Sleep is vital for one’s health and well-being. It is during this time that the cells of the body take time to regenerate. However, getting the right amount of sleep in a day can be a challenge for some, especially for those who suffer from insomnia. Rather than taking sleeping pills that are chemical laden, opt for an herbal alternative called the Valerian root. So, what is it, its uses and benefits, and is it safe?
What Is Valerian Root?
Valerian root is a flowering plant also called Valeriana officinalis. It is native to Asia, Europe, and North America. In the summer, the plant is characterized by its pink, purple, or white flowers. The rhizome root of the Valerian is said to be effective as a sleep aid, specifically for individuals who suffer from insomnia. Other uses that have yet to be explored further include the treatment for stress, anxiety, depression, symptoms of menopause, and epilepsy.
Apart from its use as a sleeping aid, the oil and extracts from the plant are utilized as a flavoring in beverages and food. While some reputable sources sell the root of the plant, other sources sell it as an herbal supplement. However, take note that this product has yet to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Apart from purchasing supplements from reliable sources, it is best to also consult with your attending physician before taking any supplement.
Uses of the Plant
Users claim that the plant helps get rid of insomnia. Studies were done on the root state that it reduces the time it takes for an individual to fall asleep by approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Apart from helping one sleep faster, it also improves the quality of sleep. The suggested dose of the Valerian extract is 400 to 900 mg and should be taken two hours before bedtime. Take note, however, that the effect may be noticeable after four weeks of continued use. Additional research also claims that the plant is best used in combination with lemon balm and hops.
Reduces Symptoms of Menopause
According to preliminary research done, the plant helps reduce the symptoms of menopause. Consuming approximately 675 to 1,060 mg of Valerian continuously for eight weeks can help reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
The root of the Valerian contains a compound known as valerenic acid. It helps boost the supply of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain which helps tone down brain signals. This, in turn, helps one relax. Despite only a little evidence for this use, the root of the plant is advertised as an alternative medication to prescription drugs for anxiety.
Again, before opting to take herbal supplements, it is best to consult with your doctor or a health practitioner who is well-informed and trained about health or herbal supplements. Once approved for use by your physician, healthcare provider, or pharmacist, use the supplement as directed.
The Valerian supplement or any other supplement should be taken as a whole. It should not be opened, crushed, broken, or chewed. Also, for individuals who have scheduled surgery, discontinue use of the supplement for at least two weeks before your schedule.
Dosage for Menopausal Symptoms
Around 225 mg of the ground root of the Valerian should be taken a day thrice for eight weeks. As for the extract, approximately 530 mg should be taken two times a day for eight weeks.
Dosage for Insomnia
As mentioned, the plant works best when taken 30 minutes to 2 hours prior to one’s bedtime. For the pure Valerian extract, approximately 400 to 900 mg should be taken prior to bedtime for six weeks. For a combination with lemon balm extract, approximately 80 mg should be combined with 120 mg of Valerian and taken before bed for four weeks. On the other hand, a combination of 300 mg Valerian, 30 mg hops extract, and 80 mg passionflower extract should be taken before bedtime for two weeks.
Some of the side effects commonly manifested by those who have taken Valerian include the following:
- Daytime Drowsiness
- Dry Mouth
- Feeling Uneasy or Excited
- Thinking Problems
- Upset Stomach
- Vivid or Strange Dreams
While rare, liver damage has been linked with Valerian use. However, it has yet to be proven if the liver damage was caused by contaminants in the Valerian supplement or purely by Valerian. As more research and study is done, it is best to use this herbal supplement with the supervision and advise of healthcare professionals.
Also, people with liver disease should avoid the use of Valerian altogether. If you suspect liver damage or injury, then check yourself for the following symptoms:
- Excessive Tiredness
- Discomfort in the Abdomen, Especially in Upper Right Side
- Intense Itching
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Yellowing of the Eyes or Skin (Jaundice)
If you manifest any or all of the symptoms mentioned, then seek immediate medical attention.
For individuals taking diazepam, antidepressants, barbiturates, or over-the-counter medications for colds and sleep, the use of Valerian may lead to CNS depression, daytime drowsiness, or excessive sleepiness.
Is It Safe?
The use of Valerian is safe for at least four to eight weeks according to preliminary research. However, discontinue use immediately and seek medical attention if you notice the following symptoms:
- Clay-Colored Stool
- Dark Urine
- Loss of Appetite
- Upper Stomach Pain
Should You Try Valerian?
While some studies prove the effectivity of Valerian, there may still be risks involved. For those who decide to take it for relieving insomnia, do consider the succeeding pointers.
Supplements Might Not Help
Medications for sleep disorders, whether herbal or chemical in nature, may not be the answer for helping you get rid of sleep disorders. You may have to check your lifestyle or habits that greatly influence your sleep. These include your caffeine intake and regular exercise.
Studies on the dosages of Valerian mention different dosages. Moreover, the effectivity of the plant is only noticeable if taken continuously for two weeks or more.
Side Effects Might Happen
Despite precautions taken, side effects might manifest which include stomach problems, dizziness, and headache. Moreover, it has yet to be deemed safe for use for breastfeeding or pregnant women.
Before taking Valerian root as an extract, oil, or supplement, always seek the advice of a medical professional. This is to make sure it does not interact with prescription medications you may be taking or further aggravate your medical condition.