Valerian Root: A Natural Remedy for Sleep and Anxiety
Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) is a perennial plant native to Europe and Asia, though it is now grown around the world. Valerian root has been used for hundreds of years as a remedy for a variety of health issues, primarily sleep disorders and anxiety. In recent years, valerian root has gained popularity as an alternative treatment for insomnia and other sleep-related disorders.
In this article, we discuss the uses and health benefits of valerian root.
What is Valerian Root?
Valerian root is derived from the Valeriana officinalis plant, which is a tall, leafy plant with small pink or white flowers. The root of the plant is used to make supplements and herbal remedies. The active compounds in valerian root include valerenic acid, isovaleric acid, and other compounds that are thought to have sedative and anxiolytic effects.
What Does Valerian Root Do?
Valerian root is thought to have sedative and anxiolytic effects, meaning it may help promote relaxation and reduce feelings of anxiety. It may also help improve sleep quality and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.
What is Valerian Root Used For?
Valerian root has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including nervousness, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Today, it is primarily used as a natural remedy for insomnia and other sleep-related disorders.
Valerian Root Benefits
Valerian root has several potential health benefits, including:
Improving Sleep Quality
Valerian root has long been used as a natural remedy for sleep disorders. It is believed that valerian root helps with sleep by increasing the levels of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. (1) GABA is responsible for calming down the central nervous system, which helps promote relaxation and sleep. By increasing GABA levels, valerian root can help to induce sleep and improve the quality of sleep.
Research has shown that valerian root can improve sleep in both adults and children. In one study, participants who took valerian root before bed experienced significant improvements in the time it took them to fall asleep and the overall quality of their sleep. (2) Another study found that valerian root can also help to reduce the symptoms of insomnia, such as difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night. (3)
With its calming properties, valerian root can be a natural and effective way to promote better sleep and improve overall health and well-being.
Valerian root is also known to have potential benefits for anxiety relief. Valerian root can help to reduce anxiety symptoms by promoting relaxation. Similar to its effects on sleep, valerian root can increase levels of GABA in the brain, which can help to calm the nervous system and reduce feelings of anxiety. Research has shown that valerian root can be effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety, including restlessness, tension, and nervousness. (4)
Valerian root has been shown to have anxiolytic effects, meaning it can help to reduce anxiety levels in individuals. A 2015 study found that valerian root can improve anxiety symptoms in individuals with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Participants in the study who took valerian root experienced significant reductions in anxiety levels, compared to those who took a placebo. (5)
Valerian root can be a natural and effective alternative to prescription medications for anxiety relief. Unlike prescription medications, valerian root does not carry the risk of addiction or dependence, and it is generally considered safe for most people. Some studies have even suggested that valerian root may be as effective as certain prescription medications for anxiety.
Relieving Menstrual Cramps
Valerian root may also have potential benefits for relieving menstrual cramps. Menstrual cramps are a common issue for many women and can be caused by uterine contractions and inflammation. Valerian root is believed to help alleviate menstrual cramps by reducing inflammation and relaxing the uterus.
One study found that valerian root can be effective in reducing menstrual cramps. (6) In the study, participants who took valerian root capsules three times a day experienced significant reductions in menstrual cramp severity, compared to those who took a placebo. Additionally, participants who took valerian root reported fewer side effects compared to those taking prescription medication for menstrual cramps.
Valerian root can be a natural and safe alternative for women who experience menstrual cramps. It is important, however, to talk to your doctor before using valerian root for menstrual cramps, especially if you are currently taking medication or have a medical condition.
Supporting Heart Health
Valerian root may also have potential benefits for heart health. Valerian root contains compounds that have been shown to have a positive effect on blood pressure. (7) High blood pressure can put a strain on the heart and increase the risk of heart disease. Research has found that valerian root can help to reduce blood pressure levels by relaxing the blood vessels and promoting better blood flow. This can help to alleviate strain on the heart and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Valerian root may also help to reduce inflammation in the body, which can contribute to heart disease. Chronic inflammation can be damaging to blood vessels and increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Valerian root contains compounds with anti-inflammatory properties that may help to reduce inflammation and promote heart health. (8)
Valerian root may also have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. (9) High levels of cholesterol can contribute to heart disease and other cardiovascular issues. Studies have shown that valerian root can help to lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels while increasing HDL ("good") cholesterol levels. This can help to promote a healthy balance of cholesterol in the body and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Overall, valerian root may have potential benefits for heart health by reducing blood pressure, inflammation, and cholesterol levels. However, it is important to talk to your doctor before using valerian root or any other natural remedies for heart health, especially if you are currently taking medication or have a medical condition.
Valerian Root Side Effects
Valerian root is generally considered safe when taken as directed. However, some people may experience side effects, such as:
- Upset stomach
- Dry mouth
It is important to talk to your healthcare provider before taking valerian root, especially if you are taking any medications.
What Are the Active Compounds In Valerian Root?
Valerian root contains several active compounds that are believed to contribute to its potential health benefits. Some of the main active compounds found in valerian root include:
- Valerenic acid: Valerenic acid is a compound found in valerian root that is believed to contribute to its sedative effects. It works by increasing levels of GABA in the brain, which can help to calm the nervous system and promote relaxation.
- Valtrate: Valtrate is another compound found in valerian root that has been shown to have sedative effects. It may also have anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Isovaleric acid: Isovaleric acid is a compound found in valerian root that gives it its characteristic odor. It may also have mild sedative effects.
- Alkaloids: Valerian root contains several alkaloids, including actinidine and valerine, which may contribute to its sedative effects. (10)
Is Valerian Root Safe?
Valerian root is generally considered safe when taken as directed. However, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider before taking valerian root, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have any underlying medical conditions.
Does Valerian Root Work?
While more research is needed, studies have suggested that valerian root may be an effective natural remedy for insomnia and other sleep-related disorders. It may also have anxiolytic effects and be effective in reducing feelings of anxiety. However, more research is needed to fully understand the potential health benefits of valerian root.
Valerian root is a natural remedy with potential health benefits, including improving sleep quality, reducing anxiety, relieving menstrual cramps, and supporting heart health. It is generally considered safe when taken as directed, but it is important to talk to your healthcare provider before taking valerian root, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions or are taking any medications.