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Su B Sleep

‘I bought these pills to help you sleep’, the patient said. ‘What do you reckon?’

Over-the-counter remedies usually contain a mixture of herbs with a good track record for helping with a particular problem; insomnia, anxiety, hot flushes and so on. What they don’t contain is a balanced prescription that will suit your individual needs. Sleep remedies, for example, nearly always contain hops (Humulus lupulus), because of their sedative qualities. And they do help to calm you down, but if you are at all prone to depression, they can make things worse.

So if you are taking herbal pills for insomnia, it’s worth checking what’s in them

Hops are interesting, though, not just for their sleepiness. They will smooth out digestive cramps, so they can benefit people with irritable bowel. And they contain plant oestrogens, so they are often found in formulae for hot flushes and menopausal symptoms too. The oestrogens are responsible for the effect on men of drinking too much beer, as noted by Shakepeare: ‘It promotes the desire, but takes away the performance.’

An aspect of beer that the adverts, strangely, do not dwell upon.

Meet The Author...
Su Bristow
Who Am I?
I studied at the School of Herbal Medicine for four years, and qualified in 1989, becoming a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists ( The road to herbal medicine led from my early interest in organic gardening and healthy eating, through the study of social and physical anthropology at Cambridge, where I specialised in medical anthropology. What fascinated me was how people deal with their health problems when they have only the natural resources around them, and their own ingenuity. I went on to learn massage and reflexology, and worked at a residential naturopathic clinic, where I learned about the use of diet and other natural ways of healing. After qualifying as a herbalist, I set up practice in mid-Devon. Since then I have continued to expand my expertise, with counselling skills, first aid, and knowledge of the Chinese and Ayurvedic systems of herbal medicine. Besides one-to-one consultation, I have also taught evening classes, students of the Westcountry Massage Association, and various private courses.
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