Have You Heard of Valerian Root? Here’s How to Use It

The use of herbal remedies continues to flourish in the health world, including the root from the Valerian plant. Whether you have heard of it or not, find out how taking it may be beneficial, and just how to do it safely.

What Is Valerian Root?

Valerian is a type of plant growing wildly in the grasslands throughout North America, Asia, and Europe. In the summer, the plant produces white, pink, or purple flowers, though the valerian root boasts most attention related to its use in alternative medicine. The root is a primary ingredient in dietary supplements, claiming to manage insomnia and anxiety. Researchers speculate valerian root works by increasing gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a brain chemical (or neurotransmitter) that blocks impulses between nerve cells and the brain. Individuals with low levels of GABA are linked to anxiety and mood disorders and chronic pain. Medications and supplements working to increase GABA levels in the brain may boost mood, relieve anxiety, and improve sleep. Interestingly, although foods do not naturally contain GABA, fruits, veggies, teas, and red wine may influence its effectiveness in the brain.

Valerian Root Side Effects and Dosage Recommendations

When abiding to dosing recommendations detailed below, valerian root is considered mostly safe. Although rare, valerian may cause headache, excitability, uneasiness, and even drowsy and sluggish the following morning after taking it. Individuals are also encouraged not to operate large machinery or drive after taking it, especially in larger doses. Additional considerations include pregnant and breast-feeding women, as there is not enough data to support taking valerian during such times, and experts encourage to dismiss taking altogether until more is known. If having surgery, stop taking it at least two weeks before, as both valerian and anesthesia may slow down the central nervous system and be potentially harmful.

Dosing recommendations vary based on terms of use, including the most common management of insomnia and anxiety:

For Insomnia:

According to WebMD, dosing up to 900 milligrams (mg) for up to 28 days has shown to be safe to manage insomnia and anxiety. General recommendations suggest 300 to 600 mg is effective for managing insomnia, along with taking the dosage 30 minutes to two hours leading up to bedtime.

For Anxiety:

As mentioned above, valerian root may cause drowsiness, ultimately modifying the recommendations when managing anxiety. Rather than larger doses leading up to bedtime, individuals are encouraged to space smaller amounts across a day’s span. One of the most common regimens of valerian root for anxiety includes up to 200 mg taken three times a day, with the last dosage taken closer to nighttime hours.

Additional tips for sleep improvement include creating an environment conducive to relaxation and sleep by turning off the lights, ridding of any distractions, and these healthy bedtime snacks if necessary. And regarding anxiety, these seven natural remedies and 30-minute exercise can also be beneficial and helpful.

For best results and safety, stay compliant with the dosing and timing recommendations described above. Whereas valerian root is considered mostly safe, a primary healthcare provider can provide additional guidance regarding dosing and safety of its use, especially if desiring to use for over a month-long timespan.