Healthy Living

What Is Valerian Root?

What Is Valerian Root?

Key Takeaways

  • Valerian root is used as an alternative medicine to aid in the treatment of insomnia
  • For the treatment of insomnia, valerian root can be combined with other herbs with sedative effects such as lemon balm and hops.
  • Valerian root is widely available in the market as a supplement. 

What is valerian root?

Valerian is a type of flowering plant and its roots are used as an herbal remedy when dried. Valerian root is used as an alternative medicine to aid in the treatment of insomnia. Other uses of valerian root include treatment for stress, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, tremors, chronic fatigue syndrome, menopause symptoms, attention deficit disorder, and much more.

Valerian root is usually sold as an herbal supplement. Since it is an herbal medicine, the certainty of its effectiveness in treating medical conditions is still in doubt. Thus, prescribed medications must not be entirely replaced by valerian root. When taking this herbal supplement, its dosage must be taken as advised by the doctor or as directed on the bottle or package. It is not advisable to use more valerian root than what is recommended on the label. This supplement comes in capsule form and should be swallowed whole. Do not chew, open, or break the capsule.

Valerian root side effects

Valerian root is considered safe when it is taken only for a short period of time like 4-8 weeks. Although in general, the use of valerian root is not dangerous, there are cases where the reaction to valerian root is the opposite of its aim. For example, instead of feeling sleepy and calm, that person will feel restless and anxious. Moreover, even though most studies show that there are no harmful effects of valerian root on fertility and fetal development, more research is still needed.

Some people could experience allergic reactions when ingesting valerian root. These reactions include hives, swelling of the lips, tongue, throat, or face, as well as difficulty in breathing. When you experience an allergic reaction from valerian root, get emergency medical help.

The common valerian root side effects include an upset stomach, dry mouth, strange dreams, headache, thinking problems, feeling uneasy or feeling excited, and daytime drowsiness.

For most people, valerian root does not cause dependency. Moreover, it does not cause withdrawal symptoms. However, a few reports have been noted that some people have experienced withdrawal symptoms when valerian root is used for a long time. Thus, people who use it for longer periods of time must gradually lower their dosage instead of suddenly stopping it.

Stop taking valerian root if you develop liver problems. Symptoms include nausea, itching, loss of appetite, clay-colored stools, stomach pain, feeling tired, dark urine, and yellowing of the eyes or skin (jaundice). Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned.

Expect that you will feel sleepy after taking valerian root supplements, so avoid taking it before driving, when doing activities that require alertness, or when operating a machine. Also, do not take the supplement if you have a liver disease.

Valerian root supplements must not be combined with other sleeping aids as it will only increase the effects of the other medications. It must not also be combined with alcohol, narcotics, or benzodiazepines because valerian root will only enhance their sedative effects.

To be on the safe side, it is best to consult your doctor first before using valerian root.

What are the benefits of valerian root?

Since its discovery, the use of valerian root has proven tremendous benefits. The following are some of its benefits:

1) Lowers blood pressure

Valerian root is not only known to calm the mind and body, but it can also help regulate one's blood pressure for a healthier heart. The components of valerian root in managing anxiety and stress are the same components that help normalize blood pressure. A regulated blood pressure definitely has a great impact on your heart's health.

2) Eases menstrual cramps

Since valerian root has a relaxing property, it is a smart option to take if you are looking for a natural relief from menstrual cramps. Using valerian root can lessen the discomfort and severity of menstrual cramps.

How does valerian root ease menstrual pain?

Valerian root is a natural sedative and antispasmodic, which means that it restrains muscle spasms while acting as a natural muscle relaxer. It can efficiently calm relentless uterine muscle contractions that cause terrible pain to many women during menstruation.

3) Improves stress management

Valerian root can reduce anxiety and can improve the length of sleep in people, making it an effective aid for stress management. The mind and body are relaxed through the help of valerian root as it improves the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) levels in the body. Valerian root is an excellent choice to help keep the stress levels down as well as improve your quality of life. Moreover, valerian root has been effective in controlling both psychological and physical stress.

Valerian root for anxiety

Valerian root has been used as an efficient remedy for anxiety. Scientists have found that it boosts the amount of GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brain. This chemical helps regulate the nerve cells as well as calms anxiety. Valerian root extracts contain valerenol and valerenic acid that act as anti-anxiety agents.

For anxiety, the recommended dosage for valerian root is 120-200 mg three times a day. The last dose of valerian root must be taken right before bedtime. The suggested dose of valerian root for anxiety is normally lower than the dose for insomnia. The reason behind it is that a higher dosage of valerian root during the day can result in daytime sleepiness. When you are sleepy during the day, your usual daytime activities can be affected.

Valerian root for sleep

Many studies have shown that valerian root helps improve the quality of sleep as well as reduces the time for a person to fall asleep. Unlike prescription sleeping pills, valerian root has fewer to no side effects and does not cause morning drowsiness if taken properly.

Valerian root causes sedation by increasing the GABA levels in the brain. Large quantities of GABA can have a sedative effect because it is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. For the treatment of insomnia, valerian root can be combined with other herbs with sedative effects such as lemon balm and hops.

The recommended dosage of valerian root to combat insomnia is 300-600 mg. It must be taken 30 minutes to 2 hours before to going to bed. Valerian root in tea form can also help. Soak 2-3 grams of dried valerian root in a cup of hot water for approximately 10-15 minutes. Valerian root works best when it is regularly taken for two or more weeks. If you want to continue taking valerian root for more than a month, talk with your doctor first.

How to prepare valerian root

Valerian root is widely available in the market as a supplement. However, it can also be taken in the form of tea.

Preparing valerian root for tea:

  1. Fill a mug or teapot with hot tap water to warm the container.
  2. Fill the infusion device with valerian root.
  3. Heat water in the kettle to third boil (boiling water with big breaking bubbles) and then remove it from heat.
  4. Empty the mug or teapot with warm tap water and then add the valerian root in the container. Pour the hot water over the valerian root and cover.
  5. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes. The steep duration is long because the root of the valerian is tough, unlike its flower, leaf, or stem.
  6. Remove the cover as well as the infusion device from the mug or teapot.

Your valerian root tea is now ready. Honey, milk or other sweeteners may be added as the tea may taste bitter.