Valerian is a perennial flowering plant native to Europe, South Africa, and parts of Asia. It has also been introduced to North America. It has light pink or white flowers and a strong sweet smell. The Latin translation of valerian is "to be strong or healthy" which may refer to the plant's medicinal use and also to its strong odor. Other common names for valerian root are Tobacco Root, Garden Heliotrope, and All-Heal.
Valerian root has had many uses over the centuries, including use as a condiment, a perfume, and a medication for digestive ailments, liver problems, urinary tract disorders, nausea and insomnia.
The most common use of valerian today is as a mild sedative to ease the symptoms of insomnia. Some have suggested that the herb may be useful for epilepsy, but this has no scientific support.
Valerian root is available in capsule and tea form, though when drinking valerian root as tea, the water should not be too hot because this destroys some of its volatile oils.
Valerian Root Anxiety, and Insomnia
The active ingredient in valerian is an amino acid and neurotransmitter called GABA, which can also be found in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it prevents over excitation and instead promotes relaxation.
This means that valerian can induce sleep and calm the person taking it, which is why it has historically been used as a sedative, anti-consultant, migraine treatment, and pain reliever. It may be indicated for the relief of insomnia, stress-related anxiety, and nervous restlessness.
Valerian Root Side Effects
Valerian root is a relatively safe herb to take with a relatively wide dosage range.
Upon taking valerian root, some people may experience the opposite effect than expected - suddenly feel nervous, anxious and restless rather than calm or sleepy.
After long-term use of valerian root, withdrawal symptoms may occur.
Valerian root should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women, those already taking medications or other herbs for anxiety or sedation are advised to talk to their doctor before taking valerian root.