Modern research as already confirmed that acupuncture for insomnia is an effective and useful treatment. Recently, the prestigious journal, Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reviewed the use of Chinese herbal medicine in the treatment of insomnia. Studies have demonstrated that Chinese herbs not only benefit sleep quality but can also lengthen the deep sleep period.
Chinese herbs are nearly always prescribed using a combination of herbs and one such common formulation is known as suan zao ren tang (Ziziphus combination).
Research has shown that this Chinese herb formula can increase non-rapid eye movement sleep and one of the herbs in the formula also has a sedative effect. Unlike modern pharmaceuticals, where sedatives make you drowsy and are habit forming, Chinese herbs are balancing and regulating. Also the difference between using Chinese herbs for insomnia or pharmaceutical drugs for insomnia, is that once health balance is achieved with Chinese herbs, you no longer keep need taking them.
There are a number of causes of insomnia according to Chinese medicine and for instance, insomnia could be due to the liver, heart, kidneys and even the gall bladder. For example, if people started experiencing insomnia after a shock or trauma, then the heart and gall bladder function has become disturbed leading to insomnia. These people have a history of being easily startled by the slightest sound and then lying awake with palpitations.
Two other common causes of insomnia are due to what is called in traditional Chinese medicine, blood deficiency and yin deficiency. People with blood deficiency tend to have difficulty falling asleep and feel their heart beat keeping them awake. People with yin deficiency fall asleep easily enough but then awake some hours later and can’t fall back asleep. Each type of insomnia requires a different formula.
Chinese herb formulas are also modified to suit the individual’s specific symptoms. For instance some patients awaken at night and have nocturia or night sweating and herbs are prescribed to address these issues.
Heiko Lade has a masters degree in Chinese herbal medicine from the University of Technology, Sydney and worked for many years in Sydney’s Chinatown under Dr Kevin Zheng Ping Lu at the Chinese Ginseng and Herbs Co.