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The Humorous Herbalist

Dear Humorous Herbalist,

We just recently moved to the valley and have been enjoying your weekly columns very much. My question concerns my 18-year-old daughter.

About three years ago, she began having trouble sleeping at night. Sometimes, she couldn’t get to sleep and other times, she would wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep.



About two months ago, she discovered kava, valerian and melatonin and found that they helped her immensely. However, my concern is twofold. First, I worry about her having to depend upon these herbs to get to sleep at such a young age. Secondly, and most importantly, she has been put on anti-seizure medication over the past 10 days.

She is also taking medication for her acne. I feel there may be a conflict issue between the medications and these herbs. The sleeping problem seems to be aggravated by the medications she now takes, but she had had trouble in the past, too. If the kava, valerian and melatonin aren’t safe, is there anything that you might recommend that would be?



Also, your column on ashwagandha has our entire family interested in this herbal remedy. Where do you suggest purchasing the powder or capsules? Could my daughter take ashwagandha? And finally, is ashwagandha a “long-term” herb or one that should be taken for short spurts at a time? Thank you!

” Justine, Aspen

Dear Justine,

OK, let’s take this one step at a time. First, melatonin is not an herb. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland. The pineal gland helps keep your body in sync with the rhythms of the day, traditionally understanding that daytime is for being awake and nighttime is for sleeping.

The advent of melatonin supplementation came about to treat jet lag and temporary sleep disorders brought on by shift work, not as a nightly ritual. Nevertheless, I’ve never been a fan of anyone taking melatonin.

To begin with, one milligram (the smallest amount available) is three times higher than the normal amount naturally produced in the body. This is extremely problematic in my opinion. If you constantly flood your body with a hormone that it should be producing on its own, the body tends to shut down its own production of that hormone.

I’m not for any supplement that has this effect. I don’t care how “natural” it is, and I don’t care how many people continue to ignorantly write about melatonin as if it were “manna” from heaven. Furthermore, melatonin is not recommended for anyone under the age of 40, unless they are using it for jet lag or short-term use.

A simple way to “recharge” melatonin production in one’s pineal gland (which is approximately located in the middle of the forehead) is to bathe your face in the late-morning or late-afternoon sunshine for 10 minutes a day. Sunshine is not your enemy ” another ridiculous untruth trotted out by the mainstream media.

As for valerian, I do not know if there are any contraindications for anti-seizure medication. I do know that people who take “pentobarbital” have experienced longer sleeping time when they take valerian.

Regarding kava, I would not take this herb along with anti-seizure medication. However, there shouldn’t be any contraindications with the acne medication if your daughter is eventually able to get off the seizure medication.

I’m all for playing it safe in your daughter’s situation, so here’s my solution: There is a product called Formula 303. It’s a natural relaxant, reduces tension and stress and relieves muscle spasms. It has high doses of homeopathic valerian, passionflower and magnesium carbonate. Because it is homeopathic, it will not interfere with the medications your daughter is on. It is available on the Internet from various sources.

Regarding ashwagandha, this is an herb you take for a long time. I know from personal experience that ashwagandha typically takes 60 to 90 days of continuous use to really feel its effects. I recommend 2,000 milligrams of ashwagandha a day. That translates to about 2 or 3 teaspoons of the powder.

In India, it is normally given to men and women over the age of 35 since, for some reason, the plant resonates better with adults. However, children with specific issues can benefit from the herb. I would not give ashwagandha to your daughter, however, since it has not been determined how it interacts with anti-seizure medication.

I highly recommend Banyan Botanicals for purchasing ashwagandha. Their Web site is http://www.banyanbotanicals.com. The toll-free number is (888) 829-5722. They sell ashwagandha in capsules and in bulk.

What I like about this company is that everything is certified organic ” something rare when it comes to Indian herbs.

Hope this helps you and your family.

E-mail your questions to The Humorous Herbalist at writer8@sopris.net. The information in this column is not meant to take the place of your physician, nor is it intended to treat, diagnose or prescribe. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctor before using herbal therapy.


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