Valerian is a widely sold herb and has been primarily been studied because of its sleep inducing ability. There are some people who claim that valerian when taken for short period is a good hypnotic and devoid of side effects.
Valerian is a perennial herb native to many parts of the world including Asia, Europe and North America. In most parts of Asia and Europe, valerian has been widely used for its ability to induce sleep and diminish anxiety. There are many formulations of the herb available in stores and often valerian is combined with other herbs like melatonin. Like most herbal products, valerian extracts are not rigidly monitored and the quality and quantity of the product varies from store to store.
Valerian extracts have been analyzed and found to contain a variety of chemicals and oils including valeric acid, iridoids (valepotriates), alkaloids, furanofuran lignans, G-aminobutyric acid (GABA), tyrosine, arginine, and glutamine. Of all these ingredients it is believed that the sesquiterpene components of the volatile oil are responsible for it sedative effects. Current research also shows that perhaps an interaction between GABA and valeric acid may be responsible for the anti anxiety effects. There are many studies which show that valerian is effective for insomnia when compared to placebo. However, there is a lot of variability among different valerian formulas and their effectiveness as sedatives. Valerian seems to work great for people who are poor sleepers, younger hyperactive individuals and those who are smokers. Individuals who can sleep well for 6-8 hours a night are not affected by valerian.
The dose of valerian to induce sleep ranges from 450-900 mg. Experts recommend starting out at the low dose and then gradually increasing the dose depending on response. However, a word of warning- Valerian does not always work in all individuals and this is believed to be due to fake or counterfeit products. So always get your herb from a reputable dealer.
Valerian is also a decent anxiolytic product. It has been compared to a few pharmaceutical drugs and been found to suppress hyperactivity without many side effects. To relieve anxiety, experts claim that a dose of 50 mg three times a day is ample.
Since valerian is not listed as a drug by the FDA, all it side effects are not known. So far there are no contraindications to valerian. The few side effects of valerian include headaches and stomach cramps. However, other rare side effects include less alertness and loss of concentration when valerian is taken during the day time.
Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, valerian does not interact with alcohol but still the combination should be avoided. There are case reports that prolonged use of valerian may lead to habituation and withdrawal symptoms when it is abruptly stopped Valerian is best taken at night for insomnia. The dose is anywhere from 300-600 mg and taken at least 1 hour prior to bedtime.
Unlike many other herbs, valerian is a safer product, has minimal side effects and is well tolerated- and it works. Valeria is a good sleep aid and may also be useful in individuals addicted to the benzodiazepines.