People Use This For: Valerian is used for insomnia, and for
anxiety-associated restlessness and sleeping disorders. It has
also been used for mood disorders such as depression, and chronic
fatigue syndrome (CFS). It is also used orally for muscle and
joint pain, and conditions associated with anxiety and
psychological stress including nervous asthma, excitability,
headaches, migraine, and stomach upset. Valerian is also used for
menstrual cramps and symptoms associated with menopause,
including hot flashes and anxiety. In manufacturing, the extracts
and essential oil are used as flavoring in foods and beverages.
Safety: No concerns regarding safety when used in amounts
commonly found in foods. Valerian has Generally Recognized as
Safe (GRAS) status in the US.60
No concerns regarding safety when used orally and
appropriately, short-term. Clinical studies have reported safe
use of valerian for medicinal purposes in over 12,000 patients in
trials lasting up to 28 days.61,62,63,64,65,66 The
safety of long-term use is unknown.
Children: No concerns regarding safety when used orally and
appropriately, short-term. Valerian has been safely used in
children in studies lasting 4-8 weeks.74,80
Pregnancy and Lactation: Refer to a Medical Herbalist.
Insomnia. Most research shows that taking valerian orally reduces
the time to sleep onset (sleep latency), and improves subjective
sleep quality. The greatest benefit is usually seen in patients
using 400-900 mg valerian extract up to 2 hours before
Valerian does not relieve insomnia as fast as
benzodiazepines.65 Continuous nightly use for several
days to four weeks might be needed for significant
Valerian is often used in combination with other sedative
herbs. Taking a combination product containing valerian extract
187 mg plus hops extract 41.9 mg per tablet, two tablets at
bedtime, seems to modestly improve subjective sleep measures
including subjective sleep latency compared to placebo after 28
days of treatment; however it was not significantly better than
placebo after only 14 days of treatment.66 A
combination of valerian with lemon balm might also improve the
quality and quantity of sleep in healthy people.72
Valerian also seems to improve the sleep quality of insomniacs
who have recently withdrawn from benzodiazepines. After tapering
the benzodiazepine over two weeks, 300 mg valerian extract in
three divided daily doses might subjectively improve sleep
There is also preliminary clinical research that suggests
valerian improves sleep in intellectually impaired
Not all evidence is positive. Some evidence suggests that
valerian does not significantly improve insomnia compared to
INSUFFICIENT RELIABLE EVIDENCE to RATE
Anxiety. There is contradictory evidence about the effectiveness
of valerian for anxiety. Some evidence shows that taking valerian
orally reduces self-reported stress in social
anxiety.75,76 However, another preliminary study found
no significant difference in anxiety scores in patients with
generalized anxiety disorder compared to placebo.77,78
Additional preliminary evidence suggests that valerian does not
significantly decrease anxiety compared to placebo.79
Restless Sleep. Preliminary (980 Participants open trial
:definite benefit) evidence suggests that a specific combination
product providing valerian root extract 160 mg and lemon balm
leaf extract 80 mg (Euvegal forte, Dr. Willmar Schwabe
Pharmaceuticals) 1-2 tablets once or twice daily might decrease
symptoms in children under age 12 years who have pathological
restlessness or dyssomnia.80
More evidence is needed to rate valerian for these uses.
Mechanism of Action:
The applicable part of valerian is the root and rhizome. Valerian
is thought to have sedative-hypnotic, anxiolytic, antidepressant,
anticonvulsant, and antispasmodic effects.62,63,81
Valerian might also have hypotensive properties.75
The pharmacological effects of valerian have primarily been
attributed to valepotriates.62,82,83 Other potentially
active constituents include flavonoids.83
Because valerian extracts without some of these constituents can
still have similar effects, it is likely that multiple
constituents are responsible for its pharmacological effects.
Valepotriate constituents have sedative-hypnotic and spasmolytic
effects. Valepotriates have also been shown to decrease
benzodiazepine withdrawal in an animal model and to bind dopamine
receptors.62,82 The valepotriates might act as
The sesquiterpenes have been shown to cause sedation in
animals.83 Valerenic acid and other constituents of
valerian may increase GABA (neurotransmitter) concentrations and
decrease central nervous system activity.82,84
Valerian may stimulate the release and reuptake of
Valerian might also affect sleep regulation with activity on
adenosine and 5-hydroxytryptamine-1.84
The valerian flavonoid constituents also seem to have a role in
the sedative-hypnotic effects of valerian.83
A few patients can find that valerian is a stimulant and they
should avoid its use. (This is generally at higher doses (DC).)
In some individuals, valerian can aggravate a sensation of
drowsiness or tiredness, particularly at higher doses, but this
is usually a case of an increased awareness of the body’s needs
than a negative depressant effect.R1 pp.587
Valerian can cause headache, excitability, uneasiness,
palpitations, and insomnia.62 Occasionally, valerian
may cause gastric discomfort, dry mouth, vivid
dreams,64 and morning drowsiness.61
Taking valerian extracts in doses up to 1800 mg does not appear
to significantly affect mood or psychomotor
performance.85,86 Valerian does not usually have a
negative impact on reaction time, alertness, and concentration
the morning after intake. Impairment that does occur is
dose-dependent and seems to peak within the first few hours after
an oral valerian dose.61
Interactions with Herbs & Supplements:
Herbs and Supplements with Sedative Properties: Use of valerian
with other herbs and supplements with sedative properties might
enhance therapeutic and adverse effects.82
Interactions with Drugs:
Alchol (Ethanol): Alcohol may be used as a CNS depressant which
reduces performance of motor skills. Do not add the sedative
effects of Valerian.87
Anxiolytics: Patients may require less medication for anxiety if
they use herbal remedies with all of their attendant side effects
but do not combine them within 4-5 hours of each other.
Interactions with Foods: None known.
Interactions with Lab Tests: None known.
Interactions with Diseases or Conditions: None Known.
Dr Clare’s Blends: Dose 455mgs per day. 1.5mls 1:3 Tincture.
ORAL: For insomnia, most studies have used 400-900 mg valerian
extract up to 2 hours before bedtime for as long as 28
days.61,62,65,73,69,70,85 Other studies have used
valerian extract 300-450 mg given in three divided
doses.62,73Valerian should be given 30 minutes to 2
hours before bedtime.87
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