Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a perennial flowering plant native to Europe and Asia, although it is also cultivated in other parts of the world for its medicinal properties. The root of the Valerian plant has been used for centuries in traditional herbal medicine for its potential calming and sedative effects.

Active Ingredients in Valerian Root

Over 120 chemical components are found in Valerian and although a very complex herb, it has not been found to have negative side effects with moderate use.

Valerian root contains various bioactive constituents in Valerian root including; valerenic acid, valeranone, iridoids, alkaloids and various volatile oils, which are believed to contribute to its therapeutic effects.

Valerian Health Benefits

Here are some potential health benefits associated with Valerian:

Valerian as a Sleep Aid

Valerian is best known for its use as a natural sleep aid. It is believed to have mild sedative properties that can help promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. Valerian root extract is commonly used as a dietary supplement or herbal tea to help individuals fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and experience more restful sleep.

Millions of people have difficulty sleeping and the pharmaceutical industry has cashed in on the problem to the tune of billions of dollars. But herbal sleep aids can be as effective as the powerful prescription sedatives such as valium and other narcotic type drugs. Valerian is calming without exerting too sedative an effect, and is practically non-addictive. It is a valuable treatment for insomnia, the sedative effect due to the valepotriates and the isovaleric acid.

At least two double-blind studies have demonstrated that valerian extract can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes people to fall asleep without changing the normal stages of sleep.

Documented research has noted a mild hypnotic action in both normal sleepers and insomniacs, indicated by a beneficial effect on sleep latency, wake-time after sleep, frequency of waking, nocturnal motor activity, inner restlessness and tension and quality of sleep. Sleepiness and dream recall the morning after were unaffected. The valepotriates have a regulatory effect on the autonomic nervous system; research suggests that they have a calming effect on agitated people but are also a stimulant in cases of fatigue.

Valerian as a Mild Tranquilizer

Valerian is used as a mild tranquiliser for people experiencing emotional stress, in the same way that anti-anxiety drugs are prescribed for exhaustion. Valerian may have mood-enhancing properties, contributing to a sense of calmness and relaxation, and has been trialled as part of a program to take patients with depression off antidepressants and benzodiazepines. More research is needed.

Valerian for Anxiety Reduction

Valerian can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and nervousness due to its calming effects on the central nervous system. It is often used as a natural remedy for mild to moderate anxiety, promoting a sense of tranquillity and well-being, without causing drowsiness or impairment.

Valerian for Stress Relief

Valerian can be used to alleviate symptoms of stress and tension, helping individuals feel more relaxed and at ease during times of emotional or mental strain. It helps to calm the mind and body, reducing feelings of irritability, restlessness and agitation.

Valerian as an Antispasmodic for Muscle Relaxation

Valerian root has muscle-relaxant properties that contribute to its ability to promote relaxation and ease tension. It can relieve muscle tension and stiffness so is used as a natural remedy for muscle spasms, cramps and discomfort associated with conditions such as fibromyalgia and tension headaches.

Valerian is used in Europe as an antispasmodic, particularly for abdominal cramps due to nervousness. It helps relieve dysmenorrhoea (abdominal cramps) and it can be of benefit in migraine and rheumatic pain.

Valerian can also be applied locally as a treatment for cramps and other muscle tensions.

Valerian for Menstrual Cramp Relief

Women can use Valerian as a natural remedy for relieving menstrual cramps and discomfort associated with uterine cramps due to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and period pains. Its muscle-relaxant and mild analgesic properties help to reduce pelvic pain and uterine contractions during menstruation.

Valerian for Gastrointestinal Discomfort

Valerian provides mild gastrointestinal benefits due to its muscle relaxant properties. It can help to relax the smooth muscles of the digestive tract, promoting better digestion and reducing digestive disturbances. It is used as a digestive aid to help alleviate symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort from indigestion and bloating.

How to Take Valerian

Valerian root is available in various forms, including capsules, tablets, tinctures, extracts and teas. It is thought that clinical effects generally wear off after about 4 – 6 hours.

Valerian Does Not seem to Impair Driving

Valerian does not seem to impair driving ability and produces no morning hangover effect. It is a gentle relaxant and an effective sleep aid.

Always take care when taking herbs and Read Our Disclaimer.

Valerian Notes / Side Effects

Valerian is generally considered safe for most people when used as directed.

Consultation with Healthcare Professionals: It’s advisable to consult with healthcare professionals if you have existing health conditions, are pregnant, or are taking medications, as Valerian may interact with certain drugs.

Quality and Dosage: The quality of Valerian supplements can vary, and standardised preparations may be more reliable. Follow recommended dosages provided by reputable sources.

Short-Term Use: Valerian is typically recommended for short-term use. Prolonged use may lead to tolerance, and sudden cessation may result in withdrawal symptoms.

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