Valerian root has attracted a lot of positive attention in recent years. Many herbal products have this root as one of the ingredients. It is also known as “nature’s Valium.”
But is it really effective? How does it treat insomnia and anxiety?
This article outlines the history of Valerian root, how it works and also sheds light on its benefits.
History of Valerian Root
Valeriana officinalis, commonly known as valerian, is a herb found naturally in Asia and Europe. Currently, it’s also grown in the US, China, and other countries.
The name “valerian” comes from the Latin verb valere, which literally means “to be strong” or “to be healthy.” Valerian root extract can be consumed as a supplement in capsule or liquid form.
In ancient times, flowers from valerian plants were used to make perfumes, and the root portion was used in traditional medicine for at least 2,000 years.
Unlike its delicately scented flowers, you will find a very strong, earthy odor in the valerian root due to the presence of volatile oils and other compounds.
How Valerian Root Works
Valerian root has a number of compounds that promote sleep and reduce anxiety. This includes valerenic acid, isovaleric acid, and other antioxidants.
Valerian root interacts with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical messenger that regulates nerve impulses in the nervous system.
Researchers have shown that low GABA levels are linked to anxiety and low-quality sleep. Valerenic acid can inhibit the breakdown of GABA in the brain, resulting in a feeling of calmness.
Valerian root also contains the antioxidants linarin and hesperidin, which might have sedative and sleep-enhancing properties.
Such compounds may also inhibit excessive activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain that processes fear and strong emotional responses to stressful events.
Health Benefits of Valerian Root
Treatment of Insomnia
It’s estimated that about 30% of people suffer from insomnia, meaning they experience difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or achieving restorative sleep.
Research shows that taking valerian root may reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and also improve sleep quality and quantity.
In a controlled study of 27 young and middle-aged adults with insomnia, 24 people reported an improvement in their sleep and 12 of those indicated “perfect sleep” after consuming 400 mg of valerian root.
Slow-wave sleep also referred to as deep sleep, repairs and recharges your body so you wake up feeling energetic.
One study in adults suffering from insomnia found that a single dose of valerian helped them achieve deep sleep 36% faster. Moreover, the time they spent in deep sleep increased during 14 days of consuming valerian.
Valerian can also help people who have insomnia after they stop taking benzodiazepines or other sedative medications that may lead to dependence over time.
In a study of people who had withdrawal symptoms related to stopping benzodiazepines after long-term use, significant improvements in sleep quality were reported after two weeks of valerian treatment (27Trusted Source).
Besides adults, even children can benefit from valerian. In a small eight-week study of children with sleeping disorders, valerian reduced the time it took to fall asleep, increased total sleep time and resulted in better quality sleep.
Treatment of Anxiety
Research suggests that valerian roots ease-out anxious feelings that occur as a response to stressful situations.
In one of the studies, rats treated with valerian roots before a maze experiment displayed less anxious behavior than rats given alcohol or no treatment.
In another study, healthy adults taking challenging mental tests found that a combination of valerian and lemon balm reduced anxiety.
In addition to decreasing anxiety, valerian root may also help with treating generalized anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Unlike many of the medications used to treat OCD, the valerian root supplement didn’t cause any significant side effects.
One study also suggests that children having trouble maintaining their focus may benefit from valerian. 169 elementary school children were given a combination of valerian and lemon balm. It improved their focus, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness by nearly 50%.
A Final Word
Valerian root, if consumed as per the recommended doses, can help you relax and sleep better. Remember, consistency is important and you need to complete the dosage to experience real benefits. Last but not least, buy these supplements from genuine sellers only.