Valerian is a medicinal plant that is rich in valerinic acid and isovaleric avid. It contains calming, sedative and relaxing properties, making it a great option for complementing the treatment of health conditions like insomnia, anxiety and stress.
Scientifically known as Valeriana officinalis, the root is the part of valerian that is most commonly used. Valerian root is available for consumption as tea or supplement, which can be purchased at natural health stores, pharmacies, and farmer’s markets.
Valerian should be used as directed by a doctor or medicinal plant specialist, as excess use can lead to side effects like headache, stomach pain, and irritability. It is not recommended for use by pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Valerian root contains many medicinal properties and can be used for:
1. Combating insomnia
Valerian contains sesquiterpenic compounds, like valerenic acid and isovaleric acid, which contain calming, sedative and tranquilizing properties. It can be used to combat insomnia and improve sleep quality.
Some studies also show that consuming valerian tea with lemon balm can help to relieve restlessness and sleep disturbances.
2. Reducing stress and anxiety
Valerenic and isovaleric acid increase neurotransmittor activity in the brain. Increased GABA activity, for example, leads to a better sense of relaxation and can decrease symptoms of anxiety and stress (like agitation, nervousness, mental fatigue or difficulty concentrating).
Some studies also show that because it can reduce anxiety, valerian root can be used to complement the medical treatment of conditions like generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.
3. Relieving PMS symptoms
Because it contains sesquiterpenic compounds that influence GABA activity, valerian root can help to relieve PMS symptoms. As noted above, increased GABA activity can help to stabilize mood and relieve nervousness or anxiety, which are associated with PMS.
4. Reducing menopause symptoms
Valerian root can be used to reduce menopause symptoms, like irritability or nervousness, It contains flavonoids like hesperidin and linarin which help to treat hot flashes and excessive sweating, which are common in menopause.
Valerian root is also a natural soothing agent. It regulates GABA levels in the brain, which can improve mood, well-being, and sleep quality, all which can be affected during menopause.
5. Relieving period cramps
Valerian root contains acids with anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties, which decrease uterine contractions and inhibit the production of inflammatory substances, like prostaglandins. For this reason, this plant can be used to relieve menstrual cramping.
6. Manading ADHD
Some studies show that valerian root, especially when used with lemon balm, can help to manage attention deficit hyperativity disorder (ADHD) in children. It can reduce the intensity of behaviors like impulsivity, agitation and aggressiveness, while also improving attention, focus and task completion.
How to take it
The part of this plant that is most used is the root, where bioactive substances are extracted and consumed in tea or capsule form.
Valerian root can be taken in the following ways
1. Valerian root tea
To make valerian tea, you should only use dried roots, as it is the part of the plant that contains the most beneficial health properties.
- 1 tablespoon of dried valerian roots
- 300 mL of boiling water
How to prepare
Add the dried roots to the boiling water, cover and allow to soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Then strain and drink, 30 to 45 minutes before going to bed.
This tea should not be consumed by pregnant women nor by children under 3. You should not ocnsume more than 2 cups per day, as it can cause rebound effect and lead to more agitation and insomnia.
2. Valerian root capsules
Valerian root capsules are taken orally in their whole form with 1 cup of water.
Dosing for valerian capsules vary depending on the purpose for use. Recommendations are as follows:
- Insomnia: one 450 mg capsule, once a day, ideally 30 minutes before going to bed. Its effects can be most noted after at least 3 weeks of daily use.
- Stress and anxiety: one 100 mg capsule, three times per day with a meal.
- Menopause symptoms: one 100 mg capsule, three times per day. Its effects can be most noted after at least 8 weeks of daily use.
- Period cramps: one 100 mg capsule, three times per day. Reduced pain can be noted during the next menstrual cycle.
Duration of treatment should be indicated by a doctor or health care professional.
Possible side effects
Valerian root is safe for use in the majority of adults when recommended doses are consumed for a designated period of time. However, high doses can cause side effects like headache, stomach ache, irritability, agitation or insomnia.
Because of its sedative and tranquilizing effects, you should take certain precautions when consuming valerian. You should avoid activities like driving, operating heavy machinery or participating in dangerous activities. Alcohol consumption should also be avoided, as alcohol may heighten side effects like drowsiness and dizziness.
Valerian use should be discontinued at least 2 weeks before any surgery, as it can have a highly sedative effect that interferes with anesthetic action.
Contraindications for use
Valerian should not be used by children under 3, nor by breastfeeding or pregnant women.
Valerian root should also not be used by people who take medications for anxiety and depression, or who take analgesics like codeine, morphine or tramadol. Valerian use should also not be mixed with muscle relaxants, like cyclobenzaprine, or anticonvulstants, like phenobarbital.