Found growing throughout Europe, valerian is a perennial plant that can reach 4 feet in height. It has hollow stems and white or reddish flowers that bloom every summer. Most of the valerian used medicinally is grown on farms. Other valerian species grow naturally in Africa, Asia, and North America.
Best known for its calming effect, valerian is used in connection with insomnia, nervousness and related conditions including anxiety, nervous restlessness, anxiety-induced headache or upset stomach. It has also been used in connection with depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), epilepsy, and migraines. However, no clinical evidence substantiates its effectiveness for these conditions.
Valerian also appears to be useful in relieving menopausal symptoms and menstrual discomfort.
To substantiate the value of valerian in treating both insomnia and anxiety, several studies have been conducted. Most of the results indicated that valerian does indeed have some value for both insomnia and anxiety. However, these studies employed relatively small sample sizes and used extremely different doses of valerian and they varied widely in the length of time valerian was taken and the methods utilized to determine the results.
While valerian is most commonly administered orally, it may also be added to bath water to help relieve nervousness and to induce sleep. Similarly, valerian can be boiled and the resulting steam can be inhaled to produce the same effect.Dosage and Administration
When taking Valerian supplements, check the product packaging to ensure that contents are standardized to contain 0.8 valerenic or valeric acid.
To reduce nervousness, anxiety, or headache or menstrual pain, you may use any of the following.
- 2 to 3 g dried root in tea, up to several times daily
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp (1 to 3 mL) tincture up to several times daily
- 1/4 tsp (1 to 2 mL) fluid extract (1:1)
- 150 to 300 mg valerian extract, dried or liquid, standardized to contain 0.8 valerenic acid, 1 to 1.5 valtrate
To use in connection with insomnia specifically, make sure to take one of your daily dosages a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes before going to bed. Continue to take valerian for two to four weeks longer after sleep pattern improves.