Valerian Root: The best way to achieve tranquil sleep every night


Last Updated July 8th, 2019

An introduction to Valerian root

Valerian is a plant that has many different varieties of which Valeriana Officinalis the one used for medicinal purposes. This plant is widely grown in Europe and Asia. It has sedative aspects or anxiety relieving properties.

Historically, during the ancient Greek and Roman times, this root was used for treating insomnia, nervousness, trembling tendencies, headaches, and anxiety. In fact, valerian is considered safe by the United States Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).

What actually happens during stress or anxiety?

About 10 – 30% of the population globally is affected by insomnia. Owing to stress, the levels of a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), dramatically decrease. There are pieces of evidence suggesting low GABA levels associated with increased levels of stress and sleep disruption. By reducing the activity of the nerve cells, GABA opens the door for the following outcomes:

  • Sleep
  • Reduced mental and physical stress
  • Lowering of anxiety
  • Makes the mood calm

Hence, low GABA levels can result in the following characteristics:

  • Anxiety
  • Chronic stress
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating and memory problems
  • Muscle pain and headaches
  • Insomnia and other sleep problems

During stressful conditions, the portion of the brain (amygdala) responsible for memory and understanding also shrinks resulting in cognitive decline.

How does the valerian root help in de-stressing?

Valerian roots contain many compounds that show antioxidant properties (for example, valeric acid, isovaleric acid, etc). Valerian roots are being widely used since they prevent the breakdown of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, making you feel calm and peaceful.

Valerian root also contains the antioxidants like hesperidin and linarin that provides calming and sleep-inducing. The compounds present in the Valerian roots inhibit excessive activity in the amygdala (that occurs during stressful conditions). Studies also show that Valerian roots help in maintaining optimal serotonin levels (the hormone that makes you feel good).

Other researches also point out that the compound isovaleric acid present in valerian roots may prevent sudden or uncontrolled muscle contractions.

So, in essence…

  • You fall asleep faster as opposed chronic bouts of insomnia
  • Your sleep quality improves.
  • You tend to wake up feeling good or relieved from the anxiety
  • There will be fewer hangovers once you wake up from sleep after a night of drinking.

Are there any side effects of valerian roots?

Yes, there are some side effects.

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Pruritus (an irritating feeling that makes you feel like you want to scratch)
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • You tend to feel sleepy during the day
  • Mental dullness and you may feel lazy
  • You feel excited for no reason

There isn’t sufficient evidence to claim the safe effects of valerian roots in pregnant and breastfeeding women. So it is better to refrain from consuming this root in such cases. It is advisable to avoid taking these roots 2 weeks before undergoing any surgery as well.

Valerian root supplements

The supplements are a combination of the roots, stems, and extracts. The supplements are available in the following forms:

  • Teas
  • Tinctures
  • Capsules
  • Tablets

The intake typically ranges from 400 to 900 milligrams at bedtime.

Many herbal experts advise the use of valerian for only 2 – 3 weeks. Follow this with a break for the same timeline and then resume again. This is advised to minimize the onset of any adverse side effects such as headaches and depression.

Can everyone consume valerian root supplements?

The following criteria of people must not consume the root supplements:

  • Pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding
  • Children younger than 3 years old – there isn’t much research done on valerian roots for children so it is best not to give children any form valerian.
  • Those who consume alcohol or any sedative medications – in such cases, consuming valerian roots can induce additional sedative effects and lead to excessive drowsiness.

What is the dosage of valerian root supplements for sleep?

It is advisable to consume 300 to 600 milligrams (mg) of valerian root 30 minutes to 2 hours before bedtime. You can make tea by mixing 2 to 3 grams of valerian root supplements in 1 cup of hot water. Soak for about 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t consume valerian root every day for a month.

Dosage of valerian root supplements for anxiety

It is advisable to consume 120 to 200 mg three times a day to treat anxiety. The final dose of valerian root should be just before bedtime. If you closely observe, the dosage recommended is lesser to that of what is suggested for insomnia. This is probably due to the fact that intake of high amounts during the day can make you feel very sleepy and it will affect your daytime related work or functions.

Are there other benefits of valerian root?

There are studies on the use of valerian roots for restless legs syndrome. The dosage of valerian roots is about 800 g per day. This dosage can bring down the symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome and improve the quality of sleep in general.

Another notable use of Valerian is in the management of Parkinson’s disease. It is a condition where brain cells are damaged and produce less than adequate dopamine. This disease is often a result of high bodily inflammation owing to oxidative stress (ROS damage). The ROS damage levels were reported to have been lowered with the help of valerian root extract in many patients of Parkinson’s disease.

Valerian root: Remember these

  • If you are having any sleep-related problems, don’t reach out to medications all the time. A change towards a healthy lifestyle will influence your sleep and your overall health.
  • Make sure you exercise regularly and relax about 1 – 2 hours before bed.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is also helpful.
  • For any medication, it is important to look for labels of the NationalCenter for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) or the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).
  • You may experience side effects like stomach problems, dizziness, nausea, etc.
  • Herbal supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Valerin roots can be called as the natural route source towards your sleep paradise. Its use began during the ancient times in Greece and Rome. Primarily, this root was used as a relaxant, to reduce stress levels or to improve sleep.  The supplements are non-toxic generally. But, an overdosage can negatively impact both physical and mental health.

Before you decide to take valerian root supplements, it is better to consult your doctor as it can interfere with any medications or your existing health conditions. Regular exercise and relaxation therapies will also aid in combating stress-related problems.


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