Valerian Root as a Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Valerian root gets its name from the Latin “valere,” which means “well-being.” It has traditionally been used for its sedative qualities to help provide relief from stress and anxiety, heart palpitations, insomnia, mild depression, and restlessness. Modern research has shown strong evidence that supports these usages. Recent study has shown that taking Valerian Root has a mildly sedative effect and decreases feelings of anxiety and nervousness and improves sleep quality. Studies have shown that using Valerian Root shortens the length of time it takes to fall asleep and provides for more efficient sleep patterns.

How Valerian Root Works

Valerian Root’s essential oil was first extracted in the early 1900’s. Since that time, more than 150 bioactive constituents have been isolated. Among these are valepotriates and sesquiterpenes. Valepotriates are thought to be the agent behind Valerian’s anxiolytic properties and contribute to its sedative nature. Isovaleric acids in the oil help support these valepotriates in their function. Valerian Root has been shown to affect the central nervous system, and this action may contribute to its positive effects on stress, nervousness, and headaches caused by anxiety. It has also been shown to reduce physiological reactions to stressful events.

Supporting Evidence

There is evidence that Valerian Root may help to alleviate insomnia and other sleep disorders. In one clinical study involving 16 patients with an average age of 49 was conducted to determine the effects of Valerian Root extract on psychophysiological insomnia. The participants both reported their insomnia using ICSD criteria and were tested using polysomnographic recordings, and they were devoid of acute diseases. Each time the patients were tested for the short-term and long-term effects of Valerian Root versus placebo, polysomnographic readings were used along with observation of sleep-stage using the rules of Rechtschaffen and Kales as well as the arousal index. The patients were also asked about their own perceptions of sleep quality, feeling upon waking, and performance throughout the day. The study concluded that there were significant differences between the group taking the placebo versus the group taking the Valerian Root extract. Valerian showed a reduction in slow-wave sleep latency and an increase in the percentage of time spent in the REM state. At no point did evening administration of Valerian Root cause adverse effects the next day. These findings point to Valerian Root as a possible aid in dealing with insomnia and improving sleep quality.

Valerian Root also shows positive effects on anxiety. A double-blind, pacebo-controlled study on outpatients with adjustment disorder and anxious mood was done to determine the effects of Valerian Root. The 28-day study, in which participants received two tablets of either Valerian Root or placebo three times a day, used the Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety to test the effects on days 0, 7, 14, and 28. There was a significant difference between the two groups’ response between days 7 and 28, and the results showed Valerian Root to be more effective than placebo in alleviating anxious mood.

Valerian Root Usage

 Valerian Root is available in both single and combination-herb therapies. If administered in a single-herb formula, the recommended dosage is between 300mg and 600mg a day for the relief of insomnia and sleep disorder. If taken in combination with other herbs, the dosage is 50mg to 250 mg a day.

Important Information on Valerian Root

Side effects are rare, but occasionally users report such side effects as headaches or gastrointestinal problems. These are generally mild when they do occur. No adverse effects have been shown in children, and it is hoped that Valerian might prove an effective tool in dealing with sleep disorders in children with an intellectual deficit. More research is needed to prove its safe and effective use in children. No bad reactions have been reported with either prescription SSRI’s or benzodiazepines, and Valerian may help with the side effects of ending benzodiazepine usage. Valerian Root should not be used by pregnant or nursing women, people taking prescription MAOI’s, and should be taken in moderation. Valerian Root can increase the effects of sedatives and anesthetics, and should not be taken in large quantities by people operating vehicles or heavy machinery.

Author's Bio: 

Pia Carleson is a certified wellness advisor for the 123 Feel Better Company and avid writer/researcher of complementary and alternative medicines for a host of wellness concerns. Learn more about herbal remedies for occasional anxiety, stress and mood by visiting the Clarocet information website at