Does Valerian Root Calm You Down?
Valerian has been used for centuries to treat insomnia and anxiety. The roots of this flowering plant are believed to contain the medicinal agents that provide a peaceful effect. While clinical studies have not proven the benefits of valerian, studies do show that you may be able to sleep easier and go to sleep faster, as well as feel less anxious, by taking valerian.
Valerian, also commonly known as garden heliotrope, can be found in Europe, Asia, and North America, and is generally considered safe by the U.S. FDA. Its scientific name is Valeriana officinalis, and valerian has been used as far back as the second century A.D. for insomnia, anxiety and nervous restlessness, according to the University of Maryland. Related species have been used in traditional Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine, according to MedlinePlus.
You may find relief by using valerian for insomnia and other sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, irregular heartbeat, muscle spasms, trembling and headaches. Research has shown that valerian extracts may inhibit the breakdown of GABA. “GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, so increasing its availability will generally decrease the activity of the nervous system, causing a calming effect,” states Memorial Sloan-Kettering.
The correct valerian dosage for maximizing sleep benefits has not been determined. University of Maryland recommends that valerian be taken for 2 to 6 weeks after you start seeing results for insomnia, and 250-600mg of dried powdered extract should be “taken an hour or two before bedtime, or up to three times in the course of the day, with the last dose near bedtime.” Two hundrew mg of valerian can also be taken to treat anxiety three to four times a day. Other methods of using valerian include as a tea, tincture or fluid extract.
Valerian is used “to decorate gardens but grows wild in damp grasslands,” points out University of Maryland. Valerian is a perennial bush that grows about 4 feet tall. “Straight, hollow stems are topped by umbrella-like heads. Its dark green leaves are pointed at the tip and hairy underneath. Small, sweet-smelling white, light purple or pink flowers bloom in June. The root is light grayish brown and has little odor when fresh,” further describes the University of Maryland.
“Valerian can cause mild side effects, such as headaches, dizziness, upset stomach, and tiredness the morning after its use,” states NCCAM. Stop taking valerian one week before surgery to avoid interference with general anesthesia.
In sum, more research needs to be done in order to determine the ultimate effectiveness of valerian on anxiety. Before starting this or any herbal supplement, especially if you are already on other medications, talk to your doctor.