What is valerian root?
Valerian is an herb that has been used for many centuries to help relieve anxiety and as a sleep aid in traditional medicine. It is believed to help reduce menstrual and abdominal (stomach) cramps. Derived from the root of the valerian plant, there are over 200 different species of the valerian plant found in parts of North America, Europe and Asia. Valerian root has a characteristic sweaty sock smell.
Valerian is available as a dietary supplement over the counter. It is available as an extract in powder or liquid form, as a dried herb in tea form or in pills. Though taking valerian shortly before bedtime is said to aid sleep and address insomnia, the studies to prove the effectiveness of valerian root are inconclusive. Valerian may be used in combination with other herbs, such as passionflower, lemon balm and kava.
How does valerian root work?
The exact mechanism of action is not known. Researchers believe that it could be due to the subtle increase in the levels of a chemical known as gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA contributes to a calming effect in the body and has a role in sleep-wake cycle. Several medications used to treat anxiety also work by increasing GABA levels in the brain. However, the increase in GABA levels would be much higher with prescription medication compared to valerian root.
The studies for proving the effectiveness of valerian root for sleep and anxiety have not been conclusive. More studies are required to prove its effectiveness and find the optimal dose.
What is the recommended dosage of valerian root?
Recommended dosage for anxiety
The recommended dose of valerian root for anxiety is 120 to 200 mg, three times per day, and the last dose should be right before bedtime. The recommended dosage for anxiety is generally lower than the dosage for insomnia because high doses of valerian root during the day can lead to daytime sleepiness.
Recommended dosage of valerian root for sleep
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. The recommended dose of valerian root for insomnia is 300 to 600 mg, half an hour to two hours before bedtime. Two to three grams dried herbal valerian root steeped in one cup of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes can also be taken 10 to 15 minutes before bedtime.
Is valerian root safe?
The most common side effects of valerian root are drowsiness and giddiness. Other possible side effects include mild headache, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, abnormal heartbeat or even paradoxical insomnia. However, these are rare. Valerian has a mild calming effect. Valerian root should not be taken with alcohol, recreational drugs, other calming medications, sedatives or antidepressants. If one is undergoing medical treatment for other conditions or is pregnant or breastfeeding, it is advised to consult a doctor before taking valerian root. Children under 3 years of age should not be given valerian. Older children may consult with a doctor before taking. Valerian should not be taken if one has to perform important tasks such as driving or operating heavy machinery, which require focus and alertness.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements in the same way it regulates medicine. Dietary supplements can be sold with limited or no research. Some of the ingredients in dietary supplements can also trigger allergies (e.g., the preservatives), and their manufacturing may not be standardized. Long-term side effects of dietary supplements are often not known. Hence, it is always advised to inform the doctor. It is advised not to replace conventional medical treatment with valerian root or other herbs. They may be taken alongside medical treatment, with the doctor’s approval. Valerian root should not be taken for more than a month without consulting a doctor.
NIH Office of Dietary Supplements
Top Is Valerian Root Good for Anxiety Related Articles
Anxiety DisordersAnxiety is a feeling of apprehension and fear characterized by symptoms such as trouble concentrating, headaches, sleep problems, and irritability. Anxiety disorders are serious medical illnesses that affect approximately 19 million American adults. Treatment for anxiety may incorporate medications and psychotherapy.
Anxiety & Panic Disorders: Risk Factors for AnxietyDo you feel anxious? Many things could make it more likely. Learn more, including what you can do if you feel anxious.
Anxiety, Stress, and WorryWhat is the definition of anxiety, stress, and worry? Find treatments to relieve stress, eliminate worry, and combat anxiety as you discover how stress affects your body. Learn whether stress fights colds or encourages them, why some stress is bad and some is good, and why exercise and diet can be relaxing.
What Is the Difference Between a Panic Attack and an Anxiety Attack?What is the difference between a panic attack and an anxiety attack? Learn about the differences between these common occurrences.
A Visual Guide to Generalized Anxiety DisorderLearn about generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). See if your worries are normal or something more by learning about symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments of anxiety disorders.
Holiday Depression, Anxiety, and StressThough the holidays are a fun time for most, for others, they're a sad, lonely and anxiety-filled time. Get tips on how to avoid depression and stress during the holiday season.
How Can I Help My Young Child With Anxiety?Anxiety is a normal part of daily life, even for children. Help your young child with anxiety by giving the feeling a label, validating their feelings, tracking causes of anxiety, and using other methods.
Is Valerian Root Similar to Xanax and Valium?Valerian root is one of the most popular alternatives to sleep medications. While valerian is a herb, Xanax and Valium are considered benzodiazepines (benzos).
Separation Anxiety DisorderSeparation anxiety disorder is a common childhood anxiety disorder that has many causes. Infants, children, older kids and adults can suffer from symptoms of separation anxiety disorder. Common separation anxiety treatment methods include therapy and medications. Factors that contribute to how quickly or successfully a child moves past separation anxiety by preschool age include how well the parent and child reunite, the skills the child and adult have at coping with the separation, and how well the adult responds to the infant's separation issues. For example, children of anxious parents tend to be anxious children.
What Are 6 Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders?Anxiety disorders have an impact on one's behavior, thoughts, emotions, and physical health. The six major symptoms of anxiety disorders include worrying incessantly and excessively for no apparent reason; fear of any social or performance-related situations in which one may be subjected to scrutiny from others; irrational fear of an object or location; flashbacks, nightmares, and subsequent anxiety due to exposure to a highly traumatic event in the past; cleaning and rearranging things and objects around excessively and repetitively; and repeated panic attacks.
What Are the Six Types of Anxiety Disorders?Anxiety disorders cause worry, fear and panic as an irrational response to mundane situations. The six main types are generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety, separation anxiety, trauma-related disorders and phobias.
What Does Anxiety Do to Your Body?It increases a person’s chances of suffering from other medical conditions, such as heart diseases, raised blood pressure, high cholesterol obesity, depression and diabetes. In short term, anxiety may cause sleep disturbances and poor work performance.
What Happens During an Anxiety Attack?Anxiety can occur during everyday life, it could be fleeting or it could persist and build. But if you have an anxiety disorder, you may feel your anxiety or panic overwhelm you with intense anxiety and fear.
What Is the 3-3-3 Rule for Anxiety?Parenting a young child can be tough. The 3-3-3 rule is a mindfulness technique that's simple enough for young children and it asks them to name three things they can see, identify three sounds they can hear, and move three different parts of their bodies.
What Symptoms Are Caused by Anxiety?It's normal to feel stressed or worried about things that happen in our everyday lives. However, people who experience anxiety disorders often feel heightened fear or worry about common situations.