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Do supplements or herbs help meditation?

edited December 2010 in Meditation
I have been wondering this and hope someone here has some insight. I would think that if the mind has a hard time calming down that some supplements and herb might help. Like maybe taurine, 5-HTP, melatonin, and for herbs you know the calming ones. Valerian hops lavender and similar ones. Any thoughts?


  • Even if it helped that would be like going to the gym and taking the weights off all the exercise machines before using them.
  • Yes, and even when you go to the gym, it takes some time before you might notice even a little bit of a result (or so I've heard, I don't go to the gym :)). But meditation is the same sort of thing, where it usually takes some time to "train our mind" to behave in a different way than it is usually accustomed to. I think that if one has a suitable method, then with a consistent daily practice, a good motivation and a concerted effort, it will get easier.
  • edited December 2010
    I tend to agree with the weights in the gym analogy except for the small minority of people with physical mental issues. For them it could be that the weights in the gym are welded to the bench. Stabilizing the chemical make up in their brain might allow them to meditate when they lacked the ability to concentrate. Ok so I like to play the devil's advocate but, I admit this should be a small minority of people.

    I think one should try following the precepts and doing meditation for a while to see if that helps before taking any substances. I take vitamins but, that is because I work so much I don't get proper nutrition like I should and I don't think vitamins alter my brain chemistry in a un-natural way. I know herbs are natural but, they have extra effects on thought and aren't fuel like vitamins.
  • Thanks for the comments. I think at least good nutrition is a requirement if someone is trying to meditate and is having trouble. Or maybe someone wants to get optimal performance out of there meditation I would think nutrition is a big part. That is a balanced diet and maybe a good quality multiple vitamin and mineral.
  • ShiftPlusOneShiftPlusOne Veteran
    edited December 2010
    What sort of trouble are you having? How did you learn to meditate?

    Edit: I don't think people in Buddha's time had a good nutrition or took multivitamins. If you haven't done so already, it may be helpful to take a couple of meditation classes though. Either way, keep at it.
  • edited December 2010
    I take a strong multivitamin ( Life Extension Mix from LEF.org), SAMe, Acetyl L-carnitine and DHEA daily and on occasion DMAE. The last three are very good for alertness, memory and general mental function. Gotu Kola, commonly known as brahmi in India is a wonderful plant for memory and a great aid to meditation and study. My guru who was a Nyingma lama took many of the same things for the same reason. Of course they weren't known in the time of the Buddha, but neither were cars, airplanes, insulin, etc. I don't buy that one should avoid supplements because it is not as macho as meditating without taking them. Whatever works should be used. :-)

    I commonly sleep about three or four hours a night, so I find that the supplements that I take make up for the additional stress on my body. I would be careful of supplements that are sedative as they are really moving you in the opposite direction of being awake. Chamomile tea is a gentle way of relaxing if your mind is too restless but beyond that I would look at addressing the underlying cause for the restlessness rather than masking it with a sedative.
  • I am not currently meditating very much or depth right now. But in the future I would like to do it more in depth. Right now I just try to focus on being and letting go of all desire wants and anything related to the mind.
  • AstralProjectee, do a proper meditation course, you'll find that you don't need any aids once you know the basic technique and a couple of tips.
  • I have read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I think that I have researched meditation enough. I do a some very simple meditation exercises. I like death meditation.

    Please lets try to stay on topic. PM me if you want.
  • For the mental component I recall a teaching on reflecting all the lifetimes we have wasted our chances. And how we need to do what we need to do. I think the problem with advice on the internet though it is a great place to brainstorm and bounce ideas, the problem is that we don't really know your needs.

    For example I am Kdorje fan on this one but in my case I have different needs I guess my own karma.

    I find a glass of warm milk helps me calm down. (and a truckload of pills :O ) I am having insomnia problems because I gave up drinking and have a history of mania.

    But back to your question I do think valerian and chamomile are helpful. Vanilla smell and relaxation incense might also be helpful. Best Wishes.

  • Well to answer the question directly... if you've had a long day and your mind is pacing, a calming herb like valerian might help. However, you're likely to find that you start getting drowsy after a while. So, it might help with the initial relaxation, but then it will have a negative effect by preventing you from being alert. The same works in reverse, if you are drowsy and take taurine, you'll find that you'll get restless.

    You're meant to control your level of drowsiness/alertness, by properly focusing on your breathing. If you're, drowsy, feel the air rushing in and the energy that it brings. If you're restless, feel the air rushing out and relaxing your body.

    The reason I used the gym simile for is quite important, I think. I don't know about death meditation or compassion meditation, since I am currently focusing on mindfulness. With mindfulness, we sharpen our ability to be in the present moment and see things as they are, rather than as we or others want them to be. It doesn't matter what we sharpen it on, as long as we have something we're mindful of. The breath is great for that since it's always there and you can be mindful of it the entire time. You'll then find that mindfulness kicks in in everyday life. If you feel anger arising, you know that you don't have to act on it, for example.

    So, if you meditate without training, you may experience meditation, but it's not going to kick in in everyday life, which makes it pretty much useless.
  • Hmmm, I'd go further than the others here.

    Obviously, having a healthy diet helps us stay more balanced but taking herbal preparation for meditation could potentially contradict the precept on toxification.

    After-all, there are many mind altering substances such as weed, mushrooms etc that may help us explore parts of behaviour that we would not experience without them. For example, taking ecstasy helps with metta, living for the moment, causing no harm, being aware of your own body etc. Put that way, ecstasy sounds like quite a Buddhist substance and the main distinction between it and a supplement is that you can't buy it off the shelf in the local health shop.

    As a Buddhist, should I take ecstasy? I think not! Although the image of everyone, including the rather serious ordained ones, at the local Sangha dancing round a singing bowl with Richie Hawtin DJing in the corner is a somewhat amusing one.
  • Herbs for cooking your pre-meditation curry is fine. Otherwise I'd say drinking green tea is most you should do.
  • It is normal to having hard time calming down the mind for a start as the mind was mired from many kotis of past lives. Just keep on meditation and gradually the mind would be peaceful, lovely & harmonious.
  • Open to the experience with the right touch. Also known as mindfulness or smirti on the 8 fold path. This doesn't take an effort in the usual sense but a resolve to align with awareness. Not as a watcher but just ordinary awareness. As a question or storyline comes up it naturally goes back to the sea of consciousness.

    By this ordinary mind energy is balanced with concentration. But this relates to sleep only in the sense of an appropriate response. For example if you have to be somewhere the nexxt morning you might worry. Then you open to the worry and let it be. Mindfulness doesn't necessarily mean you won't or will sleep it just means that you are sensitive to the circumstances. What will be will be.
  • Theanine AKA suntheanine helps the brain to produce more alpha brainwaves without the drowsiness. One of the ways it works is by making more GABA. That might help. I have not tried it yet.
  • Lol, so basically what it does is make it easier to get into a meditative state. Sure, that's fine if all you want is a temporary, altered mind state, but for the full benefits, you've got to DIY.

    Don't get me wrong, theanine sounds like a pretty good drug for other purposes, but it's pretty useless for meditation.
  • Lol, so basically what it does is make it easier to get into a meditative state.

    Don't get me wrong, theanine sounds like a pretty good drug for other purposes, but it's pretty useless for meditation.
    L-Theanine is not a drug it's an amino acid (amino acids make up proteins). If it does what it's reported to do. It should at least act as training wheels for starters.

    I also just found out (reminded me) that certain sounds and music can really help get into the alpha state. Again this will just act as training wheels. Unforchantly I have tinnitus so I can't try it.

    The most common brain waves in meditation are alpha waves.
  • Well, there's no single definition of the word 'drug'. I don't think there's anything anyone can say to convince you otherwise, and it doesn't like you're doing anything harmful. So, go for it, I suppose. I just feel like you'll miss out on what meditation is actually about.
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