For centuries, herbs and flowers have been used to induce vivid and meaningful dreams. Herbs were thought to have magical properties that could prevent nightmares, protect against evil or even foretell the future. Today we recognize that herbs are not capable of such miraculous feats but there is evidence that the pleasant fragrances of herbs, flowers and essential oils can have a positive effect on our mental health, relaxation and our dreams.
Babies were often given small pillows filled with herbs to help calm them for restful sleep or to ease crying fits. Called comfort pillows, they were filled with fragrant and relaxing herbs. The comfort pillows were also useful for masking the smells of medicines and sickness for those who were ill.
Herb fragrances work to activate scent memories in the limbic system of the brain. This area also activates powerful emotional and physical responses. The fragrances are released from the herbs in the herb pillows as we move around
Dream pillows are not made with essential oils, as they would be too powerful. The herb blends will not be as fragrant as a potpourri blend, but will be more subtle. They may promote more restful sleep or bring more creative and vivid dreams. If you have trouble sleeping when you travel, bring a dream pillow with you to help you fall into a relaxing sleep.
Organically grown flowers and herbs are preferred for dream pillows A few things to avoid including in dream pillows because they can induce frightening dreams or headaches: Artemisia, bay laurel leaves, fixatives such as orris root or vetiver root, essential oils, Russian tarragon, sage leaves (a few sage flowers may be used), and tansy.
Inexpensive cotton or muslin bags may be purchased at craft stores and filled with the herb blends. If you are handy with a sewing machine you may create small pillows from attractive fabric or even make animal shapes stuffed with herbs for children. For babies, you may want to place the pillow under the crib sheet to avoid a choking hazard. Cats enjoy bags stuffed with dried catnip.
The herbs in the pillow will maintain their scent for years. You may want to store them in plastic bags when you are not using them to maintain the scent longer. The pillows may also be tossed in the dryer to naturally fragrance sheets or delicate clothing. The bags are not sturdy, so avoid drying with your blue jeans and tennis shoes! Be sure to remove the dream pillow from your pillowcase before washing. Keep a dream journal to see which herbs work best for you and experiment with different blends.
For more information about making dream pillows look for Making Herbal Dream Pillows by Jim Long. (Storey Books 1998) Jim has been a contributor to Herb Companion Magazine for many years and operates an herb farm in Oak Grove, Arkansas.
Useful Herbs for Dream Pillows
- Calendula – also known as “Pot Marigold”, not the French
marigold. Used to increase restful sleep
- Catnip – A relaxing herb for restful sleep. Especially good for babies
and children (and cats!)
- Chamomile – Used for relaxation and pleasant dreams. If you have ragweed
allergies using this herb may aggravate the symptoms. Use sparingly, no more
than a teaspoon per pillow.
- Cinnamon – Use a few pieces of Cinnamonum cassia bark for a romantic
blend, especially for men
- Clary Sage – Salvia sclarea, an intensely fragrant plant that can produce
some vivid and sometimes bizarre dreams. Use the leaves or flowers in small
- Clove – Use 1 or 2 cloves to induce romantic and exotic dreams.
- Jasmine – The dried flowers are useful for romantic and erotic dreams,
especially for women.
- Lavender – The flowers ease headaches, soothe and relax. It is especially
useful for the elderly. A pillow with just lavender can be very wonderful.
- Lemon Balm – A valuable antidepressant and useful for anxiety and insomnia.
Good for relieving headaches and stress.
- Lemongrass – Adds color and exotic elements to dreams. Cut into small
pieces for drying
- Lemon Verbena – Use a small amount to add a sense of lightness to dreams.
The strong lemon fragrance is reason enough to use this one!
- Marjoram – Add a sense of warmth, safety and comfort. Useful in romantic
- Mimosa – Useful for prophetic dreams and exotic undertones.
- Mint – Can help with prophetic dreams. Use only one type of mint in
each pillow and use sparingly as it can act as a stimulant.
- Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) May help you remember dreams. The only type of
Artemisia that should be used in dream pillows!
- Mullein – Guards against nightmares.
- Passionflower – Leaves and especially the flowers are relaxing and sedative.
- Rose petals – Adds loving thoughts and warmth to dreams. Make sure to
use organically grown roses.
- Rosemary – Insure sleep and keep away bad dreams. Use sparingly.
- Thyme – Ancient lore says that wearing thyme allows you to see fairies!
Perhaps you will dream of them!