Valerian root extract comes from the perennial plant called the Valeriana Officinalis. Traditionally, valerian has been used for relaxation and sedition purposes. Though it is one of the more popular sedatives, its effectiveness has come into question.
The main use for valerian root nowadays is to reduce anxiety or to make it easier to go to sleep. Most supplements containing valerian actively promote their products as a sleep aid, and several sleep aids we’ve reviewed contain Valerian Root. (See: Somnis Review, Getting Sleepy Review, LUNA Review)
Valerian for Sleep
Studies have shown a mixed bag of results when looking into the sleep-related effects of valerian, but participants anecdotally reported their sleep was better when valerian was taken.
It is believed that Valerian affects one of the main sedative neurotransmitters, known as GABA. This may be why valerian is useful for sleep.
In one study, valerian significantly improved sleep quality and decreased the frequency of sleep disturbances. In another study, patients undergoing treatment for cancer significantly decreased sleep disturbances and overall felt they had slept better.
Other Benefits of Valerian
Clinical studies have found several other benefits to taking valerian. In this study, valerian extract reduced the frequency and severity of hot flashes and slightly improved sleep quality. Another study found that doses of valerian under 400mg may help prevent “morning hangover” – in other words the sleepiness and drowsiness when you first wake up.
Taking low dosages of valerian may also reduce pain, particularly that of menstrual pain. Another study found that valerian may provide some benefits to people with restless leg syndrome, although the research was considered too preliminary to be considered fact.
Side Effects of Valerian Root
According to WebMD, valerian root is likely safe when used in medicinal amounts, particularly short term. Clinical trials up to 60 days have used valerian, but few studies have looked at the long-term effects of valerian root.
Valerian can cause minor side effects such as headaches, excitability, and uneasiness. If you take a higher dosage, then you may experience the morning hangover we discussed above.
To avoid feeling any long-term effects of valerian, it is recommended you discontinue use every 4-6 weeks for at least a period of 7-10 days. It may also be best to slowly reduce the dosage a week or two before completely stopping.
Since valerian slows down the CNS (Central Nervous System), you should stop taking valerian root two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
If you plan on taking valerian for sleep problems, then these dosages have been studied in clinical studies:
- 400-900mg up to 2 hours before bedtime (up to 4 straight weeks)
- 120mg up to 3 times daily with 80mg of lemon balm
- 180-200 mg of valerian plus 40mg of hops before bedtime
If you experience drowsiness the next morning, this means you probably took a dosage that is too high. Simply reduce the dosage and you should eliminate morning drowsiness.
Where to Buy Valerian Root
Valerian root is readily available online or through your local health and supplement store. Online retailers like Amazon have hundreds of valerian root supplements to choose from, and prices range from $5-20. We recommend looking for a product in between $10-20 since they tend to be higher quality.
You may also want to find a valerian supplement that also contains melatonin, since the two seems to work together and provide much better sleep quality than when they are used alone.