Valerian Root: The Sleepy Time Herb

I write a lot about herbal supplements. Obviously I can’t try every supplement I write about, but one that I have used myself is Valerian root. I use it for sleep, but I’m told that it’s also good for stress and anxiety.

What is Valerian Root?

Valerian RootValerian is a perennial plant that has a long history of use as an herbal remedy. It was used in Ancient Greece to treat digestive problems. It has also been used for centuries as a nervous system tonic and a sleep aid.

The active ingredients in Valerian root are valerenic acid and isovaleric acid, which is produced as the plant ages. Both compounds are volatile oils that are thought to work by relaxing the central nervous system and promoting sleep. In double blind studies, Valerian root has been shown to decrease the amount of time it takes for people with mild insomnia to fall asleep.

Valerian root is a sedative, so it is also used to treat anxiety and stress. In fact, it can be used for any condition related to being tense. Some people find it helpful for muscle aches and tension headaches because it acts as a muscle relaxant.

Valerian Root Side Effects and Dosage

Valerian root has few side effects. It doesn’t cause the grogginess that you might get from a prescription sleep aid or even some over the counter remedies. You can take it in capsules, tablets, tinctures or liquid extracts. I use tablets and capsules.

The maximum recommended intake of Valerian is 15 grams of plant material, which is usually about 15 to 20 drops of tincture several times daily or 450 to 500 mg of concentrated, standardized extract. Standardized extracts should contain between .5 % and 1% volatile oils.

You can also make Valerian tea by steeping 1 teaspoon of the dried root in a cup of hot water for ten minutes, and there are time-release formulas of Valerian that you can use for a sustained feeling of relaxation throughout the day. If you take Valerian for sleep, take it an hour or so before bedtime.

Of course, you should use this herb conservatively. If you have serious anxiety or insomnia, you may need to talk to your doctor. If you’re already on any kind of prescription medication, you should not combine it with Valerian or any herbal remedy without medical advice.

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