Valerian scientific name is Valeriana officinalis and it is a perennial flowering plant with heads of sweetly scented pink or white flowers that bloom in the summer. Valerian flower extracts were used as a perfume in the 16th century. Valerian has been used as a medicinal herb since at least the time of ancient Greece and Rome (Wikipedia, 2015).
What are Valerian benefits?
Valerian has been used for insomnia, dyssomnia, anxiety-associated restlessness, sleeping disorders, muscle and joint pain, nervous asthma, hysterical states, excitability, hypochondria, headaches, migraine, stomach upset, menstrual cramps and symptoms associated with menopause including hot flashes and anxiety.
It has also been used for mood disorders such as depression, infantile convulsions, mild tremors, epilepsy, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Valerian can also be used as a bath additive for restlessness and sleep disorders.
Research shows that taking valerian orally modestly reduces the time to sleep onset by 14 – 17 minutes and improves sleep quality by 1.4 – 1.8 times. The greatest benefit is usually seen in patients taking 400-900 mg valerian extract up to 2 hours before bedtime.
Valerian does not relieve insomnia as fast as benzodiazepines hence continuous nightly use for several days to 4 weeks might be needed for significant effect. Some research shows valerian extract 600 mg daily for 3.5 months has similar effects to oxazepam 10 mg for improving sleep quality, sleep duration, and feelings of refreshment after sleeping.
In clinical research, a valerian combination product containing 400 mg valerian, 160 mg lemon balm, and 375 mg hops significantly improved sleep quality compared to a similar product that did not contain a substantial amount of valerian.
Valerian also seems to improve the sleep quality of patients with insomnia who have recently withdrawn from benzodiazepines. After tapering the benzodiazepine over two weeks, 300 mg valerian extract in three divided daily doses might subjectively improve sleep quality.
There is also preliminary clinical research that valerian can improve sleep in intellectually impaired children. Other research suggests that valerian root extract 530 mg (Sadamine) twice daily for 28 days improves sleep quality in postmenopausal women.
- General: Valerian has generally been studied for only 4-6 weeks. It should not be used for longer without the supervision of a healthcare provider.
- Anxiety disorders: Take 150-300mg of Valerian daily.
- Dysmenorrhea: Take one capsule containing 255mg of powdered valerian root three times daily for three days, starting from the initial day of menstruation and over a period of two menstrual cycles.
- Insomnia: Take 400-900 mg valerian extract up to 2 hours before bedtime. or up to 800mg of valerian capsules daily an hour before bedtime for periods up to 8 weeks, or 53omg of valerian root extract twice daily up to 4 weeks.
- Stress: 1.5-3g of valerian root has been steeped in 150mL of boiling water and taken by mouth 5-10 minutes before or after stressful events.
- Valerian is more likely safe to be used up to 28 days. The safety of long term use is unknown and more studies are needed.
- Valerian root has sedative and anxiolytic effects hence it can also be classified as a drug. It is recommended to have one week break after 3 weeks of taking Valerian.
- It’s recommended to reduce Valerian dose slowly over one or 2 weeks before stopping it completely.
- For the safe side, Valerian is not recommended for pregnancy and nursing mothers.
- Stop taking Valerian at least 2 weeks before the surgery.
- Valerian interacts with Alcohol, Alprazolam (Xanax), Benzodiazepines, CNS depressants, amitriptyline (Elavil), clozapine (Clozaril), codeine, desipramine (Norpramin), donepezil (Aricept), fentanyl (Duragesic), flecainide (Tambocor), fluoxetine (Prozac), meperidine (Demerol), methadone (Dolophine), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), olanzapine (Zyprexa), ondansetron (Zofran), tramadol (Ultram), trazodone (Desyrel), lovastatin (Mevacor), ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox), fexofenadine (Allegra), triazolam (Halcion), chemotherapeutic agents (etoposide, paclitaxel, vinblastine, vincristine, vindesine).
- Use of valerian with other herbs and supplements including calamus, California poppy, catnip, hops, Jamaican dogwood, kava, L-tryptophan, melatonin, sage, SAMe, St. John’s wort, sassafras, skullcap might enhance therapeutic and adverse effects.
1) Natural Medicines, 2015, Valerian, Natural Medicines Therapeutic Research, viewed 10 April 2015, <https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=870>
2) Wikipedia, 2015, Valerian (Herb), Wikipedia, viewed 10 April 2015, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valerian_(herb)>
3) WebMD, 2015, Valerian, viewed 10 April 2015, http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-870-valerian.aspx?activeingredientid=870&activeingredientname=valerian
The information contained in this column is provided for your general information only and is not meant for diagnosis or treatment of any disease or disorder. If you suffer from any disorders or have any symptoms, please consult with your qualified practitioner before changing your diet or taking any supplements.