I Spent A Week Taking Herbal Sleep Remedies...for Science
When it comes to putting weird things in my body, I'm the resident guinea pig of Supercompressor. Hell, I've spent a week on a Nuvigil, smoked Polynesian sedatives, snorted powdered alcohol—oh, and I f**ked a robot once. Naturally, one has to wonder how I sleep at night, after spending my days pumping drugs into my body. The answer? You guessed it: even more drugs.
Since I'm vehemently opposed to loading my supple bod with real drugs like Nyquil, Ambien (save for said experiments), or really anything else that could prompt night-terrors and/or sleep-eating, I decided to spend a week trying out herbal remedies. My nights, and resulting days, were...interesting. These are my findings.
(For once, feel free to try these at home.)
Monday: Valerian Root
I had high hopes with Valerian—it's a sedative and anxiety inhibitor. Chronically suffering from both sleeplessness and anxiety, I was pumped to kill two birds with one perennial flowering stone.
Result: Sleep came swift and easy, but I found myself extremely hyperactive and jittery the next day—ironic, because this stuff also supposedly cures nervous tension, excitability, and irritable bowel syndrome. On the plus side, my bowels functioned swimmingly.
Tuesday: Moon Drops
Ah, yes, I've tackled this beast before. I once took three Moon Drops and concluded they were little more than repackaged Tic Tacs. However, I figured if I quadrupled(-ish) my dose, I could find a way to make them work better. So I did.
The box describes them as a “soothing, organic vanilla lozenge activated by a blend of homeopathic botanicals which act on the cause of sleeplessness.” I figured sucking on about nine before bed could boost the effects. Boy was I right.
Result: I wouldn't call the result a "sleep" as much as a "moderate coma." Had this been a Saturday, and my co-workers weren't waiting for me at our 10 a.m. meeting, I probably could have slept until dinnertime. Only after 36 minutes of my alarm going off did I finally open my eyes.
Also, after finally getting to work, I found myself sluggish and only busted out of my daze with a third cup of coffee and a Red Bull. Should I at this point be considered for the next Men's Health cover?
So here's an interesting little factoid: Melatonin is a hormone found in animals, plants, and microbes and acts as a powerful sleep aid. I had heard that, when taken in high doses, it causes vivid, sometimes violent and upsetting dreams. These pills were in 10 mg doses, and generally, 50 mg increases REM sleep time. I opted for that.
Result: Here's a completely factual account of the weird dream I had on Melatonin that I wrote down minutes after waking up so none of the information would escape my memory:
My brothers, a friend, and I are eating pizza and laughing about how we just dined-and-dashed a restaurant. My friend, Steve, is chain-smoking cigarettes and drunkenly trying to fix his iPad. His "wife" then explains to me that this isn’t the first time this has happened, and holds up an old MacBook covered in cream cheese and jam and a sign that says "Out chuggin’ cream cheese" — Steve.' This happened. I dunno.
Here's a non-fun fact: pregnant women shouldn't take this herbal sleep aid because it can cause miscarriages. Yikes! Regardless, nearly everyone I know has sipped Chamomile tea at one point. I drank it all the time when I was a kid. Sorry, when I was younger. I'm still a kid.
Result: At this point, after all the reckless things I've done to myself, a cup of tea isn't quite my cup of tea. I had a nice sleep, but I attribute it to my naturally calm demeanor and rigorous schedule of bedtime fishing for zipper trout.
Friday: Rescue Remedy
Despite the fact that this stuff comes in an adorable, teeny little bottle, it's packed with some seriously weird sh*t. Rock rose for "terror and panic," impatiens for irritability, clematis for inattentiveness and a lack of focus, Star of Bethlehem for shock, and Cherry Plum for...something. It wasn't entirely clear. Oh, it also has an alcohol content of 27 percent, so there's that.
Result: I took more than the suggested three-five drips. Way more. Like 20 drips. Perhaps it was nothing more than the placebo effect, but I loved how I felt after I sucked this stuff down—a nice, calm low that I felt all throughout my body, as if Enya was playing softly in a really fancy hotel lobby. My resulting sleep was calm without the medicated sluggishness. Well done, Rescue Remedy, you sexy b**ch.
Saturday: St. John's Wort
I'm a huge advocate for St. John's Wort—I use it whenever I'm feeling too robotic from Prozac or over-amped from excessive caffeine intake. This plant is actually a widely-accepted treatment for depression and is commonly prescribed by actual doctors in Germany to treat mood disorders and even alcoholism. It's the real deal, but one should exercise caution since it's been known to disrupt the effects of any other medications you may be taking, such as birth control or antidepressants.
Result: I've taken this stuff since age 10 and my body has gotten used to it, so I had to take two 300 mg pills to feel effects. When I did, I had an immaculate sleep with a clear head the next day. That's my favorite part of this drug, the shocking dose of clarity that you can obtain that lasts nearly 12 hours the next day. Maybe I should have taken this one during the week when I, you know, had actual work to be doing.
Sunday: Kava Kava
Gotta say, I love revisiting old drugs. I'd recently smoked a small batch of this out of a pretty bomb vaporizer and felt good. I believe my exact words were: "My brain felt numb—but not stupid—and my body relaxed, but not sluggish. It was as if I'd just popped a Klonopin or breathed in whatever the hell Dennis Hopper was doing in Blue Velvet." You can get Kava Kava in non-smokable forms, like pills, but I decided to just smoke an even bigger batch of the stuff.
Result: In the previous piece, I took about three or four puffs of the Kava wax. This time, I spent at least 10 minutes puffing away at it. I realized I'd had enough when I saw the first droplet of drool hit the spacebar on my keyboard. This stuff knocks you the hell out. I think I wandered from the desk onto the bed, but I don't remember falling asleep. That said, I was knocked out for hours, waking and feeling fully refreshed. Not a single text message beep woke me, which is nothing short of a miracle.
Jeremy Glass is the Vice editor for Supercompressor and the most functional herbal drug addict in his circle of friends. Help him celebrate getting over 1,000 Twitter followers by clicking this blue button: @CandyandPizza