Finding ways to enhance your quality of sleep can be a total drag. So it makes sense that oodles of sleep-deprived folks have turned to natural sleep aids for help. One of the most popular options is valerian root. But does this trendy supplement actually work? Here’s the deets.
What is valerian root?
Valerian root comes from the herbal plant, known as valerian. Its medicinal uses date back to ancient Greece and Rome where it was used to treat insomnia. It’s also been lauded for its calming effects on the body.
Today, the roots and the rhizomes (underground stems) and stolons (horizontal stems of the plant) are used as supplements in capsules, tablets, teas and tinctures. Valerian root supplements can be found in most pharmacies and grocery stores.
FYI: Valerian root is also known for its particularly stanky smell.
Does valerian root help you sleep?
Valerian root has been found to have an effect on your brain’s GABA receptors. Specifically, research shows it might help you fall asleep faster while improving overall sleep quality.
According to a 2015 study, a mix of valerian, hops, and passion flower was compared to a sleep medication called Ambien. Researchers found that the herbal mix improved sleep duration and quality as well as the drug.
While a number of chemical components in valerian have been identified, research on valerian root and its effect on sleep remains limited and inconsistent. One study showed that the effects of valerian root on sleep worked best around 14 days of use. But again, we need more studies to know for sure.
Other benefits of valerian root
But wait… there’s more! In addition to aiding sleep, valerian root has other benefits for your general health. Here’s the DL.
Anxiety and depression
Folks who have anxiety or depression might benefit from adding valerian root to their daily regimen. In a 2021 study, hemodialysis patients who took valerian one hour before bed for a month experienced a significant reduction in their anxiety and depression symptoms.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
A 2011 study found that valerian root may have some anti-obsessive and compulsive effects. However, we need a lot more research to show how well it works to ease the symptoms of OCD.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and menopause
Folks who have premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms may find some relief on those dreaded days of the month. A 2016 study found that valerian root extract may reduce emotional, physical, and behavioral symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
Additionally, valerian root might help those with menopausal symptoms. A 2015 study in which women took 530 milligrams (mg) of a valerian root extract twice a day for four weeks had significantly improved their sleep quality. But (no shocker here) we need more studies to truly understand the potential perks.
Most studies show that an effective dosage of valerian root extract for sleep and tension relief ranges from 300 to 600 mg, 30 minutes before bed, on a regular basis. If dried herbal valerian root is more your style, an equivalent dose is 2 to 3 grams (g) soaked in one cup of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes.
Pro tip: Start with a low dose and increase as needed. Just be sure to keep your dose in a healthy range. It’s also a good idea to consult with a health care provider before making any major changes to your diet or supplement regime.
Risks of valerian root
Valerian root is generally considered safe when taken correctly. It’s has an anti-anxiety effect, but isn’t known to cause drowsiness or poor concentration. However, some peeps have reported side effects such as:
- dry mouth
- vivid dreams
- upset stomach
- mental fogginess
- heart palpitations
Additionally, valerian root might not be right for everyone to take. Due to a lack of research, you should prob avoid taking valerian supplements if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. You should also talk to a health care provider before using valerian root if you’re taking sedatives (e.g. barbiturates and benzodiazepines).
Ever since togas were considered slappin’ fashion, valerian root has been used for alleviating symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, depression, OCD, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and menopause.
Despite its age-old use for age-old problems, a limited amount of data is available on its short and long term effects on the human body.
As with any dietary supplement, it is best when you take as directed on the packaging. It is recommended you talk to your doctor before incorporating valerian root into your daily regimen to determine what dosage is right for you.