Using Valerian Root To Cure Insomnia

Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis), is also know as Tobacco Root and Garden Heliotrope. It has been used throughout history mainly for medicinal reasons. Native Americans used it instead of flour by drying and grounding it up. In Germany it was steeped with hot water this made a drink or alternatively one of the ingredients in a soupd. In the Middle Ages, it found its usage as a perfume. And it has even be alleged that Valerian root was given due to its medical uses. The ancient Greek physician Dioscorides gave sections of the Valerian plant to cure problems such as liver dysfunction, insomnia, epilepsy, urinary tract infection and others. It has been used more recently as a potential help for insomnia and for anxiety. Below is outlined in more detail the evidence for its efficacy in treating insomnia and anxiety.

Where does the name Valerian derive from?

Valerian is from the Latin word valere, which translates to healthy or strong. This naming was either due to its medical properties or to its strong smell. It tends to grow in Europe and some parts of Asia. There are other species of valerian that grow all over the world.

What is in valerian root

The chemical compounds which are active and are thought to contain the healing properties are generally found most concentrated in the rhizomes and the roots. This is the reason why most people discard the flowers, stems and leaves. Valerian root contains; Valeric acid, Valepotriates, Alkaloids, Tyrosine, G-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and Arginine.

Valerian root as a treatment for insomnia

Many clinical trials have made to check how well valerian root performs when treating people for insomnia. A double-blind study of 128 volunteers occurred, it evaluated the action of one dosage of 400 mg of Valerian extract and contrasted it with a sugar placebo with respect to insomnia. The study was evaluated on various metrics including sleep latency (how quickly a person falls asleep), the quality of sleep, how many night awakenings there were, the sleepiness of the subject upon awakening, and dream recall of the subject. The Valerian extract was observed to have a significant increase in sleep latency (getting to sleep quicker once hitting the pillow) and quality of sleep when compare to the sugar placebo all indications that insomnia would be reduced with valerian root. Looking more deeply into the study it was found that Valerian root had the largest effect on older men and women who were describing themselves as poor sleepers before they started the experiment. The test subjects who did not have any sleeping troubles generally were not effected by the Valerian root. One other placebo-controlled double-blind study of valerian root was done where the volunteers had insomnia. A dose of 600-mg of valerian was found not to have a noticeable effect. But, multiple doses administered over a two week period did help to increase the patients slow-wave sleep. However other studies have found more conflicting information. Where it was found that valerian root was not having such a positive effect on insomnia so the clinical data is still not conclusive.

Valerian root for the treatment of anxiety

Treatment of anxiety is another traditional use of valerian root. Although many still recommend this, there is not much scientific evidence to support this view point. It has to be recognised as with many natural medicine that the desire of the patient to believe a product work in of itself can be enough. One double-blind study put 48 healthy individuals in stressful situations. They were given 100-mg of valerian extract or 20-mg of propranolol, or a combination of the two, or the placebo. It was found that Valerian did not have any physiological effect, while propranolol did. One positive effect was that when the test subjects where asked about their level of anxiety they reported significantly lower levels. One other trial compared 120-mg of kava, 600-mg of valerian, and of course a placebo. 54 people where given one of the three products for a week and the researchers measured the effects. The effects that were found was that valerian and kava were shown to reduce heart rate reaction, lower blood pressure responsiveness, and decrease subjective feelings of anxiety. Unfortunately not many studies have been done so these results can not be seen as being conclusive.

Valerian root side effects

Adverse side effects associated with valerian are rare. One trial that gave many doses over a two week period reported two cases; one was a migraine, the other were gastrointestinal issues. On the other hand the placebo group from the study, reported 18 adverse events. On other study of 102 subjects, looked for negative effects when waking the morning after administration. After single and repeated doses, there were no adverse effects to be reported in concentration, reaction time, and alertness. Although Valerian root was not shown to have negative interaction with alcohol, it is recommended to avoid taking both at the same time.

What amount of valerian root should I take?

When Valerian root is sold it normally comes in 300 to 600-mg capsules. This amount of a similar dosage as about 2 to 3 grams of valerian root which is dried, which should be steeped for 10 to 15 minutes in a cup of hot water to get the same amount. To get the full effect on insomnia it is recommended to take 30 to 90 minutes before going to sleep.