By Karen Appold
Valerian is an herb that people take to ease anxiety, nervousness, or depression; get a good night’s sleep; relieve stomach and menstrual cramps; ease muscle spasms; quit smoking; or clear congestion. It’s from the root of the valerian plant, a flowering plant that grows in parts of North America, Asia, and Europe. There are more than 200 varieties; the Eurasian variety Valeriana officinalis (V. officinalis) is most often used as a medication. The dried root has an unpleasant smell like dirty socks.
You can buy valerian in the form of a nutritional supplement, an extract powder, or a liquid. As a sleep aid, the typical dosage of valerian extract as a tablet is 300 to 900 milligrams (mg). Take it one to two hours before bedtime. You may have to take it for a month to see results. People who have trouble falling asleep or have difficulty sleeping may benefit from it.
For anxiety and stress, the recommended dosage is 50 to 100 mg two to three times a day. Its mild calming effect will usually not make you sleepy the next day.
Valerian is actually a common ingredient in mild sedative and sleep aid products.
As an herbal remedy, the root is chopped and made into an extract or tea to be consumed as a sedative. Valerian has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries. It was actually common in ancient Greece, Rome, and China.
Side effects are rare. They include insomnia, mild headache or upset stomach, dizziness, and irregular heartbeat. Don’t take valerian at the same time as other medications, due to its calming effect. You should also avoid taking it if you’re driving or need to be alert. Don’t take it if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Karen Appold is a medical writer in Lehigh Valley, PA.