Lesson 4) Lullaby for an Insomniac (Lab #1: Sleeping Draught)

The copper moose is sleeping atop a pile of herbs on the professor's desk as you enter for class. A rather large jar labeled “valerian” is tipped on its side on the desk, with leaves strewn about the many lessons, complicated calculation parchments, and chocolate frog cards. Professor von Graft is sitting at her desk, looking slightly tired yet eager as always to see her students entering the dungeons. As you take your seat, she smiles while tapping the tiny moose awake, rising to begin the lesson.

Welcome to your first lab of Year Two Potions, as well as your last class before the midterm. After the lab is complete, I will also go over a new, longer term project I would like you to start this week. But for now, onward to the lab and all that will come later.


photo courtesy from here

In your past Herbology lessons, you discussed the magical herb valerian and its soporific effects. Today, you will have the opportunity to use the sprigs (leaf-bearing stems) of the plant in a simple, temporary Sleeping Draught. Valerian is an interesting herb with a long history of use in both Muggle and magical medicine. It is a plant that, in its natural state, displays only mundane qualities that make it safe for Muggle consumption to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders. However, when combined with magic and magical ingredients, as in the Sleeping Draught, it takes on slightly stronger magical properties, though it still functions as a sleep aid. There are records of valerian being recommended as a cure for insomnia as far back as the second century, when the Muggle surgeon and philosopher Galen spoke about its properties.

Witches and wizards have used the herb for much longer, however, and there are reports of various potions involving valerian as far back as ancient Mesopotamia. One of the benefits of using Valerian back before the Statute of Secrecy was put into place was that the herb could be used in magical concoctions as easily as mundane infusions, and healers could therefore prescribe the same basic ingredient for both magical and non-magical beings. This versatility as well as its general tendency to be a little more benign than other magical ingredients is why it gained and still holds such popularity. Now, while this Sleeping Draught is considered relatively simple by the standards of other sleeping potions, you will find that it is a bit more complex than the potions you brewed in Potions 101.

To give you a bit of background for this potion, it’s a relatively new concoction, having only been discovered in the 19th century by a witch named Bellaluna Alvás. Previously, most magical sleeping potions were much more aggressive in nature, while most mundane means of alleviating disordered sleep were not quite strong enough. Rather than diluting a much stronger sleeping potion, Ms. Alvás - who suffered from insomnia herself - dedicated herself to the creation of this much milder sleeping potion. Unfortunately, after beginning to use this potion, Ms. Alvás’s sleep patterns were so drastically improved, she lost the somewhat manic, sleep-deprived drive that led her to her previous creative potioneering and inventions. She eventually gave up working as a researcher and went on to teach Potions at Beauxbatons Academy of Magic in France.

Similar to last year, I have included a sheet by each cauldron with all of the ingredients as well as the brewing instructions. You will find them all on the board in the front of the classroom as well.

Sleeping Draught*

Estimated Brewing Time (EBT):

Pewter cauldron: 70 minutes

Brass cauldron: 60 minutes

Copper cauldron: 53 minutes


500 ml of water

2 tablespoons of Flobberworm Mucus

4 medium sized sprigs of lavender

4 medium sized sprigs of valerian

4 tablespoons of vanilla extract

2 small sprigs of mint


  1. Add 500 ml of water to your cauldron and set the heat to 383 Kelvin (45°C/110°F).
  2. Add four sprigs of lavender and two sprigs of mint to your mortar and crush to a very fine, creamy dust.
  3. Add two tablespoons of Flobberworm mucus to your cauldron.
  4. Add two tablespoons of vanilla extract to your cauldron.
  5. Increase the heat to 394 Kelvin (that is 121°C/250°F) for thirty seconds then bring the heat back to 383 Kelvin (45°C/110°F).
  6. Add three tablespoons of the crushed lavender and mint combination to the cauldron.
  7. Stir with your wand twice, counterclockwise.
  8. In your pewter cauldron, allow the potion to brew for 35 minutes. The potion should be a pale green at this point, emitting a light orange smoke. (For a brass cauldron, brew time is 29 minutes. In a copper cauldron, you should wait 26 minutes.)
  9. Once you return to your cauldron, add another two tablespoons of vanilla extract and turn the temperature up to 394 Kelvin (that is 121°C/250°F) for 60 seconds.
  10. Add four valerian sprigs (not chopped or crushed) to your cauldron.
  11. Stir with your wand seven times clockwise.
  12. Allow the potion to brew in your pewter cauldron for twenty minutes. The potion should now be an indigo color with pale pink smoke emanating from it. (For a brass cauldron, this brew time is sixteen minutes. In a copper cauldron, you should wait eight minutes.)
  13. Remove cauldron from the flame and allow the potion to cool for five minutes before bottling. You may use a non-magical implement to gently stir the potion after this 5 minute period to ensure the potion is of even consistency before using a funnel or Siphoning Charm to bottle the potion.

Usage Notes: This is a mild sleep aid that is not habit-forming and can be used regularly by people suffering from insomnia or other disordered sleep patterns. It can be purchased from most local potioneers, and is often available at the apothecary. Children under five should not consume without permission of your local healer, but it is occasionally prescribed for very young children who are teething or who are experiencing other forms of pain. If you are pregnant, please confirm with a healer before using this sedative.

To use, simply put five to seven drops directly on the tongue or in a cup of hot herbal tea. The heat and tea will not harm the effects of this draught. Please do not fly, apparate, operate dangerous instruments, or undertake any other actions that require concentration and dexterity while under the influence of this potion, as it will often lead to loss of muscle and hand-eye coordination.

Minor allergic reactions may occur, and usually consist of dry mouth, itchy mouth, or hives. If you experience one of these reactions, stop usage of the Sleeping Draught immediately and consult with your healer.

Storage: The Sleeping Draught does not need maturation time, and can be consumed immediately after it has been brewed. It should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place, preferably in a tinted bottle. The Draught is good for up to one year after brewing as long as it is stored properly.

*[Citation: Sleeping Draught]

Sentimental Value (The Potioneer’s Log)

Moving on to the longer assignment I would like you to begin this lesson. I know other classes have had you start yearly journals, many of which vary in theme year to year or relate to year-long research projects. I realized that in many of my lessons, I have emphasized the importance of documenting your own research, ideas, goals, and successes, and I thought this year would provide a good opportunity for you to start your own Potioneer’s Log. This can be completed in any form you prefer, from an online journal, as series of videos, an extended short story, a collection of original songs, a series of drawings - however you best express yourself and your thoughts and understanding about potions. If you like hand-writing and illustrating more than typing, feel free to buy a notebook in which you can write, add illustrations, or convey your thoughts however you please and then take pictures or scan them to upload.


photo courtesy from here

The way I would like this to work is that after each lab - which I currently hold in weeks four and eight, although we may have a few more in later years - I would like you to write no fewer than 500 words about anything you would like to discuss about the lab and the preceding three lessons. You can describe any big mistakes you made, anything interesting you noticed about the recipe, any ideas you have as a result, anything. If something in a lesson has given you an idea about a new potion, an alternative or milder ingredient, or new questions you would like to make sure I answer later in the year or the following year. Also, the 500 words does not have to be written only following the labs. I’d just like at LEAST 500 words of thought and reflection on the first half of each year and then the second half, at least to start. Please feel free to go much longer if you have many thoughts, of course!

While I will have general yearly checks to make sure you’re completing the assignments in a timely fashion (to ensure you aren’t putting it all off until the last year), the final product will not be turned in until you finish your potions program at Hogwarts. I encourage you to keep looking back at your writing year to year as well, and feel free to reference and expand on other notions. Part of the impetus behind this project is trying to prevent many of these labs and lessons from being approached somewhat in a vacuum where you learn, answer a prompt, and move along. I’ve seen many incredibly original ideas come up in essays, and I’m worried about them getting shoved aside in favor of meeting essay prompt requirements in later years. This is to be a place where you can keep cumulative knowledge and grow and develop ideas as your understanding of potions improves. Also, even if you have the smallest seedling of an idea, don’t be afraid to put it in your log. Then you can look back at it later when you do have a wider breadth of knowledge, and maybe it’ll even make more sense!

This week in addition to the quiz, I would like you to brainstorm how you want to keep your log and complete the first entry (this entry does not need to be turned in, but it will be part of the status check at the end of this year, so if you need an extra week or two to work on the entry, be my guest). It is entirely fine if this first entry is just discussing the concept that went behind the particular medium you chose to keep your log and to address Year Two and/or Year One in any capacity you feel as though you may not have had opportunity in the lessons. This journal also presents a fantastic opportunity to review what was have done in previous lessons, as each entry should be completed (at latest) the week before the midterm and then final exams. I will include an assignment this week where you should write at least 250 words about how you plan to keep your journal and your reason for the medium you have chosen.

As I am essentially asking you to write at least 750 words this week as well as spending careful time planning your Potioneer's Log, you are off the hook for a longer essay assignment. However, make sure you review the lab and the information provided, as it will be on the midterm next week!


In Year Two, Potions students will delve more deeply into potioneering, theory, and will explore in greater detail how certain potions can impact a witch or wizard's biological processes. Enroll