Have you ever laid down to bed, only to have your brain decide that now was the best time to think about your to-do list, come up with a million ideas on everything, and go into hyperdrive?
Or maybe you fall asleep quickly, only to awaken multiple times in the middle of the night–often at 3 am, wide awake and unable to fall back asleep.
Valerian is one of the most powerful herbs for sleep and relaxation that dates back to the second century A.D.; it was even described by Hippocrates. It was also used to treat nervousness, trembling, headaches, and heart palpitations in the 16th century. It’s now one of the most widely used herbs for insomnia and the research to support it is very strong.
Valerian Benefits & Research
There are actually many constituents in valerian that contribute to its sedative and muscle relaxation effects and they are thought to all work synergistically together in the plant. Hesperidin and Linarin are antioxidants with sedative properties, while valerenic acid inhibits the breakdown of GABA — GABA levels are lowered due to stress and low GABA levels in turn lead to anxiety and poor sleep. By slowing the breakdown, you then get better sleep (Valium and Xanax work in similar ways).
Benefits of Valerian include:
- Improves sleep
- Helps tone down hyperactivity and improve focus in children, especially when combined with lemon balm
- Helps ease menstrual symptoms due to its antispasmodic effect which helps prevent involuntary muscle contractions
- Improves stress management & calms anxiety by suppressing both physiological and psychological stress responses
One important thing to note, 10% of people actually tend to feel energized by valerian root. Obviously, if you notice these effects, Valerian is not right for you.
How to take Valerian
As valerian can have a powerful sedation effects, it is best taken in the evenings 30-90 minutes before bed, although it may be taken early in the day for stress relief and/or to help with premenstrual cramps and symptoms.
If you’ve never taken valerian before, you may want to start with a small dosage and work your way up to see how you react and for any possible side effects, as well as to make sure you are not in the very small minority in which valerian may actually energize.
Also, important to note, you may feel the effects more quickly, but in general, valerian is best taken for at least 2 weeks to start being truly effective.
- Make a tea – add 1 tsp of valerian root to 1 cup boiling water and let steep for at least 10 minutes. For a stronger extraction, boil the herbs for 5 minutes with the water and strain. You may want to mix herbs like ginger for flavor or herbs like chamomile, passionflower, skullcap and lemon balm for additional calming benefits. It’s best to consult an herbalist for a safe combination.
- Take a tincture (dropper bottle) – Dilute ½ to 1 full dropper of the extract in a few ounces of water.
- Capsules – though taking capsules is generally not as effective as taking herbs in a liquid form, some reputable companies may have some effect. You’ll want to use 250 to 600 milligrams.
However you take valerian, always make sure it’s organic as you don’t want to ingest chemicals along with the herb.
Drug Interactions & Side Effects of Valerian
Before taking any new herbs, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor, health professional or herbalist for possible interactions and see to what type of herb and herbal combinations are best for you as well as safe in combination.
One study showed that valerian will not adversely affect your reaction time, alertness or concentration the following day, but one study showed that these effects may be possible. Headache, dizziness, stomach problems, excitability, uneasiness were also reported, though in these studies, it was also observed in the placebo group.
Additional warnings about Valerian:
- Avoid using with alcohol.
- Avoid using with sedatives (either drugs or natural herbs or supplements with sedative effects) narcotics, antidepressants or anti-seizure medication.
- Do not drive or use machinery within several hours of taking valerian.
- Do not use if you are pregnant because the risks to the fetus have not been evaluated.
- Do not give to children under the age of 3 because the risks have not been evaluated.
- Avoid using with other herbs & supplements like St. John’s wort, kava, and melatonin.
Valerian + CBD
As CBD has been shown to be extremely effective at improving the quality of sleep by bringing the body into homeostasis, combining the more immediate sedative effects of valerian with CBD is a synergistic sleep aid that works on multiple levels. For a powerful and safe combination, our Sleep CBD formula uses organic essential oil of valerian in a small–yet effective–dose along with 600 mg of CBD oil, available in THC-free or Whole Plant formulas. Find out how the power of Valerian + CBD can work for you.