What is Valerian Root?
Valerian Root, also known as Valeriana Officinalis is a root typically brewed with tea that is usually used as a sleep aid. It is known to be an agonist of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. GABA receptors are the “downers” of the brain which regulate neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system. Basically, what this means is that Valerian Root tends to be a sedative tea and anxiolytic.
It is also known that Valerian root significantly decreased insomnia in human trials and acts as a good sleep aid. It is generally advised to avoid taking Valerian Root in the mornings to avoid the sedation effect.
Valerian Root has been reportedly used since ancient Greek and Rome, and has always been used as a calming tea. They used it as a remedy for insomnia and was also used as a general medicine to heal the sick. It is also known that Valerian flowers were used in perfume during the sixteenth century. Because it works with the GABA neurological system, it is shown to be “sedative, anticonvulsant, [a] migraine treatment, and pain reliever” (Wikipedia). It is also possible that Valerian Root is nontoxic even after long term use. People oftentimes combine valerian with other herbs to mix into a tea for a synergistic effect. A popular combination is with Valerian root and Ashwagandha.
Valerian Root Adverse Effects
Like most compounds, some people experience side effects, especially with long-term use. There are occasional side effects of “headache, excitability, uneasiness, and cardiac disturbances”. It is for this reason that it is suggested that users start at a low dose and try it in isolation (not mixing it with other compounds in case of adverse effects) and work their way up to an ideal dose. An ideal dose is typically around 300-600mg per day.
Many supplement enthusiasts use valerian root during the daytime as a natural remedy to treat general anxiety. Similar to L-theanine, it sedates the body which eliminates adrenaline and the physical feelings of fear and nervousness.
One large shortcoming of Valerian Root is despite its use throughout history all over the world, it has very few clinical studies done in western science. As a matter of fact, most studies point to the inefficiency of Valerian root over other methods of calming and relaxation. It is generally recommended for those who are more natural-oriented and herbal enthusiasts.
Even though those who use it during the daytime experience a decrease in anxiety, it is recommended to be taken 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime.
: Thorpe, Benjamin; Northern Mythology, Vol. 2, pp. 64–65
: Michael F. Caron, RPh * *Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Boston. Valerian: A Practical Review for Clinicians