researchers generally gave 2 mg of melatonin at bedtime. Research is still in the preliminary stages.


  • Herbs are commonly used to treat insomnia. Insomnia is the sixth-most common condition for which herbs are used in America, accounting for 18 percent of all herb use, according to a 1997 Prevention magazine survey.


  • Valerian is an herb that is frequently used for insomnia. In a German study, 72 percent of insomniacs who used valerian found relief from the condition. In another study, the herb helped 75 percent of patients with insomnia. Valerian is used to relieve insomnia and restlessness and as a muscle relaxant, although researched evidence is fairly limited at the present time.


  • Brahmi is an Ayurvedic herb that appears to have some effectiveness in the treatment of insomnia. This herb, which is a mild sedative, is also reported to improve memory.


Caution: Some people are stimulated by the hormone melatonin and may have nightmares or hangovers. Also, a 1997 paper by the National Sleep Foundation claimed it may harm the reproductive system. Some studies suggest that melatonin can deepen or induce depression, lower luteinizing hormone (LH) levels, increase REM or dream sleep, and exacerbate allergies. Patients taking cortisone should avoid it. Also, some preliminary data suggest that melatonin may cause vasoconstriction (constriction of blood vessels), may inhibit fertility, may suppress the male sexual drive, and may produce hypothermia and retinal damage. As with any powerful hormone, melatonin should not be taken by pregnant women. Anyone considering taking melatonin for sleep disorders or jet lag should seek a medical opinion. Typical preparation and dose is 1-3 mg taken one hour before going to bed. Do not take more than 6 mg.

: As a tranquilizing herb, valerian may worsen depression. An overdose can cause muscle problems and liver toxicity. Valerian should not be taken in conjunction with antidepressants or sedatives, since it may enhance the effects of these drugs. In a few instances, valerian may cause mild, temporary stomach upset or nausea. There are many typical preparations, and any one of the following doses can be taken thirty to forty-five minutes before going to bed: 1-2 g of dried root (which can be taken as a tea); 4-6 ml of a 1:5 alcohol solution; 102 ml of fluid extract; 250-450 mg of powdered extract; or 150-300 mg of standardized (0.8 percent valeric acid) extract.



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Copyright © 2000 by Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier, Inc.
Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York, New York.

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