What is Valerian?
Valerian is a perennial plant that grows to about 4 feet in height and has almond-shaped opposing leaves with sweet-smelling white or pink flowers.
There are over 200 different species of valerian found in Japan, China, Europe, North America, and India. The plant blooms from the top of the stems in the summer months, and the valerian root has a distinctive odor that is very pungent in nature.
Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) has a long history of being used to promote sleep and to reduce anxiety and is commonly sold as a dietary supplement today.
Valerian Root Active Constituents:
- Gamma-aminobutyric Acid (GABA).
- Alkaloids-actinidine, chatinine, skyanthine, valerianine, valerine.
- Valepotriates-valerates, dihydrovalerates, valerosidate.
- Volatile Oils-monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, valerenyl esters.
- Phenylpropanoids-caffeic and chlorogenic acids.
- Sesquiterpenoids-valerenolic acid and acetylvalerenolic acid.
Although not specifically named in Roman or Greek medical writings, Hippocrates was believed to be using valerian root as a medicinal agent for sleep problems as early as 420 BC.
Valerian root has been used in Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia; as documented in Greek, Anglo-Saxon, Medieval, and Renaissance texts. It was used to promote sleep, as a sedative, to relieve nausea, and for urinary and gastrointestinal issues.
Valerian root is most commonly used to promote sleep in people with mild to moderate insomnia. In addition to promoting sleep, it has also been used to calm anxiety, as a natural sedative and to help relieve premenstrual symptoms.
Mechanisms of Action
Most of the modern research on this herb centers around the traditional use of valerian root sleep preparations, as well as it's used as a sedative and muscle relaxant.
Researchers have paid close attention to the effect of valerian root on the GABA neurotransmitter receptors. Although clear results have been demonstrated, the mechanism with which valerian affects these receptors is not clear, and more research is needed.
Herbal supplement experts have been talking about the benefits of using the supplement valerian for some time now. Below are some of the many reasons why more and more people are using valerian root supplements.
1. Natural Sleep Support
The most common of the many valerian benefits is its relaxing effect on the body.
People with insomnia use valerian to help relax the body and induce sleep. It can also help people who feel as though they are constantly anxious or restless. It is not uncommon for people to go through phases where they are unable to get comfortable or cannot sleep at night due to some unknown anxiety. But when they start to use valerian, they find that they can calm themselves and are able to get back to a good night's sleep.
Since it is an herb, it is a natural solution to anxiety and restlessness, with little or no side effects. *
2. Stress Management Support
Another one of the valerian benefits is that it can also help with calming people who are in a nervous state. When you are getting ready to make a presentation or if you find yourself nervous over a pending life challenge, then valerian can help to calm your nerves and allow you to focus. *
Because of its calming effects, valerian is also used to help control nervous eating and binge eating. It can be used as a general dietary supplement as well that helps to control hunger and reduce the urge to eat when you are not really hungry. *
3. Helps Promote Healthy Blood Pressure
The same active constituents that make valerian so effective for insomnia and anxiety management may also help regulate blood pressure, especially when high blood pressure is caused by stress or anxiety.
Studies have found that Valerian, along with proper diet and exercise, can help lower blood pressure and/or keep blood pressure at a healthy level, improving heart health. *
4. Helps Ease Menstrual Symptoms
Another known use for Valerian herb is to help reduce menstrual symptoms such as cramps, irritability, fatigue, sadness, etc.
A double-blind study on 100 women, found that the group taking valerian had greatly reduced premenstrual physical symptoms such as menstrual cramping, along with reduced emotional and behavioral symptoms as compared to the placebo group. *
Valerian Root Adverse Effects
Valerian studies have shown very few adverse effects from the use of this herb. *
Valerian root should be used with caution in children under 3 years of age, and in women that are pregnant or lactating. It is always wise to consult a physician trained in herbal and holistic therapies.
There is little information available about adverse reactions between valerian root and prescription drugs. However, caution should be used when combining any valerian root sleep formula with drugs that are used for insomnia, anxiety, or as a sedative, because of potential additive effects.
The usual recommended dosage for valerian is 450 milligrams to 900 milligrams one hour before bed.
When taking a standardized extract, or a valerian root sleep formula that may contain other ingredients; it is recommended that you follow the instructions listed by the manufacturer or consult a doctor trained in herbal medicine.
Herbal Roots aka Mortar and Pestle Herbs Valerian is proudly made in the USA and is non-GMO with no fillers, binders, soy or gluten. It also has no high fructose corn syrup, sugar, wheat, tree nuts, soy, peanuts, or preservatives.
* Recommended source: National Center for Biotechnology Information.