So highly regarded in medieval Europe that it was dubbed "all-heal," valerian is today used chiefly as a mild tranquilizer and as a natural sedative. Native to temperate Europe and Asia, it's also known as garden heliotrope. A perennial that can reach heights of five feet, valerian sprouts small, closely bunched flowers. It's the dried root that's used for health benefits. When being dried, the root takes on a disagreeable odor likened to dirty gym socks (the whole, living garden plant smells fine). Valerian's scientific name is derived from the Latin word valere, translated as both "to be strong" and "to be healthy."
Potential Health Benefits
Commission E approves the dried roots of valerian to help support restlessness and sleep disorders. Traditionally, valerian can be used for general well-being. Some modern herbalists value its stress-busting properties for use against premenstrual syndrome and high blood pressure. Commission E didn't address these additional uses.
Most scientific researchers attribute valerian's tranquilizing and sedative effects to chemicals found in its essential oil, called valepotriates, but that opinion isn't unanimous. In Nature's Medicines, author Joel L. Swerdlow, Ph.D., suggests that valerian's power may come from its gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), "a neurotransmitter that's thought to inhibit the brain's arousal system."
In Tyler's Honest Herbal, Varro E. Tyler, Ph.D., submits that the exact triggering mechanism in valerian is unknown. While they may not agree on how valerian works, researchers agree that it does work.
In a study of 128 insomniacs, patients who took 400 milligrams of valerian reported more dramatically improved sleep than patients taking a placebo; the herb worked better in women and test subjects under 40. Moreover, reports Andrew Well, M.D., in a "placebo- controlled 1989 trial, 89 percent of those who ingested the herb reported improved sleep and 44 percent reported perfect sleep."
Although the word valerian sounds similar to the prescription drug Valium, it isn't the same substance, as some people believe. Valium (diazepam) is synthesized in the laboratory; valerian is a plant.
How to Use the Herb
Commission E recommends 2-3 grams of the herb "one to several times a day" in rather foul-smelling tea.
Additionally, the commission recommends 1/2 - 1 teaspoonful of liquid extract 1 to several times per day; and it recommends a liquid extract of 2-3 grams of Valerian, also 1 to several times per day.
In whatever form, valerian is best taken before bedtime. Be careful if you'te driving or operating heavy machinery, as valerian depresses the central nervous system.
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Take 1 capsule, 3 times daily, with meals.
Commission E found no contraindications, side effects, or known interactions with other drugs.
Although valerian appears safe for most people, it can cause restlessness and heart palpitations in sensitive people. Don't combine valerian with Valium or other prescription drugs such as Elavil or Xanax.
Taken by itself valerian lacks the side effects often seen with prescription drugs and, unlike Valium, doesn't interfere with deep, REM dream sleep. Even so, many herbalists advise against long-term use (more than two weeks).
More Photographs - Valerian Root (Certified Organic) - 450 mg
End of More Photographs - Valerian Root (Certified Organic) - 450 mg
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Products are intended to support general well being and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure any condition or disease. If conditions persist, please seek advice from your medical doctor. Information provided at ZooScape.com relies partly on Traditional Uses. The essence of the current American rule on Traditional Uses is, as stated by FTC, "Claims based on historical or traditional use should be substantiated by confirming scientific evidence, or should be presented in such a way that consumers understand that the sole basis for the claim is a history of use of the product for a particular purpose."