Valerian Root: Potential Benefits for Sleep and MoreSep 29, 2022 10:00AM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
Sleep loss is a worldwide problem. Health experts suspect that insufficient sleep prompts or exacerbates many serious health issues, which is why getting optimal sleep should be a top priority. If you have sleep issues, you might have already tried natural sleep aids, including herbal supplements. You can read here on eight ways to get a good night sleep or perhaps you may be suffering from one of these sleeping disorders. While melatonin seems to be the reigning champ of sleep supplements, it might not be the best choice if you wake up in the middle of the night, are breastfeeding, or are on the pill. These are just a few of the reasons that some people reach for valerian root instead. We explore valerian root, covering its effects on the body, potential side effects, and recommended dosage.
Valerian root, often referred to as valerian, is the root of the valerian plant, officially called the Valeriana Officinali. Valerian root is also called all-heal, Amantilla, Baldrian, Garden Heliotrope, Tagar in Ayurvedic medicine, and Xie Cao in traditional Chinese medicine. This herb is native to Asia and Europe but can also be found in North America. Valerian root is an herbal remedy for insomnia, anxiety, and other health concerns. It contains a substance known as Valerenic Acid, which is believed to affect gamma-aminobutyric acid.
Valerian root contains multiple chemical compounds that may impact the human brain and body, but researchers haven’t completely pinpointed which compounds affect us. Most likely, multiple components act together to provide effects. Researchers have identified the following active compounds in valerian root:
Iridoids7, also called valepotriates
Essential oils, including valerenic acid and valeric acid
GABA (at low levels)
GABA is a chemical messenger that helps regulate nerve impulses in your nervous system. It’s one of the main neurotransmitters responsible for sleep regulation, and increasing the amount of GABA available in your body has sedative effects. Valerian root is probably best known as a remedy for insomnia.
Like other supplements, valerian root is sold over the counter and not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It's important to be cautious and read the label when selecting a supplement and this includes checking the dosage. 300 to 600mg capsules once per day, on a regular basis. have safely been used to treat insomnia in clinical studies, it's best to discuss the dosage with your doctor and start with the lowest dose possible.
Read about other supplements:
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Valerian root may also have other benefits that could put it ahead of other sleep supplements. Depending on the dose, valerian root can be helpful for insomnia, anxiety, ADHD, muscle spasms such as menstrual and gastrointestinal cramping, pain usually associated with tension like migraines, and certain cardiovascular conditions.
Unlike the plant’s delicately scented flowers, valerian roots have a very strong odor that many people find unpleasant. When used as a dietary supplement, valerian root is generally dried, then made into a tea, tincture, capsule, or tablet. These forms of valerian root are available without a prescription in pharmacies, grocery stores, and online.
In comparison to melatonin, Dr. Aarti Grover, the medical director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Tufts Medical Center, melatonin and valerian root both work in different parts of the central nervous system, and both can potentially help improve sleep. The hormone melatonin is produced by the pineal gland in the brain every night, typically peaking several hours before bedtime and working in tandem with the body's circadian rhythm.
Most studies of valerian root for sleep found that participants experienced no adverse effects, or mild side effects at comparable rates to groups taking a placebo. According to the National Institutes of Health, the side effects most commonly reported by people involved in valerian clinical trials are:
Feelings of uneasiness
Heart rate changes
Studies of the longer-term safety of valerian root supplementation haven’t been conducted. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine also recommends against using valerian root for chronic insomnia because they’ve determined there isn’t enough research demonstrating its safety or efficacy. People taking sedatives or other anti-anxiety or sleep medications should avoid valerian root as there’s a chance these drugs could interact or become too sedating when combined. Even if one is not taking any other medications, it is always a good idea to talk to a doctor before taking any supplements, including valerian.
Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies. She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content.
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