Roots are an integral part of ancient medicine. One such traditionally used herb is the valerian root. It promotes sleep quality and is available as pills, powder, and processed roots. The herb is known for its sedative ability and is believed to exhibit minimal side effects when taken in prescribed amounts.
What happens if the valerian root is consumed for longer periods? Is it addictive? In this article, we discuss the benefits of valerian root, its potential risks, and how to reap its maximum benefits. Keep reading.
In This Article
What Is Valerian Root?
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a perennial plant native to Europe and Asia, and also grows in North America. Its roots are sold as a dietary supplement in the US (1). It has a strong earthy odor while its flowers have a mild scent. Valerian root extracts are also used in personal care products, cosmetics, aromatherapy, and veterinary practices. It was also used in perfumes in the 16th century. However, it is majorly used to minimize insomnia (sleeplessness) (2).
Let us understand how valerian root works. Keep scrolling.
How Does Valerian Root Work?
Valerian root works similar to Xanax (alprazolam), where it inhibits the breakdown of GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) in the brain. This promotes calmness and sleep. Active constituents in valerian root — valeric acid and valerian extract — exert this action. A study suggests that valeric acid and valerian extract act by binding to the GABA-A receptors (receptors that respond when GABA is released). Both the agents enhance the response to GABA and show a significant sedative action (3),(4).
The benefits of valerian root are not just limited to promoting sleep quality. Keep scrolling to learn about all of its benefits.
Major Benefits Of Valerian Root
1. May Help With Better Sleep
Sleep plays a major role in many bodily functions (5). Hence, chronic insomnia can impact one’s overall health and well-being. Studies show that herbal medicines like valerian root may be effective in promoting sleep and preventing related disorders (6).
2. May Help Treat PMS
Premenstrual syndrome is associated with a few other health complications. Valerian root extract may reduction the emotional, physical, and behavioral symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. The regimen can be beneficial if started on the 21st day of the menstrual cycle and continued for seven days (7).
3. May Help AlleviateMenstrual Problems
Research suggests that the antispasmodic effects (ability to suppress muscle contractions) of valerian may help reduce menstrual pain. It may also reduce the need for other pain relievers if taken three times a day for two cycles (8).
4. May Help In TheTreatment Of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder. Its major contributor seems to be oxidative stress. Studies suggest that valerian shows promise in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease by decreasing oxidative stress (9).
5. May Help Treat Anxiety Disorder
Valerian is found to help reduce anxiety. Its extract contains valerenic acid that is known to exert its anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving) action on GABA-A receptors. GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, whose deficit leads to anxiety (9).
Though valerian root offers important benefits, it also may pose certain potential risks. Keep scrolling to know more.
Possible Risks And Side Effects Of Valerian Root
The side effects of valerian root or its extracts are based on anecdotal evidence. These include:
Valerian roots are used for relieving headaches. On the contrary, consuming valerian root is reported to aggravate headaches in sensitive individuals. These headaches were observed to be severe in the morning. This effect is mostly associated with the herb’s long-term intake.
Imprudent use of valerian root may make one sleepy or drowsy. Sleepiness, mood swings, and increased drowsiness may occur with the intake of high doses of valerian root.
- Stomach Pain
Excess intake of valerian root is also associated with stomach pain. The pain may also be accompanied by mild digestive problems like constipation or diarrhea. Diarrhea or stomach upset occurs mainly due to the laxative effect (emptying of bowels) of the valerian root.
Note: All these side effects are usually mild and subside gradually after one discontinues the use of valerian. Consult a doctor if you experience severe side effects.
You should follow certain special precautions while consuming valerian root. These may help reduce the risk of side effects.
Special Precautions And Warnings
- Make sure you are not allergic to the active constituents in valerian root like valeric acid and valerian.
- Do not consume if you are taking other sedative medications.
- Do not consume alcohol if you are using valerian roots or supplements.
- Valerian’s safety in pregnant women and lactating mothers is not established yet. Better to avoid its consumption.
- Do not administer valerian to children.
- Consult a doctor before consuming valerian root if you have liver disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
- Do not consume valerian for extended periods as it can be addictive.
- Do not operate machinery or drive after valerian intake.
The valerian root, if used properly, can offer lasting results. The following tips can help you maximize its benefits.
How To Take Valerian Root To Maximize Benefits?
- Do not consume valerian root in large amounts. Moderate consumption is the key to maximum benefits.
- Fresh valerian root may have enhanced benefits.
- Valerian root comes in various forms. Always go through the packaging of the product and follow the guidelines specified.
- You can consume valerian root as a supplement with your regular medicines. However, speak to your doctor before doing so.
- Use valerian only until necessary. Stop taking it once you see the desired result as it may be addictive.
- Stop its use if you see no improvement even after 2 weeks. Consult your doctor.
Valerian root primarily enhances sleep quality. It may also help relieve PMS symptoms and menstrual problems, treat anxiety disorders, and potentially aid the treatment of Parkinson’s. The herb has minimal side effects, but its long-term high intake may pose health risks. Take it with professional advice, and in limited quantities. Stop using it if you do not see any improvement in your sleep quality even after two weeks of administration.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Is valerian root like xanax?
Xanax breaks down GABA protein in the brain, which results in calmness and tranquility. Valerin root also exhibits the same mode of action.
Is it safe to take valerian every night?
The safety of valerian, if taken regularly, is not clearly known. However, taking it for extended periods may have side effects. Consult your doctor.
How long does valerian take to start its action?
Available data shows that valerian starts its action after 2 to 3 hours of administration. This duration may differ among individuals.
Does valerian cause weight gain?
Yes, valerian may cause weight gain if used for extended durations.
How should I take valerian?
Valerian root is available in pills. You may take them depending on your condition. Take it 1 or 2 times per day if you are using it for anxiety. Take it 1 or 2 hours before bedtime to promote sleep quality. However, the dosage depends on the condition. Talk to your doctor for more information.
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- Back to the Roots—An Overview of the Chemical Composition and Bioactivity of Selected Root-Essential Oils
- The gamma-aminobutyric acidergic effects of valerian and valerenic acid on rat brainstem neuronal activity
- GABA A receptors as in vivo substrate for the anxiolytic action of valerenic acid a major constituent of valerian root extracts
- Functions and Mechanisms of Sleep
- Valerian Root in Treating Sleep Problems and Associated Disorders-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
- The effect of Valerian root extract on the severity of premenstrual syndrome symptoms
- Effects of valerian on the severity and systemic manifestations of dysmenorrhea
- Natural Compounds for the Management of Parkinson\’s Disease and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder