One of the most common questions people ask me as an herbalist is “What can I take to help me sleep?” Since the underlying cause of insomnia is usually stress, working with the appropriate calming and comforting herbs is a good place to start.
In my post on comforting herbs, I mentioned that hops can be taken as tea or tincture to help with stress and insomniaâ€”but my favorite way to use hops to encourage sleep is with hop pillows. The aroma of good quality hops is a gentle, effective soporific (so effective that people who pick hops all day sometimes get sleepy on the job).
Here’s how to make a hop pillow:
Make or find a small cloth bag. I generally make mine out of two 3×5 inch pieces of quilting cotton, but a large muslin teabag works well.
Fill the bag with good quality hops. Good hops should be fresh, more green than brown, and very aromatic. If you have trouble finding good hops, try a brewing supply store. Most bulk dried hops you find in herb stores are old and sad. (Herb stores often don’t take very good care of their bulk dried herbs, but that’s a topic for another post.)
After you’ve filled the bag with hops, sew or fasten it closedâ€”tight enough so that if you roll over on it at night, you won’t wake up to a bed full of hops.
Sleep with the pillow close enough to smell it. (I like to give mine a few good squeezes to release the aroma when I get in bed.)
(N.B. Most herbalists consider hops to be contraindicated in cases of depression. I think this is less of an issue with hop pillows, but it’s definitely something to consider. Always pay close attention to your reactions to any herbâ€”if your instinct says something isn’t good for you, don’t use it!)