If you suffer from insomnia or simply lack sleep due to various factors, you will be very happy to find out that there is an incredibly effective and natural way to ease insomnia, and treat anxiety and nervous restlessness!
Valerian root is a potent herbal sleep air, which has been used since the second century A.D. due to its strong sedative and anti-anxiety properties.
It is often added to sleep-promoting tea blends, but its powerful calming capabilities other health benefits as well, such as lowering blood pressure.
These are the most important benefits of this herb:
- Aids Sleep
Researchers have found that this herb minimizes the time needed to fall asleep, and it causes fewer side effects, unlike many prescription sleeping pills.
According to the findings of a double-blind study conducted by the Foellinge Health Center in Sweden, its effects on poor sleep were significant, as it led to 44 percent perfect sleep, and 89 percent improved sleep in participants.
To treat insomnia, valerian root n be combined with other sedating herbs, like hops (Humulus lupulus)and lemon balm (Melissa Officinalis).
A study which analyzed their effects on children with minor sleep problems, published in Phytomedicine, showed that even 81 percent slept much better after taking an herbal combination of valerian and lemon balm.
These properties of valerian root are due to the increased brain’s GABA levels due to its sedative properties. GABA( gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and its large enough quantities serve as a sedative.
An in vitro study showed that valerian extract leads to the release of GABA from brain nerve endings and its blockage in order not to be taken back into nerve cells.
Moreover, its valerenic acid inhibits an enzyme that destroys GABA, which again enhances the GABA levels and leads to a proper night’s rest.
- Calms Anxiety
Studies have shown that this herb increases the amount of GABA, which calms anxiety and regulates nerve endings. The valerenic acid and valerenol in this herb are potent anti-anxiety agents. This herbal remedy has the same effects as prescription drugs and causes no serious side effects.
- Lowers Blood Pressure
Since it calms the body and mind, it is no reprise that it also lowers blood pressure. High blood pressure raises the risk of stroke and a heart attack, but the numerous beneficial compounds in valerian root naturally reduce it and thus support heart health.
- Manages Stress
This herb will also help you manage daily stress, by relaxing the body through the improved GABA levels. Relaxation is the antithesis of stress, so valerian root is the herb you need.
It will effectively suppress both physical and psychological stress, as confirmed by a research in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
- Relieves Menstrual Cramps
The relaxing qualities of valerian root also relieve menstrual cramps, by reducing their severity. Its natural sedative and antispasmodic properties soothe muscle spasms and relax the muscles.
It was also scientifically confirmed that it also calms the severe uterine muscle contractions which are the main cause for the pain during menstruation.
Valerian Root vs. Melatonin
Melatonin is a hormone created in the pineal gland and is linked to the sleep-wake cycle of the body. When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, usually around 9 p.m., this gland is stimulated by the SCN and begins producing this hormone, which is released into the blood.
Then, the levels of melatonin in the blood are sharply increased and the person starts feeling sleepy. The levels of this hormone remain high for about 12 hours until before the light of a new day, about 9 a.m.
The levels of melatonin during the day are barely detectable, but the constant low levels of this hormone are related to insomnia.
The valerian root, s a sedative herb, is extremely useful in the treatment of insomnia. The increased GABA levels reduce brain activity, leading to sleep.
These are the most important things you should know about valerian root and melatonin;
- Both of them treat insomnia and sleep issues and regulate blood pressure.
- Valerian root also treats anxiety, stress, muscular spasms, and cramps.
- Melatonin is helpful in the case of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and is currently being studied as a cancer care agent (improves response rates, survival time and quality of life).
Possible Side Effects:
- Valerian — headaches, dizziness, stomach problems, excitability, uneasiness
- Melatonin — headaches, dizziness, stomach cramps, irritability, daytime sleepiness, short-term feelings of depression
- Valerian — Severe tiredness when combined with supplements with sleep-inducing effects.
- Melatonin — You should use it carefully in a combination with supplements that slow blood clotting and have sedative properties.
- Valerian and melatonin — Just to be on the safe side, avoid taking them together, as their effects might be too strong. They are both potent nervous system depressants, producing a sedating effect. Moreover, avoid taking them with any other over-the-counter or prescription sleep aids, or any products containing alcohol.
Origin and Chemical Properties of valerian root
This herb is derived from valerian (Valeriana officinalis), a perennial flowering plant from the Valerianaceae family. It is native to Europe and parts of Asia, but it grows in North America too. It has white or pink flowers with a pleasant smell, and they bloom in the summer.
Its name is derived from the personal name “Valeria” and the Latin verb “valere” (to be strong, healthy), and the herb has been used since the times of ancient Greece and Rome.
Hippocrates spoke about its helpful properties, and Galen later prescribed it as an insomnia remedy. In medieval Sweden, it was believed to be able to ward off the “envy” of the elves, so people put it in the wedding clothes of the groom.
Valerian root contains numerous beneficial active constituents, including volatile oils, like valerenic acids, less volatile sesquiterpenes and valepotriates (esters of short-chain fatty acids), which provide the calming and restorative effect on the central nervous system.
It is classified and generally recognized as safe, so you can buy it in various forms, a tea, tincture, fluid extract, or dry powdered extract, online or at the local health food store.
The most effects are noticed after a regular use of two weeks.
To treat insomnia, take it one to two hours before bed or up to three times daily. These are the recommended dosages for insomnia:
- Tincture (1:5): 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon (4 to 6 mL)
- Tea: Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 teaspoonful (2 to 3 grams) of dried root, steep 5 to 10 minutes.
- Fluid extract (1:1): 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (1 to 2 mL)
- Dry powdered extract (4:1): 250 to 600 milligrams
A soon as your sleep improves, take it for 2-6 weeks more. In the case of anxiety, take 120 to 200 milligrams of valerian root 3-4 times daily.
Possible Side Effects & Caution
It is generally regarded as safe, as we already wrote, but there are rare cases when it can cause headaches, dizziness or stomach problems. Sometimes, people get the opposite reaction and feel anxious and restless instead of relaxed.
Numerous studies have shown that it causes no harmful effects on fertility or fetal development, but more research is needed. Yet, avoid it if you are pregnant or consult your doctor if you want to give it to your children.
For most people, it does not cause dependency or any withdrawal symptoms. Yet, some people report withdrawal symptoms after using it very long. Therefore, make sure you gradually lower the dose.
Avoid taking valerian root before driving, operating heavy machinery or doing any activities, as it might reduce your alertness. Moreover, it should not be taken in the case of liver disease.
You should not combine it with other sleep aids, and depressants, like alcohol, benzodiazepines, and narcotics.
It might also interact with or increase the effects of other natural supplements such as kava, St. John’s wort, and melatonin.
However, this herb is definitely one of the best natural sleep aids you can use. With minor and rare side effects, it offers amazing effects and is much better than prescription sleep aids. It actually affects the body’s chemistry to help you restore the nightly rest.
It is also highly efficient in the case of:
- High blood pressure
- menstrual cramps
Therefore, we highly recommend it in the case of poor sleep and the conditions listed above. Remember to wait for two weeks for the initial results, but they will certainly be positive!