Valerian refers to around 150 species of flowering plants that grow in temperate climates such as Europe and Northern Asia.1 However, it generally refers to the species Valeriana officinalis.2 It has been used in medicine from times of ancient Greece and Rome.3 At the time, doctors used a valerian insomnia remedy, and people continue to use valerian sleep treatments today.3 The parts of the plant most commonly used to make supplements include the valerian root and rhizomes, which are the underground stems.3 Valerian can be taken in the form of tea, capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts.3 It’s also commonly found in medications like sleep aids and mild sedatives used for treating insomnia and nervousness.2
Valerian root has many benefits, including using a valerian anxiety treatment as well as treating insomnia, nervous restlessness, and stomach cramps.4 It’s thought that valerian increases the amount of a chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which helps regulate nerve cells and can ease anxiety.4 It’s also said to help lower blood pressure, ease menstrual cramps, and improve stress management.5 Other valerian root benefits include using it for the following conditions:
Valerian is generally considered safe. It’s even said to have fewer side effects than other sleep remedies, such as morning drowsiness. Valerian side effects may include interactions with other drugs, such as sedatives, antihistamines, some antifungal drugs, and medications broke down by the liver.4 It can also increase the effects of anesthesia, so make sure to talk to your doctor if you’re going to be having surgery.4 Some people may experience reverse valerian side effects where they feel anxious instead of calm.4
Keep in mind that valerian acts as a drug. However, it is rare to become dependent on or experience withdrawal symptoms with valerian. Still, it is best to use valerian for only a month at a time.4 Avoid using valerian while driving or doing activities where you need to be alert.4 Although there is no evidence that valerian causes issues related with pregnancy, it’s best if pregnant and nursing women avoid valerian.4 Talk to your healthcare provider if you plan to take valerian longer than one month or if you’re taking any medications that could interact with it.4
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