Can't sleep? Try the medicine cabinet in your GARDEN, says TV horticulturalist Chris Beardshaw

The Mail Online feature on the Potter’s Herbals study - Read the full article from The Mail Online here.

  • Mr Beardshaw was speaking ahead of next week's Chelsea Flower Show 
  • Says he uses a herbal remedy himself for insomnia caused by jet lag
  • Contains purple passionflower, which may have more effect than lavender

PUBLISHED:09:18, 18 May 2015 | UPDATED:13:28, 18 May 2015

TV horticulture expert Chris Beardshaw says the garden is a ‘medicine cabinet’, with herbs providing 'safe, effective alternatives to drugs for problems such as insomnia'

‘We look for the aesthetic delight in our gardens but our gardens are our medicine cabinets.

‘There is no doubt that herbal products provide safe and effective treatments for many health problems which is why we, as a family, use them as a first port of call when we are feeling under the weather’ he said. 

Indeed, scientific trial from Australia found the purple passionflower has benefits for people suffering sleep problems. Passiflora incarnata, as it is known, was tested in 41 people aged 18-35 years who drank a cup of herbal tea daily for a week. They also filled in sleep diaries and had their brain waves recorded.  The volunteers then swapped to a drink made from a placebo (dummy) teabag, without knowing which was the cuppa containing real herbs. Even at low-doses, sleep quality was ‘significantly better’ using teabags made from dried Passionflower leaves, stems, seeds and flowers, compared with placebo teabags. The study, from researchers at Monash University, Victoria, was published in the journal Phytotherapy Research.3

Beardshaw uses a herbal supplement which contains purple passionflower to cope with sleep problems such as jet lag. Experts say these benefits can be enhanced by adding hops, valerian and Jamaican dogwood ­ all known for their sedative qualities.

chris beardshawFlower Passiflora

Yet a recent survey shows only one in four people know that passionflower aids sleep, compared with two thirds who turn to lavender ­ for which the evidence is much more patchy.

Beardshaw uses Potter’s Herbal supplements Nodoff tablets or liquid - which contain the ingredient - to cope with jet lag from international gardening assignments.

He believes people are looking for alternatives to conventional drugs, after concerns over side effects and dependency problems.

He said: ‘Clever combinations of herbs mean that the total remedy is greater than the sum of its parts, so less can be used of each individual ingredient.

‘Could you imagine a garden with only one flower? 3

 ‘We look for the aesthetic delight in our gardens, but they are our medicine cabinets,' said Mr Beardshaw

'It could never have the same visual power and appeal as a garden planted with a carefully chosen range of plants, with different strengths and attributes.

‘Our grandparents knew these remedies worked, we still have the writings of the great English herbalist Culpeper, but we now have scientific evidence suggesting there is huge potential.

‘In addition, I think we are much more broad-minded about exploring different options’ he added.

Medical herbalist Dr Chris Etheridge, from London, uses tailor-made herbal remedies for sleep problems, but says ready-made will work for many people taking them short-term or for even longer.

He said ‘I have a patient who has been taking this combination of herbs for sleep disturbances and after a year it’s still working brilliantly.’

‘We have used medicinal herbs for centuries and many modern-day medicines, including aspirin and digitalis are derived from plants.

‘Many plants contain phytochemicals with proven and often potent medical activity’ he added.