What is Valerian?
A member of the Valerianaceae family, Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a nutrient-rich, perennial flowering plant that is native to Asia, Europe, and parts of North America. There are over 250 species in the genus Valerian, yet V. officinalis is the species most commonly used for medicinal purposes. The name “valerian” is derived from the Latin verb ‘valere’, meaning “to be strong or healthy.” It is also known by many names such as Setwall in English, Valerianae radix in Latin, Baldrianwurzel in German, and Phu in Greek.
Its root, which is the most used part of the plant, is often referred to as ‘nature’s Valium’ due to its rich potency and has been used as medicinal herbs since the time of ancient Greece and Rome, mostly to promote tranquillity and better sleep quality. Interestingly, in medieval Sweden, valerian was sometimes placed in the groom’s wedding clothes to ward off the "envy" of the elves. Additionally, valerian tea and valerian perfumes have been in use as early as the 16th century.
Unlike its fragrant flowers that mostly come in pink or white, valerian root has a distinctive odour that is rather strong and earthy. This is mostly because of the presence of unstable oils and other compounds, like isovaleric acid, valerenic acid, and a range of antioxidants in the roots, which are responsible for its sedative and anxiolytic effects. This is also the reason why valerian root has found such a deep association in traditional medicine, especially when it comes to encouraging relaxation and sleep. Nowadays, crude extract of Valerian root can be accessed in the form of dietary supplement in capsule or liquid form. In addition, dried valerian root is also commonly consumed as a tea to encourage calmness and to relieve stress and anxiety.
How Does It Work?
Studies have shown that the compounds in Valerian, such as valerenic acid, isovaleric acid and other antioxidants are the ones behind its natural sedative effects. They help inhibit the breakdown of the gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA (a chemical messenger that helps regulate nerve impulses in the brain and nervous system) which may cause stress, anxiety and low-quality sleep. By doing so, it helps promote feelings of calmness and repose instead. Likewise, the antioxidants in valerian root, such as linarin and hesperidin are also known to possess sedative as well as sleep-enhancing properties. Studies have also shown that the compounds in valerian show positive effects by inhibiting excessive activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain that processes fear and strong emotional responses to stress. Hence, to simply put, valerian is known to act as a sedative on the brain and nervous system, thereby promoting calmness and relaxation.
Valerian Root Benefits For Stress And Anxiety
- Valerian Root Promotes Relaxation
As mentioned above, the compounds in the Valerian root helps inhibit the breakdown of GABA, thereby preventing the lowering of the GABA levels which can cause stress, anxiety and poor quality sleep. Studies have proven this effect to be similar to certain over-the-counter anti-anxiety medications, such as Xanax and Valium. In this way, valerian root helps ease anxious feelings that occur in response to stressful situations.
Additionally, studies have also suggested Valerian root to be helpful in treating chronic conditions characterized by anxious behaviours, such as generalized disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) without any significant side effects.
- Valerian Root Promotes Better Quality Sleep
Several studies have shown valerian root to be of great help when it comes to treating insomnia and other sleep-related issues. The studies showed valerian root to help reduce the amount of time taken to fall asleep, as well as improve sleep quality and quantity. Another study conducted on adults with insomnia has demonstrated that a single dose of valerian had helped them achieve deep sleep 36% faster, and the time spent in deep sleep also significantly improved over 14 days of taking valerian.
Even though studies on valerian’s effects on sleep has been done mostly among adults, there are, however, studies suggesting valerian root to benefit children with trouble sleeping as well. It helped reduce the time taken to fall asleep while improving the quantity and quality of sleep received in children. Hence, it is evident that valerian root to be effective in reducing the amount of time taken to fall asleep as well as improving the quantity and quality of sleep in adults and children with insomnia.
How Much Valerian Should You Take?
Although there is no standard dose for valerian root, it is advised that a dose between 400mg-900mg capsule of valerian root extract be generally safe and effective as far as treating sleeping difficulty is concerned. Taking it 30 mins to two hours before bedtime is also recommended for best results.
Apart from capsules or tablets, Valerian root is also available in the form of tea and tincture. Consuming dried Valerian root steeped in hot water for 5-10 minutes has proven to be just as effective as it is in its capsule or tablet form. Valerian root tea not only promotes calmness and relaxation but is also hydrating and health-enhancing as well.
Also, it is important to note that alcohol, sedative or any anti-anxiety medications, herbs and other supplements should not be taken with valerian because it can increase their depressant effects.
Looking For A Solution To Help With Stress And Sleep Troubles?
Try Preserva’s healthy Daily Calm Tea that has the perfect blend of calming herbs and flowers such as Valerian Root, Lavender Flower, Chamomile Flower, Liquorice and other potent ingredients that support and encourage a calming state of mind, which is particularly helpful in times of stressful situations. This aromatic tea is a natural relaxant that will calm your nerves, manage stress and anxiety symptoms and help put you in a good quality sleep like never before. Check out Preserva’s website for more information regarding the product.
Valerian, especially its root has proven to be an effective natural solution when it comes to reducing stress and anxiety, as well as in promoting relaxation and good quality and quantity sleep. In addition to this, it has also proven to be generally safe to consume with no negative effects. However, it is important to consult with your doctor before taking valerian, especially if you’re taking other medications or have a serious health condition.
Nevertheless, you may want to give valerian a try if you have problems with sleep or anxiety. It just may improve your sleep, mood and ability to deal with stress.