Valerian is a flowering plant which is native to Asia and Europe. Valerian root is also known as “nature’s Valium.” During summers, the mature plant of valerian bears scented pink or white flowers. In ancient time, scented flowers of valerian plant were used to make perfume while its underground roots have been used for medicinal purpose. The extract of valerian roots is considered to have many anxiolytic and sedative effects.
It is considered that the use of Valerian can reduce stress and anxiety. It is also used to treat insomnia, menstrual pain, migraine pain, fatigue, and blood pressure problems.
History of Greece and Rome shows that valerian root has been used to improve sleep and anxiety. Greek physicians Galen and Dioscorides have also used it as a remedy for poison while some others used it as a cure for epilepsy. In the past, Native Americans have also used it for healing wounds, injuries, and ulcers.
Following compounds are found in the valerian extract:
Alkaloids: catinine, actinidine, valerine, and valerianine
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
Acevaltrate, isovaltrate, valepotriates and valtrate
Active sesquiterpenes (acetoxivalerenic acid, valerenic acid)
Flavanones such as linarin, 6-methylapigenin and hesperidin
Benefits of valerian
Valerian shows effectivity in the following conditions by boosting health condition.
Studies show that valerian is effective in aiding sleep. It helps to reduce the time in which a person fell asleep and increases sleep quality. In comparison to other sleep medication, It is less likely to cause any morning drowsiness.
In a study conducted by Foellinge Health Center in Sweden showed that valerian has remarkable positive effects on poor sleep. During this study, 89% of the participants were reported to have improved sleep cycle while 44% of participants showed perfect sleep.
No side effects of Valerian were observed in participants. A systematic review and meta-analysis gave by Stephen Bent also suggest that valerian is helpful in improving sleep quality without causing any kind of side effects.
The Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) present in valerian extract is a neurotransmitter and transmits chemical signals through the nervous system.
Research shows that low levels of GABA cause low quality sleep while the large quantities of GABA can cause a sedative effect by reducing the activity of neurons. The use of Valerians increases the levels of GABA in the body and calms the nervous system, which in turn improves sleep quality. Linarin present in Valerian also causes a sedative effect and improves sleep cycle.
Another study revealed that a single dose of valerian induced deep sleep 36% faster in adults with insomnia
Generally, it is referred that deep sleep is important for repairing and recharging the body of an individual. The “Deep sleep”, which is also known as slow-wave sleep can help an individual wake up feeling energetic.
Anxiety and stress treatment
Studies show that low GABA levels cause acute and chronic stress. Valerian increases the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the body which stabilizes the nervous system and reduces anxiety. The other components of valerian like valerenol, valeric acid, and valerenic acid also act as anti-anxiety agents. valerenic acid inhibits the breakdown of GABA in the brain and prevents the lowering of GABA level. Many of the constituents present in valerian inhibit the excessive activity of amygdala. Amygdala is the part of the brain which processes fear.
A balanced combination of valerian and lemon balm is also found effective in reducing anxiety. However, a high dose of these supplements has shown negative effects. It is also suggested that a combination of valerian and lemon balm can improve focus on children. It can also relieve hyperactivity in children.
Research in BMC Complementary and Alternative
Medicine showed that Valerian is able to suppress both psychological and physical stress level. It reduces the stress level by maintaining levels of serotonin within the body. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and is also known as a mood stabilizer because it regulates mood. In this way, it can reduce the stress level. It can also relieve symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
In this way, valerian herbal remedy is effective in stress management without causing any side effects as caused by other anti-anxiety medications.
Relief in Pain and fatigue
Valerian also acts as a pain reliever. The study published in “The Indian Journal of Experimental Biology” showed that the valerian extract had significant analgesic effects on rats.
A Study showed that the use of valerian improved fatigue in the patients who were undergoing treatment of cancer.
Studies show that Valerian is helpful in relaxing muscles. It can also ease menstrual cramps as experienced by many women during mensuration. It relieves menstrual cramps by reducing uterine muscle contractions.
A study from Islamic Azad University in Iran also supports this fact. Another study shows that isovaleric acid present in valerian can prevent sudden or involuntary muscle contractions. In this way, it can possibly relieve symptoms of epilepsy.
Relief in Menstruation
Studies reveal that the use of valerian can reduce the severity of premenstrual syndrome by improving physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms. Studies also suggest that the use of valerian have caused a significant reduction in hot flash severity during menopause. During this study, 765 mg of valerian was used daily and within eight weeks of study reduction in severity was observed.
Relief in Parkinson’s disease
Research revealed that the treatment of mice with Parkinson’s disease with valerian extract led to an improved condition and an increase in antioxidants level.
Blood Pressure regulation
Studies show that gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is helpful in the regulation of blood pressure. The proper regulation of blood also promotes heart health. In this way, it prevents the chances of stroke and heart attack.
Typical Usage dose
Studies showed that taking 450 mg of valerian root at night helped people to have faster and quality sleep. However, a high dose of 900-mg dose caused drowsiness in the following morning. Valerian is present in various forms and its recommended typical dosage is as following:
1-2 tsp of valerian root tea can be added to one cup of boiling water and should be used before bedtime.
2-4mls of valerian tincture can be used three times a day or as recommended by a herbal practitioner.
The valerian essential oil can be used in the bath. It can also be added to a massage cream or oil. 6-8 drops can be used per bath.
Valerian is a herb and is safe to use when taken at the recommended dose.
Valerian should not be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Its use can cause palpitations and nervousness in some people.
It is important to speak to the doctor before taking it if you are taking other medications as well. Its use is not recommended for those taking barbiturates or benzodiazepine medication.