Valerian Root - Side Effects and Benefits

Botanical Name Valerian: Valeriana Officinalis

Other Common Names:Valerian root, garden valerian, tobacco root, garden heliotrope, all-heal, phu (Galen), great wild valerian, amantilla, setwall, setewale capon’s tail

Habitat: Valerian root is native to Europe, South Africa and parts of Asia. It has been naturalized to North America. It prefers rich, heavy loam with adequate moisture. Most of the valerian used in medicine is grown on farms and cultivated for this purpose.

Description:The valerian plant is a perennial that can reach a height of 4 feet. The stems of the plant are erect and hollow with white or reddish flowers that bloom each summer. The leaves are dark green and paired at their base. The flowers have a peculiar, though not completely unpleasing, scent. Some describe the scent as similar to well-aged cheese or milk.
Plant Parts Used: The root and rhizome of this plant are used for medicinal purposes.

Therapeutic Uses, Benefits and Claims of The Valerian Root

* Valerian is a strong sedative that is used commonly to treat insomnia, anxiety and nervousness.
* It is also used to treat many stress symptoms; including irritability, depression, exhaustion, delusions, hysteria and nervous tension.
* Valerian root has also been shown to relieve pain. This, combined with the sedative effect, makes it effective in relieving headaches (especially stress headaches,) migraines, arthritis and muscle pain.
* This herb has also shown promise in treating several nerve disorders. Shingles, sciatica, neuralgia, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and peripheral neuropathy are all conditions that respond to valerian use.
* Valerian has also been shown to help attention deficit disorder in adults and children, along with other childhood nervous disorders.
* This plant has a positive effect on heart health. It helps to slow the heart in tachycardia, helps regulate arrhythmias, and stabilize blood pressure. Its anti-thrombotic effect helps to prevent blood clots as well.

Potential Side Effects of The Valerian Root

Valerian has been given a class 1 safety rating by the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA.)

Some people do have adverse effects from the use of this herb, experiencing nervousness, anxiety and tension instead of relaxation and sedation. There is evidence that long term use may lead to withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.

This herb should not be used while driving, operating heavy machinery or during other activities that require alertness and mental acuity, due to its tranquilizing effect. People with liver disease should not use this herb. Pregnant or breast-feeding women should not use this supplement either.

Valerian should not be taken with medications for anti-anxiety, anesthesia or sedatives without consulting a physician. Valerian should not be mixed with alcohol or recreational drugs that cause sedation.

Therapeutic Dosages

The common dosage for valerian for insomnia relief is 300 to 600 mg of the extract. This is equal to about 2 to 3 grams of the dried root infused in a tea. It is recommended that the herb be taken 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime. For other uses the herb may be taken in divided doses throughout the day or in a single dose in the evening.

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About The Author, Subodh Jain