18 Chinese Herbs for Dreams

In this article I list the major herbs from the traditional Chinese pharmacopoeia that can help alleviate dream problems, such as excessive dreaming, nightmares and bad dreams, and so on.

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They are listed below along with their indications (specific conditions for which the herb is used) and contraindications (conditions in which the herb should not be used).

If you’re interested in purchasing a personalized remedy for any sleep or dream-related problem, get in touch. I also provide free consultations. 

The below herbs are powerful medicines. Do not take them without consulting with your physician first, especially if you suffer from any disease or are taking medications. Note that herbs which are sedatives should not be taken while driving, etc. or together with other sedatives.

According to the traditional Chinese medical approach, excessive dreaming (and insomnia) results from Liver yang internal heat surging upwards or from blood deficiency.

If there are excessive dreams and emotional disturbance, nourishing herbs that calm the shen (spirit) are used. They are often sweet in taste, neutral in thermal property, and enter the Heart, Spleen, and Liver channels. They nourish the Heart and calm the shen.

Blood tonifying herbs are used in cases of blood deficiency.

Learn about herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine for insomnia and non-herbs used for various sleep problems.

Bai He (Bulbus Lilii)

Botanical names:

  • Lilium brownii
  • Lilium lancifolium
  • Lilium pumilum

English name: Lily.

Parts used: Bulb.

Indications: Excessive dreaming.

Contraindications: Diarrhea or loose stools, cough or phlegm. Sedative.

Ci Wu Jia (Radix et Caulis Acanthopanacis Senticosi)

Botanical name: Eleutherococcus senticosus.

English name: Eleuthero.

Parts used: Roots.

Indications: Dream-disturbed sleep, excessive dreaming.

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Contraindications: Sedative; interacts with drugs such as digoxin and barbiturates.

Dang Gui (Radicis Angelicae Sinensis)

Botanical name: Angelica sinensis.

English name: Female ginseng.

Parts used: Root.

Indications: Excessive dreaming.

Contraindications: Abdominal distention, spleen deficiency, loose stools or diarrhea, and excess conditions or heat signs.

Dong Yang Shen (Radix Ginseng Japonica)

Botanical name: Panax ginseng.

English name: Chinese ginseng.

Parts used: Roots.

Indications: Excessive dreams or dream-disturbed sleep.

Contraindications: Excess conditions.

Gou Qi Zi (Fructus Lycii)

Botanical names:

  • Lycium barbarum
  • Lycium chinense

English name: Goji berry.

Parts used: Fruit.

Indications: Frequent dreams.

Contraindications: Diarrhea, excess or exterior conditions, pregnancy.

Huang Lian (Rhizoma Coptidis)

Botanical names:

  • Coptis chinensis
  • Coptis deltoidea
  • Coptis omeiensis 

English name: Goldthread.

Parts used: Root.

Indications: Nightmares.

Contraindications: Cold, deficiency. Side effects may include: allergic reaction, allergic rash, dizziness, headache, tinnitus, nausea, vomiting, palpitations, shortness of breath, abdominal fullness, diarrhea, and reduction of red blood cells.

Jiao Gu Lan (Rhizoma seu Herba Gynostemmatis)

Botanical name: Gynostemma pentaphyllum.

English name: Gynostemma.

Parts used: Rhizome.

Indications: Excessive dreams due to old age.

Side effects: Sedation, fatigue, lack of energy, dizziness, chest congestion, mild fever, perspiration, sore throat, rash, increased heartbeat, and increased respiration rate.

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Lian Xu (Stamen Nelumbinis)

Botanical name: Nelumbo nucifera.

English name: Sacred lotus.

Parts used: Stamen.

Indications: Excessive dreaming.

Lian Zi (Semen Nelumbinis)

Botanical name: Nelumbo nucifera.

English name: Sacred lotus.

Parts used: Seeds.

Indications: Anxiety, dream-disturbed sleep.

Contraindications: Dry stools or constipation.

Long Dan Cao (Radix Gentianae)

Botanical names:

  • Gentiana scabra
  • Gentiana triflora
  • Gentiana manshurica
  • Gentiana rigescens

English name: Gentian.

Parts used: Roots.

Indications: Nightmares.

Contraindications: Deficiency, cold conditions. Side effects may include headache, facial flushing, dizziness, and sedation.

Ren Shen (Radix Ginseng)

Botanical name: Panax ginseng.

English name: Chinese ginseng.

Parts used: Roots.

Indications: Disturbed sleep with excessive dreams, fright.

Contraindications: Excess conditions, such as bleeding caused by heat in the blood, red eyes and dizziness, wheezing and cough, or phlegm accumulation, constipation, parasites, internal accumulation, heat or fire conditions.

Suan Zao Ren (Semen Zizyphi Spinosae)

Botanical name: Ziziphus jujuba.

English name: Jujube red date.

Parts used: Seeds.

Indications: Excessive dreaming.

Contraindications: This is a hypnotic herb; do not drive under the influence or combine with other sedatives. Avoid in cases of excess heat or hot phlegm, diarrhea, or pregnancy.

Tu Si Zi (Semen Cuscutae)

Botanical names:

  • Cuscuta chinensis
  • Cuscuta japonica 

English name: Dodder.

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Parts used: Seeds.

Indications: Spermatorrhea, frequent dreams.

Contraindications: Being easily aroused sexually,  dryness, constipation, or scanty, dark urine.

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Wu Wei Zi (Fructus Schisandrae Chinensis)

Botanical names:

  • Schisandra chinensis
  • Schisandra sphenanthera

English name: Chinese magnolia vine.

Parts used: Fruit.

Indications: Anxiety and dream-disturbed sleep.

Contraindications: Excess conditions, the initial stages of exterior conditions.

Xiao Mai (Fructus Tritici)

Botanical name: Triticum aestivum.

English name: Common wheat.

Parts used: Fruit.

Indications: Dream-disturbed sleep, anxiety.

Ye Jiao Teng (Caulis Polygoni Multiflori)

Botanical name: Reynoutria multiflora.

English name: Polygonum.

Parts used: Vine.

Indications: Excessive dreams.

Yuan Zhi (Radix Polygalae)

Botanical names:

  • Polygala tenuifolia
  • Polygala sibirica

English name: Milkwort.

Parts used: Roots (honey-fried).

Indications: Excessive dreaming, anxiety.

Contraindications: Heat symptoms/hot phlegm, gastritis, peptic, or duodenal ulcers, pregnancy.

Zong Lu Zi (Fructus Trachycarpi)

Botanical name: Trachycarpus fortunei.

English name: Windmill palm.

Parts used: Fruit.

Indications: Excessive dreaming.

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