Valerian Root: Benefits and Side Effects Of This Natural Sleep Aid!
What is Valerian Root?
Valerian is a perennial plant that has been used as an herbal remedy since the time of the Ancient Greeks, who used it to treat digestive problems. The herb grows in damp areas throughout the Americas, Europe and northern Asia.
Valerian root has been used for centuries to treat nervous system disorders, and it is commonly used as a sleep aid as well.
Valerian root extracts contain a number of biologically active compounds, including valerenic acid and various valepotriates. These components are thought to be responsible for the extract’s sedative effects, although this has not been conclusively proven.
Valerian Root and Insomnia
A number of studies have shown that Valerian root extract can improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia, although methodological issues make it difficult to draw firm conclusions about its efficacy.
It also has mild tranquilizing effects that may be useful for relieving anxiety.
In contrast to prescription sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications, Valerian root has few side effects.
Users often report deeper/faster sleep without the grogginess associated with prescription medications.
Valerian root is available in capsules, tablets, tinctures, and liquid extracts.
Valerian Combined with Hops
Limited research suggests that Valerian + hops may be more effective than Valerian alone.
Quality may be an issue with some Valerian root supplements.
The studies I reviewed used anywhere from 450 mg – 900 mg of valerian prior to bedtime.
If you’re going to try valerian, make sure you’re getting a minimum of 450 mg per dose (although slightly lower doses are acceptable if its combined with hops or other natural remedies that reduce insomnia).
Does Valerian Root have any Side Effects?
Valerian root can act as a diuretic, so people who tend to wake during the night to urinate may not find it effective as a sleep aid.
If this is you, try experimenting with ZMA – which is usually advertised as a sports performance supplement but may help with sleep – or other natural alternatives, like passion flower, reviewed here.
Other adverse effects are rare.
Clinical trials have reported occasional symptoms such as dizziness, headache or gastrointestinal distress, although the frequency was similar to placebo.
Nonetheless, Valerian should not be taken by pregnant/nursing women or very young children, as its safety has not been fully evaluated.
In addition, Valerian should not be taken with alcohol.
Valerian root should be used conservatively to treat symptoms of anxiety and insomnia, and it should not be discontinued suddenly. Because of possible negative interaction with barbiturates and benzodiazepines such as Ativan, Valium, and Xanax, people taking these medications should not use Valerian root.
Where to Buy?
If you decide to experiment with Valerian, there are a lot of options.
You can go for a product that contains valerian root as a part of a more intensive formulation, and is designed specifically to promote deep sleep and improved sleep patterns.
Neuro-Natural Sleep, pictured on the left, contains both hops and passionflower extract, making more potent than valerian on its own (I discussed the benefits of combining this natural sleep aid with hops earlier in this article).
If you’re on a tight budget, don’t worry… there are options for you as well.
For example, my favorite online retailer for natural products, iHerb.com, sells a 3-month supply of the Now Brand product for around $12.00, or $4/month.
For just a little more money, you can grab a 45-day supply of Now Food’s Botanical Sleep blend, which combines valerian, hops, passion flower and GABA.
Your Feedback, Reviews and Testimonials?
Have you used valerian, either on its own or in combination with other natural sleep and anxiety supplements?
Care to share your experience?
We’d love to hear from you!
Just scroll down and leave your comments below!