Valerian, also known as Valerian officinalis , is a flowering plant native to Europe and Asia. The root of the plant has long been used as a remedy for insomnia . The use of valerian root dates back to the Greek and Roman empires and was noted by Hippocrates for the treatment of headaches, nervousness, tremors, and palpitations.
Valerian contains a substance known as valerenic acid, which is believed to affect gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. One of the goals of GABA is believed to be to control fear or anxiety that occurs when nerve cells are over-excited. Therefore, valerian can act as a mild sedative and an anxiolytic (sedative) agent .
Also know as
- Garden heliotrope
- Tagar (in Ayurvedic medicine)
- Xie Cao (in traditional Chinese medicine)
Valerian is available in teas, extracts, tinctures, capsules, tablets, and essential oils. Valerian extract and essential oils are also used as flavorings in foods and beverages .
What is valerian root used for?
Alternative health professionals believe that valerian root can treat a variety of health conditions, including insomnia, anxiety, headaches, digestive problems, menopausal symptoms, and post-workout muscle pain and fatigue. The evidence supporting these claims is generally mixed.
Here are some of the most common uses for valerian root:
Valerian root is probably best known as a remedy for insomnia . Despite its popularity with consumers, there is little evidence that it can promote sleep or improve sleep quality.
Some believe that valerian root is a safe and natural alternative to prescription anxiety medications, especially Xanax (alprazolam), clonopin (clonazepam), valium (diazepam), and ativan (lorazepam), which all act on GABA receptors.
There is some evidence, albeit weak, to back up these claims. Vallenic acid appears to act on the receptors in a way that enhances GABA transmission, but without the obvious sedative effects of a drug like Valium. It can benefit people receiving treatment for anxiety and other mood disorders.
Valerian root can be helpful in minimizing hot flashes that commonly occur in women during menopause. The exact mechanism of action is unknown, as valerian does not directly affect hormone levels .
No notable side effects were reported.
Possible side effects.
Most clinical studies have shown that valerian root is well tolerated and safe for short-term use. Side effects, if any, are usually minor and can include headache, dizziness, itching, upset stomach, dry mouth, vivid dreams, etc., and daytime sleepiness.
Although rare, liver damage is known to occur, usually in response to overuse of valerian supplements or naturally grown dried roots. product.
To avoid injury, inform your doctor if you intend to use valerian root for medicinal purposes. Ideally, you should regularly monitor your liver enzymes to ensure that your liver remains healthy and functioning.
Stop using valerian and call your doctor right away if you have any signs of liver dysfunction, such as persistent fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dark urine, clay-colored stools, or jaundice (yellowing of the eyes or skin).
Valerian can cause excessive drowsiness when combined with alcohol, sedatives, certain antidepressants, over-the-counter sleeping pills, or cold and flu medications that contain codeine, diphenhydramine, or doxylamine.
Due to the lack of safety studies, valerian should not be used in children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers. It should also be used with extreme caution in people who drink or have liver disease .
Valerian is broken down in the liver by the enzyme cytochrome P450 (CYP450). In theory, this could affect the effectiveness of drugs that are also broken down by CYP450, including :
- Allergy medications such as Allegra (fexofenadine)
- Antifungal medications such as Sporanox (itraconazole) or Diflucan (fluconazole)
- Cancer drugs such as Camptosar (irinotecan), Etopophos (etoposide), STI571, Abraxane (paclitaxel), Velban (vinblastine), or Vincasar (vincristine)
- Statin medications such as mevacor (lovastatin) or lipitor (atorvastatin)
Dosage and preparation
There is no set dosage for valerian root or valerian root extracts. Most valerian capsules and tablets come in doses of 300 to 600 milligrams and are considered safe in this range .
Valerian root is believed to work in one to two hours. It is usually best to take your dose 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime.
To make valerian tea, add 2-3 grams of dried valerian root (about 1-2 teaspoons) to a cup of hot water and let it steep for 10-15 minutes. Valerian tinctures and extracts can vary in concentration; As a general rule, never exceed the recommended dosage stated on the product label .
Valerian essential oil is used primarily for aromatherapy and is not intended for internal use. Even food grade essential oils used for flavoring should never be taken internally.
What to look for
Since herbal remedies like valerian root are largely unregulated in the United States, you need to take steps to find safe and reliable products.
One way to do this is to check the label to make sure the supplement has been certified by an independent agency such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), ConsumerLab, and NSF International. These certification bodies are tasked with ensuring that drugs and supplements voluntarily submitted for testing contain the active and inactive ingredients indicated on the product label.
Another way to select herbal supplements is to select those that have been certified organic under the provisions of the Organic Production Act of 1990. This is especially true when purchasing dried wild roots or root shavings that are used to make teas. and infusions.
Frequently asked questions
There are several possible side effects associated with valerian root, although most are mild. These include headache, dizziness, itching, abdominal pain, dry mouth, vivid dreams, and drowsiness. This is rare, but liver damage has also been observed with excessive valerian root supplementation.
People taking antidepressants should not use valerian root, as it can cause drowsiness when combined with these medications. It has a similar effect when used with alcohol, sedatives, over-the-counter sleeping pills, or certain cold and flu remedies. Worse still, valerian root can interfere with the effectiveness of allergy, antifungal, anticancer, or statin medications.
Yes, valerian root is available in tablet, powder, or liquid form. Dried valerian root can also be used to make tea.