Health and Nutrition Articles

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

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Overview

  • Used for centuries by the Romans and Greeks for its healing properties, valerian is a hardy perennial flowering herb. The medicinal properties of valerian are contained in its root.
  • It is known best for its treatment of sleep disorders and anxiety and has a sedative effect on the brain
  • Valerian is also known as a muscle and joint pain
  • It has also been shown effective for menstrual cramping and menopausal symptoms
  • May be effective in helping withdrawal from prescription sleeping medications
  • Valerian is often used in combination with lemon balm for increased effectiveness

Valerian Benefits

  • Sleep disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Antidepressant
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Anticonvulsive properties

Dosing

  • For insomnia, 400 to 900mg valerian extract up to two hours before bed for up to 28 days
  • Valerian extract 120 mg, with lemon balm extract 80 mg, 3 x daily for up to 30 days -- (source:WebMD)

Side Effects and Warnings

"Clinical studies have reported safe use of valerian for medicinal purposes in over 12,000 people in trials lasting up to 28 days." (Source: WebMD)

May cause headaches, excitability, and possibly insomnia

Valerian use should be discontinued two weeks prior to any surgery as it slows down the central nervous system.

Major Drug Interactions

Do not take valerian with the following drugs:

  • Alcohol when taking valerian -- it can cause drowsiness
  • Alprazolam (Xanax) -- it can slow down the time it takes for the liver to break down the drug and can also cause drowsiness
  • Sedative medications like Benzodiazepines, clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), didozaloam (Versed, temeazepam (Resoril, triazolam (Halcion)
  • Central nervous system depressants (CNS) pentobarbital (Nembutal), phenobarbital (Luminal), secobarbital (Seconal), thiopental (Pentothal), fentanyl (Duragesic, Sublimaze), morphine propofol (Diprivan), etc.

Moderate Interactions -- use caution when taking valerian with these medications:

  • Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (Cyp34A) substrates) interact with valerian. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are on any medications that change the liver.
  • Liver changing medications include lovastatin (Mevacor), ketoconazole (Nizoral), itraconazole (Sporanox), fexofenadine (Allegra), triazoloam (Halcion), and many others.

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Quick Facts

  • Valerian is regularly used as a mild sedative and sleep aid for nervous tension and insomnia
  • A perennial plant, valerian is native to Europe and Asia and naturalized in North America
  • Valerian dietary supplements are derived from the plant's roots, rhizomes (underground stems), and stolons (horizontal stems)
  • Valerian root has a long history as a medicinal herb in Europe dating back to ancient Rome and Greece, where it was sued to help calm nerves and promote sleep
  • Valerian was listed in the US Pharmacopoeia until as recently as the mid-20th century
  • It may act to mildly depress your central nervous system
  • Valerian does not interfere with your sleep cycle or restful REM sleep.
  • Valerian may help people who have trouble falling asleep, or who consider themselves to be poor sleepers, or who wake up during the night
  • This herb may cause such mild side effects as nausea, headaches and dizziness
  • It does not appreciably affect reaction time, alertness and mental focus the next day