What is Valerian?
Valerian is a perennial flowering plant from the Caprifoliaceae plant family, with fragrant pink or white flowers that bloom in the summer. The flower extracts and oils from Valerian have been used to flavour and scent foods, beverages, and perfumes since the 16th century. Its scientific name is Valeriana officinalis, derived from the Latin verb Valere which means to be strong and healthy. Indeed, Valerian contains many healthy components which may contribute to its therapeutic activity, such as Alkaloids, Isovaleramide, Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), Isovaleric Acid, Iridoids (valepotriates), Sesquiterpenes (valerenic acid), and Flavanones (6-methylapigenin).
What are the Health Benefits of Valerian?
Valerian is known for its sedative, anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, anti-diuretic, antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic activity. It is commonly used in the treatment of sleep disorders, anxiety and its related health conditions, blood pressure, menstrual cramps, menopausal symptoms, joint pains, and headaches. Valerian has also been used for Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), and epilepsy.
Home Remedies Using Valerian
Valerian contains chemicals called Iridoids and Sesquiterpenes, which researchers believe may help modulate GABA-A receptors and relax the central nervous system. This in turn can result in a soothing and sedative effect. In a report published by The National Center for Biotechnology Information, there is evidence to suggest that valerian can help improve sleep quality without producing side effects. What this means for us is that Valerian can be used to treat sleep disorders such as insomnia. More importantly, it could help you sleep better without the strong sedative effects from traditional sleeping pills. To cope with sleep disorders, try taking 1 to 2 capsules of Valerian root extract about one hour before going to bed or as directed on your particular package of Valerian. Alternatively, adding a few drops of Valerian bath oil into a warm bath and soaking in it for 20 minutes before bed can also relax the mind and body and improve sleep quality.
Valerian for Anxiety
Valerian can be used to relieve the symptoms of anxiety and psychological stress. You can take it to treat nervous asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, hypochondria, hysteria, hyper-excitability, upset stomach, headache and migraines caused by stress or anxiety. Researchers believe that Valerian contains a chemical called Valerenic Acid which may be responsible for the anxiolytic activity and can help produce soothing and calming effects throughout the body.
A simple remedy for anxiety and stress related conditions is to take one capsule (containing 400-600 mg of Valerian root extract and Valerenic Acid) twice daily or as prescribed on the package. However, if anxiety symptoms don’t subside after about two weeks of using Valerian root extract, it is recommended to consult your healthcare provider. You may also find that making a cup of tea with some quality Valerian tea bags may help to relieve stress and anxiety on particularly stressful days.
Migraines and Headaches
The calming and soothing activity of Valerian helps relieve anxiety and stress related migraines and headaches. Simply drinking a cup of Valerian tea may help. To make Valerian tea, add one Valerian tea bag to a boiling cup of water and steep it for 5-7 minutes. It is best to keep the teapot covered while steeping.
Regulating Blood Pressure
Valerian has been shown to have hypotensive and antidiuretic properties that help regulate blood pressure. Simply taking one capsule (400-600mg) of Valerian extract daily may help with blood pressure management.
Menstrual Cramps and PMS
The anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, soothing and calming activity of Valerian helps relieve the discomfort caused by menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Depending on the severity of cramps, you can start drinking a cup of Valerian tea once or twice daily 3 days prior to the onset of your period.
A study performed in 2013 at the School of Pharmacy, Shaheed Beheshti University of Medical Sciences reports that Valerian can be effective in the treatment of menopausal hot flashes. In their study, 68 menopausal women participated for 8 weeks by taking Valerian capsules containing 255 mg of Valerian root 3 times a day. Their results showed a statistically significant reduction in the severity of hot flashes after the 8 weeks. Based on these findings, you can try taking 255 mg of Valerian root capsules three times daily (for up to 8 weeks) to help reduce the severity and number of hot flashes associated with menopause.
What are the Side Effects of Valerian?
There are no reported adverse side effects of Valerian when consumed in moderation and as recommended by a naturopathic or medical professional. If you are taking any other herbal or allopathic medication, talk to your doctor or naturopath before taking Valerian in any form. Due to its sedative effects, Valerian is not recommended for pregnant and lactating women. It should also not be taken for extended periods of time, since it may be habit forming. Therefore, it should only be taken to treat particular conditions for short term periods (such as 8 weeks or less). Due to its sedative and relaxing effects, driving or operating heavy machinery should also be avoided for a few hours after taking a dosage of Valerian.
Where and How to Buy Valerian?
Valerian root and its extracts are available at most herbal food stores and online. It can be found in the form of capsules, tea, powder, oil, tincture and pills. Valerian root can also be found in dried or fresh form and Valerian juice is available at some herbal or natural food stores. When purchasing Valerian root capsules, look for those which contain 400-600 mg of Valerian root extract and also Valerenic Acid. Valerian products should be stored in dark areas since Valerian loses its efficacy when exposed to light for long periods of time.