In this article we will discuss the marvelous relaxing qualities of Valerian root and how you can use it for better sleep and to alleviate problems of stress and anxiety.
As with all effective herbs, there are a few things that you must know about this wonderful herb, in order to get the most out of its use without compromising your safety.
CAUTION: Medical Disclaimer
Table of Contents
- 1 Herbal Name and Characteristics:
- 2 About this Herb:
- 3 What is Valerian Root?
- 4 Benefits and properties of Valerian Root
- 5 When and how to take it?
- 6 Safety and side effects
- 7 Cycling
- 8 Dosage
- 9 Closing thoughts
Herbal Name and Characteristics:
- Name: Valerian Root
- Pin Yin: Xie Cao,
- Latin: Valeriana officinalis,
- Taste: Earthy and bitter,
- Color: brown (powder),
- Constitution: N/A,
- Builds: N/A.
About this Herb:
I have had trouble sleeping ever since I got out of the army back in 2000. I had been using sleeping aids ever since, with melatonin being my favorite. I first used Valerian in 2005 in the place of melatonin but I was very disappointed to see that it was no match for it (melatonin). I did get some results but I would still wake up in the middle of the night and after about a month and a half, its effect had weakened.
Now I tend to use it along with a few others supplements for my sleep when I am off melatonin. Beware that even though it is a natural herbal supplement, it has been linked with toxicity in high doses and its long term effects are not known.
I use the herb in all its forms and found the tablet form to last longer. Alternatively, using a capsule version when combined with other herbs gave me equally strong results.
Below, you will find more details about this herb, its benefits, side effects and precautions you need to know before using it.
What is Valerian Root?
Valerian root also known as Valeriana officinalis is a plant, the roots of which is used to induce relaxation and sedation. Its name comes from the Latin ‘valere’ which means to be strong.
It can be found in Europe, Asia and the American continent. It has also been used in Ancient Greece since Dioscorides and Galen (Greek physicians) documented the use of this herb under the name ‘phu’. In the Greek language, ‘Phu’ is used to characterize a strong and ugly smell which makes a solid statement about the manure-like smell of the plant. What is funny is that it is often used in formulating scents for perfumes and cosmetics.
As a plant it has a massive root system and grows little white flowers on the upper part.
It was first introduced to the world as a sleeping aid and to help with anxiety issues. As a sedative, it is believed to work by increasing the amount of GABA in the brain which is a sedative neurotransmitter. However, just like GABA, the mechanism is more helpful for relaxation rather than sedation.
The active ingredients in Valerian Root are:
- Valencic acid,
- Isovaleric acid,
- Other lignans and flavonoids
Valerian has a lot of applications in medicine as it is also a spasmolytic and may also aid with menstrual pain.
Benefits and properties of Valerian Root
Summarizing the many benefits of Valerian Root:
- It has sedative properties as its lignans and flavonoids can enhance the signal of GABA. Since it can enhance sleeping time, it can be used as a sleeping aid for both insomnia and stress-induced insomnia.
- It has anxiolytic properties and can therefore help with anxiety by interacting with metabotropic glutamate receptors. It also works when valencic acid binds to GABA receptors and enhances their signal.
- It can improve cognitive processes especially memory and learning as shown in one study in rats.
- It has strong anti-spasmolytic action due to inhibition of calcium channels and could be potentially used for seizures. Furthermore, it can also lower blood pressure.
- As a result of its anti-spasmolytic properties it can help with reducing abdominal pain in menstruating women. For that reason, it is often used to treat muscle and joint pain as well as treating menstrual disorders and pain in women.
When and how to take it?
Alcohol based Tincture: To extract many of the nutrients found in Valerian Root you can use alcohol and make a tincture. To take, hold the dose in your mouth (under the tongue) for 1 to 3 minutes until it gets absorbed. Then you can swallow it.
The tincture can also be taken in a glass of water. Wait a couple of minute for the alcohol to evaporate and then drink the tincture.
Capsules or Tablets: Valerian can be taken in tablets and I have found this way to be the most effective for consistent sedation as the tincture form can have a smaller lasting effect. I would however, advise you to be really careful when selecting tablets. Their quality and potency can be quite questionable.
Powder: Buying Valerian in powder form will prove to be more useful than anything as you can tincture it, make capsules or even take it as is.
Another way to take it is to hold the powder in your mouth for 5 minutes, if you can get past the horrid smell.
Tea: You can also make it into a tea. You can boil some water and add some powder and let it sit over time and then drink it as usual.
The best times to take it would be:
- After a stressful day or whenever you need to relax,
- Before bed.
Safety and side effects
While Valerian Root does not seem to have any toxicity levels, it does have some side effects after prolonged use (more than 3 weeks).
Reported side effects of prolonged usage include:
- Potency problems, as it gradually loses its power (as a sleeping aid) when used for longer than 3 weeks.
Contraindications or interactions with other medication/substances:
You should not take Valerian if you:
- Are taking antidepressants or other types of medication including but not limited to antihypertensive drugs, immunosuppressive drugs or anticoagulant medication.
- Have any psychological or mental conditions such as depression, schizophrenia and other without consulting your therapist and doctor.
- Are taking blood pressure medication as it can interfere with the dosage.
- Have low blood pressure as there is a high risk of hypoglycemia from using valerian.
- Are scheduled for an operation, organ transplant or you just underwent one. Certain ingredients may interfere with the CNS and therefore interfere with sedation and anesthesia.
- Have allergies to this specific herb or any of its ingredients.
The best thing you can do before taking any herb supplement is to test it. If you want to be safe while using herbs I strongly urge you to read my other article on how to test an herb for allergies and intolerances.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
Avoid using this herb if you have any medical conditions or take any kind of medication without consulting with your doctor first.
Since there are not enough studies performed to determine the full safety of this product, pregnant women or breastfeeding women should avoid using this product.
Use for up to 3-4 weeks and then take 4 weeks off. Repeat cycle after that.
Over the past 20 years I have experimented with literally hundreds of herbs, supplements (and other natural products) and was finally able to discover the right doses for amazing results.
If you wish to learn more about the dosages that I use with my clients for different purposes (better health, hormonal balance, stress management, testosterone boost and more) or how I combine this herb/supp with others, leave a comment below or reach out to me for a consultation through the “Hire me” link.
Valerian root is an amazing herb that will help you relax and get better sleep. Just make sure you use it in the right way, take heed of the contraindications and always cycle after 2-4 weeks of use for best results.
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Also if you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks!
by Nick Sigma
CWC, EH, E-YRT200
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