Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian grows wild in woodlands, along river banks and in wet meadows throughout Europe. Valerian is not generally used as a food. However, the herb is listed as a natural food flavouring. Numerous human studies support the traditional use of valerian as a mild sedative.
Valerian is stated to possess sedative activity, as a sedative, offers mild Pain relief and is a hypnotic, antispasmodic (relieves muscle spasms), carminative (relieves flatulence and associated colic) and has hypotensive properties (reduces blood pressure). Valerian is traditionally used in the treatment of nervous conditions.
Part of the plant used: ROOT.
Herb powder, 0.3-1.0 g three times daily.
Valerian has been used for hysterical states, excitability (easily irritated), Insomnia, hyperchondriasis (Anxiety about state of health), Migraine, Cramp, irritated gut, rheumatic Pains, severe menstrual pain and people who are "on edge".
Calming and Soothing:
The sedative properties of valerian are well documented. The valepotriates help slow down the central nervous system (1-3) - giving a calming effect on the nerves, the muscles and the heart. This accounts for valerian's overall soothing and calming effect. People with Insomnia who take valerian generally experience more restful and easier transition to sleep than people who take standard sleep medications or nothing at all (4,5). It has been recently suggested that valerian may be most effective under prolonged use (6).
Valerian has been shown to stop spasms in the "smooth" muscle of the digestive tract (7) stopping Cramps and discomfort.
Sleep quality and Duration:
Valerian's sedative properties are especially useful for maintaining sleep quality and duration. Valerian has been shown to reduce waking up too often and decrease restlessness and tension. Unlike some medication, valerian maintains healthy sleep without a feeling of tiredness the next day (8-11).
SAFETY AND PRECAUTIONS
Valerian is reported to be free from side effects. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult with a qualified medical health professional before taking valerian, due to a lack of safety data during these times.
This herb is not recommended for use by children.
Valerian should not be taken in situations that require you to stay alert. However, research shows that valerian does not impair the ability to drive or operate machinery (13).
INTERACTIONS AND CONTRA-INDICATIONS
Valerian is not to be used whilst on sedative medication or other prescribed drugs which affect the central nervous system.
Unlike prescribed tranquillisers, valerian does not cause dangerous effects if taken with alcohol.
Valerian for Insomnia
Insomnia is a prevalent health complaint associated with daytime impairments, reduced quality of life, and increased health-care costs. Although it is often self-treated with herbal and dietary supplements or with over-the-counter sleep aids, there is still little evidence on the efficacy and safety of those products.
This study evaluated the efficacy and safety of valerian for the treatment of mild insomnia by supplying patients with standardized valerian every night for 28 days. Modest improvements of subjective sleep parameters were obtained with valerian. Quality of life was significantly more improved in the valerian group relative to the placebo group at the end of 28 days. There were no significant residual effects and no serious adverse events and no rebound insomnia following their discontinuation.
Sleep. 2005 Nov 1;28(11):1465-71
1. Hendricks H et al. Pharmacological screening of valerenal and some other components of essential oil of Valeriana officinalis. Planta Med, 42:62-68, 1981.
2. Wagner H et al. Comparative studies on the sedative action of Valeriana extracts. valepotriates and their degradation products. Planta Med, 39:358-365, 1980.
3. Hendricks H et al. Central nervous depressant activity of valerenic acid in the mouse. Planta Med, 51:28-31, 1985.
4. Leathwood PD, Chauffard F, Heck E, Munoz-Box R. Aqueous extract of valerian root (Valeriana officinalis L) improves sleep quality in man. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 1982;17:65-71.
5. Leathwood PD, Chauffard F. Aqueous extract of valerian reduces latency to fall asleep in man. Planta Med 1985;51:144-48.
6. Schulz V, et al. Rational phytotherapy. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1998: 81.
7. Hazalhoff B, Malingre TM and Meijer DK. Antispasmodic effects of Valeriana compounds: An in vivo and in vitro study on the guinea pig ileum. Arch Int Pharmacodyn, 257:274-287, 1982.
8. Leathwood PD et al. Aqueous extract of valerian root improves sleep quality in man. Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 17:65-71, 1982.
9. Leathwood PD, Chauffard F. Aqueous extract of valerian reduces latency to fall asleep in man. Planta Med, 51:144-148, 1985.
10. Balderer G, Borbely AA. Effect of valerian on human sleep. Psychopharmacology, 87:406-409, 1985.
11. Leathwood PD, Chauffard F. Quantifying the effects of mild sedatives. J Psychiatr Res, 17:115-122, 1983.
12. Effect of Valeriana officinalis L. on subjective and objective sleep parameters. In: "Sleep 1982, 6th Eur Congr Sleep Res", P D Leathwood, Karger, 1983.
13. Albrecht M, Berger W, et al. Psychopharmaceuticals and safety in traffic. Zeits Allegmeinmed 1995;71:1215-21 [in German].