Valerian

Valerian information, FAQ and product listing page. This page contains information and frequently asked questions about valerian as well as a complete list of products containing valerian.

What is valerian and what does it do?

Valerian is an herb and dietary supplement prepared from roots of the flowering plant Valerian. After the processes of maceration, trituration, and dehydration the roots are packaged into capsules and are distributed for consumption to provide various medical benefits.

The name Valerian derives from the Latin word called valere, meaning the ability “to be strong or healthy.” It generally refers to its medicinal use. Biochemically active components found in valerian include alkaloids, GABA, valeric acid, valepotriates, volatile oil, and flavanones.

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What are the benefits of taking valerian?

Valerian is used against sleeping disorders, restlessness and anxiety, and as a muscle relaxant. Valerian often seems only to work when taken over longer periods (several weeks), though many users find that it takes effect immediately. Some studies have demonstrated that valerian extracts interact with the GABA and benzodiazepine receptors. Valerian is also used traditionally to treat gastrointestinal pain and irritable bowel syndrome. However, long term safety studies are missing. As valepotriates may be potential mutagens, valerian should only be used after consultation with a physician.

Valerian is sometimes recommended as a first-line treatment when benefit-risk analysis dictates. Valerian is often indicated as transition medication when discontinuing benzodiazepines.

Valerian has uses in herbal medicine as a sedative. The main current use of valerian is as a remedy for insomnia, with a recent meta-analysis providing some evidence of effectiveness. It has been recommended for epilepsy but that is not supported by research (although an analogue of one of its constituents, valproic acid, is used as an anticonvulsant and mood-stabilizing drug). Valerian root generally does not lose effectiveness over time.

While shown to be an effective remedy for the reduction of anxiety, it has also been reported to cause headaches and night terrors in some individuals. This may be due to the fact that some people lack a digestive conversion property necessary to effectively break down Valerian. In these individuals, Valerian can cause agitation. One study found that valerian tends to sedate the agitated person and stimulate the fatigued person, bringing about a balancing effect on the system.

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Who can benefit from taking valerian?

People who suffer from any of the conditions mentioned above may benefit from supplementing with valerian. Valerian is often used by insomnia sufferers who do now wish to (or can't) take traditional drugs to treat their condition.

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How much valerian should I take?

Follow the recommendations you find on the supplement labels. Most supplements suggest you take one or two capsules that equal about 1000mg a day. Always follow the instructions found on the labels that you take.

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Does valerian have any side effects?

Although uncommon, side effects have been reported. They consist of headaches, excitability, restlessness, sleeplessness, dilated pupils, or irregular heartbeats. Because of Valerian’s ability to make you drowsy, you should not take it when performing machinery, driving a car, or performing any other activity that requires you to be fully awake and alert.

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