First mention of Valerian root as herbal remedy for insomnia was by Galen of Pergamo – prominent Roman (of Greek ethnicity) physician, surgeon and philosopher who prescribed it as a remedy for insomnia.
Valerian is used for insomnia and other disorders as an alternative to benzodiazepine drugs. A sedative for nervous tension, hysteria, excitability, stress and intestinal colic or cramps. A recent article states, “Most studies found no significant differences between valerian and placebo either in healthy individuals or in persons with general sleep disturbance or insomnia.” - Taibi DM et al. ‘A systematic review of valerian as a sleep aid: safe but not effective.’ Sleep Med Rev. 2007;11:209-30.
In the United States, valerian is sold as a nutritional supplement. Therapeutic use has increased as dietary supplements have gained in popularity, especially after the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act was passed in 1994. This law allowed the distribution of many agents as over-the-counter supplements, and therefore allowed them to bypass the regulatory requirements of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Valerian is used for sleeping disorders, restlessness and anxiety, and as a muscle relaxant. Valerian often seems only to work when taken over longer periods (several weeks), though many users find that it takes effect immediately.
Valerian root – Side Effects
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) gives valerian a class 1 safety rating, indicating that it is a safe herb with a wide dosage range.
Large doses or chronic use may result in following valerian root side effects:
- apathy, and a
- feeling of mental dullness or
- mild depression
- upset stomach,
- drowsiness during the daytime,
- dry mouth and
- vivid dreams.
Because of the herb’s tranquilizer properties, it may cause dizziness or drowsiness, effects that should be considered before driving or operating heavy or hazardous equipment.
Recommended Valerian root Dosage
Recommended dosage of valerian root in case of insomnia are doses of 300 to 900 mg of valerian root extract.
It is best to try it at night first, 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime. If you find that it does not work quickly enough for you, then you may try taking it a little earlier in the evening.
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