A Guide to Valerian Root – Sleep, Stress, and Relaxation
When faced with problems falling – or staying – asleep, it can be tempting to become stressed out and even despondent. It’s important to stay positive, though. There are solutions out there.
In this blog we’ve explored lots of different techniques and tips surrounding sleep health and how you can improve yours. Here, we’re going to investigate a herbal remedy which is popular the world over – valerian root.
What is valerian root?
Valerian – or, to give it its Latin name, Valeriana officinalis – is a flowering plant which grows anywhere up to around five to six feet tall. A perennial, it is native to Asia and Europe, but is now grown throughout the world.
As its name suggests, it’s the root where the active ingredients in the valerian plant reside. They are extracted when the roots are added to an alcoholic extraction solvent, forming a mixture. That mixture is then heated up to a temperature of between around 70° to 80°C for approximately two hours1.
Extract of valerian has been used in traditional natural medicine for centuries. In fact, its use can be traced all the way back to the days of the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome2.
What’s valerian root used for?
The root of the valerian plant is used in much the same way now as it has been for a long time – to treat a couple of very specific conditions. Primarily it’s used to promote calmness, and using valerian root for sleep is a common application.
Studies have found that using valerian root for anxiety is an effective way to treat the condition. According to a 2021 study of 39 patients, those who took 530mg of valerian root daily for a month experienced significantly lower levels of anxiety symptoms than those who took the placebo alternative3.
Primarily, though, this natural remedy has been used as a tool for those people throughout time that struggled with falling or remaining asleep.
How does valerian root work?
Researchers and scientists are unsure exactly how valerian functions in the human body. Although it’s widely believed that certain valerian chemicals, such valerenic acid and valerenol, can encourage the creation of the body’s ‘GABA’ receptors.
The chemical messenger GABA (full name: gamma-aminobutyric acid) aids in the control of nerve impulses in our neurological systems. One of the key neurotransmitters involved in controlling sleep, GABA exerts sedative effects when it is present in high quantities in the body4.
Why valerian root can help some people
According to research carried out into valerian root as a sleeping aid, there is a suggestion that it can not only speed up the process of falling asleep, but also enhance both sleep quality and quantity.
One group of 120 participants in a 2017 study5, all of whom had sleep problems, took valerian 30 minutes before their planned bedtime for 20 days. Compared to the placebo group, they slept longer and woke up much less frequently. They also fell asleep quicker.
In comparison to those who took the placebo, the test subjects who received valerian root for sleep experienced noticeably improved rest. Only 4% of those in the placebo group reported improved sleep, compared to 30% of those in the valerian group.
According to a research from 2020 that looked at 60 studies into its efficacy, it was concluded that valerian root as a sleeping aid is an excellent option6.
The other potential health benefits of valerian root
It’s not just stress, anxiety and sleep that valerian root is thought to help with. There are a few other conditions which some studies have shown can be lessened or helped with a course of the herbal remedy. These include:
Restless legs syndrome
One eight-week research project on patients with restless legs syndrome revealed that valerian root supplementation reduced daytime sleepiness and improved their RLS symptoms7.
In women who are menopausal or postmenopausal, valerian root may help lessen hot flashes. In a 2018 study, postmenopausal women who took 1,060mg of valerian daily for two months experienced far fewer hot flashes than usual8.
Valerian root may also be helpful for those women who suffer with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or uncomfortable periods. According to one study, it lessened the behavioural, emotional and physical symptoms of PMS9.
The possible side effects of valerian root
Reported side effects are uncommon when using valerian root for sleep, but not unheard of. No participants in any of the studies we’ve mentioned experienced any ill effects from their dosages, but there have been some reported side effects in those that take it regularly.
With the amounts you’ll find in almost all herbal supplements, there really is no need to panic, but forewarned is forearmed. The following is list of the side effects which have been noted in some people:
- Stomach pains
- Unusually vivid dreams
- A metallic taste in the mouth
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Dizzy spells
If you’re considering trying valerian root to help with any sleep-related issue that you currently have, it may just be worth checking in with your GP or another medical professional before you do so.
Explore the Nytol blog today for more help and guidance on getting a good night’s sleep and improving the quality of your sleep in the long term.
1, Process for the extraction of valerian root – Google Patents, Michael J. Andrews and Amaresh Basu
2, Valerian – National Institute for Health factsheet
3, The Effects of Valerian on Sleep Quality, Depression, and State Anxiety in Hemodialysis Patients: A Randomised, Double-blind, Crossover Clinical Trial – Oman Medical Journal, Mohammad Reza Tammadon, et al.
4, Herbal Remedies and Their Possible Effect on the GABAergic System and Sleep – Nutrients, Oliviero Bruni, et al
5, Evaluation of effectiveness and safety of a herbal compound in primary insomnia symptoms and sleep disturbances not related to medical or psychiatric causes – Nature and Science of Sleep, Giancarlo Palmieri, et al
6, Valerian Root in Treating Sleep Problems and Associated Disorders-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis – Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine, Noriko Shinjyo, et al.
7, Does valerian improve sleepiness and symptom severity in people with restless legs syndrome? – Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Norma G Cuellar, et al.
8, The effect of Valerian on the severity and frequency of hot flashes: A triple-blind randomised clinical trial – Women Health, Ensiyeh Jenabi, et al.
9, Effects of Valerian Root on Menstrual Disorders – Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, Preethi Shankar, et al.