How to Use Valerian Root for Sleep
Are you looking for a gentle, natural way to ease insomnia symptoms? If you’ve tried everything from sleep aids and prescription medications to stress-reducing activities, it may be time to incorporate some natural supplements into your regime.
Two of the most common supplements for sleep are melatonin and chamomile. Melatonin is the same natural hormone your body produces in preparation for sleep. Melatonin is released by the pineal gland at night and is associated with maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle. Chamomile is another popular sleep inducer and is found in many teas. Its soothing and calming benefits can act as a mild tranquilizer, making it easier to fall and stay asleep.
While these two natural supplements may be the most popular, they aren’t your only options. Whether you’re looking to broaden your horizons or haven’t had success with the above-mentioned herbs, this article will tell you everything you need to know about valerian root for sleep.
What is Valerian Root and Where Does It Come From?
Valerian root, or Valeriana officinalis, is often referred to as “nature’s Valium” thanks to its ability to improve sleep and promote calm and relaxation. Since its first use during ancient times, most reviews of this herbal supplement are positive, although its safety and effectiveness have come into question in recent years.
The name “valerian” comes from the Latin word “valere”, which means “to be healthy or strong”. Native to Europe and Asia, this beneficial plant is now being grown through the United States and China. Years ago, flowers from the Valerian plant were cultivated for their fragrance and used to make perfumes. Researchers believe the roots have been used for their medicinal properties for over 2,000 years. Unlike the flower which has a pleasant, mild odor, the root omits a very strong, earthy scent. This smell is attributed to the root’s powerful oils which give this herb its sedative effects.
How Does Valerian Root Work?
Valerian root acts like a sedative for your brain and nervous system. In addition to treating common sleep disorders like insomnia, valerian is also used as an oral treatment for psychological stress and anxiety.
Valerian root interacts with GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), the chemical messenger that regulates nerve and brain impulses. Research suggests that low GABA levels related to both chronic and acute stress are also connected to anxiety and poor sleep quality. Valerian root, specifically valerenic acid, may inhibit the body’s breakdown of GABA, eliciting feelings of tranquility and calm. Not only can this reduce anxiety symptoms but also promote better sleep. The positive effects of this beneficial herb are similar to those seen in patients using Xanax or Valium. Valerian root also contains the antioxidants linarin and hesperidin which are said to have sleep-enhancing properties.
Many of the compounds found in valerian may inhibit the nighttime brain activity and alertness that keep you awake. By interacting with your amygdala, valerian root can help reduce stress and other strong emotional responses. Some research also suggests that this herb can help regulate serotonin levels in the brain, which help regulate your mood and trigger feelings of happiness and calm.
Valerian Root for Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety are two of the leading causes of insomnia and sleep disturbances. One of the benefits of valerian root is that it offers a dual approach to insomnia treatment by reducing anxiety and promoting sleep.
The first step in reducing anxiety and getting a quality night’s sleep is staying calm and relaxed. This can be difficult for those with diagnosed anxiety disorders or extreme stress. Valerian root can help ease anxious feelings, especially during stressful situations. The problem with insomnia is that while anxiety and stress can keep you awake at night, the inability to fall and stay asleep can also trigger anxiety, creating a vicious cycle that leaves you feeling anxious and exhausted.
As with any medication or supplement, the dosage is important. While valerian root in moderation can help ease anxiety, too high of a dose may actually increase or aggravate symptoms. Individuals suffering from OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) or generalized anxiety disorder may also benefit from using valerian root by reducing negative behaviors and tendencies that disrupt sleep patterns.
Another benefit of using herbal supplements like valerian root for treating both anxiety and sleep is that they rarely have adverse side effects. Be sure to check with a medical professional before incorporating any new medication or supplement into your daily routine.
Valerian Root for Sleep
Whether you’re suffering from acute or chronic insomnia, are trying to improve your sleep hygiene, or want to improve poor sleep quality, valerian root may help. Studies show that taking valerian root before bed may reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep as well as improving both your quantity and quality of sleep.
While all sleep is important, certain stages of sleep are more beneficial and restorative. For example, slow-wave sleep, also known as deep sleep, is the time when your body recharges and repairs itself. It’s during this time that your brain sorts through information and memories, promoting cognitive function. When you achieve deep sleep, you wake feeling energetic, rested, and focused. One study shows that individuals taking valerian root were able to enter a deep sleep 36% faster than those not taking the supplement. Over a 14 day period, this percentage increased.
Unlike certain sleep medications, valerian root doesn’t cause a dependency or put you at risk for addiction. You can incorporate this supplement into your routine easily without the risk of adverse side effects or withdrawal symptoms. In addition, some patients weaning off of benzodiazepines after long-term use can use valerian root to help ease unpleasant withdrawal symptoms associated with certain sedative medications.
Potential Side Effects of Valerian Root
No supplement or medication is without any potential side effects. While many of these are dependent on your medical history, other health conditions, and interaction with current medications you’re taking, it’s always best to use caution when starting a new regime.
Before taking valerian root, it’s important to note that this herb doesn’t cause adverse changes in your DNA and is safe for use in cancer patients. There’s no evidence to suggest that this herbal supplement negatively affects your physical or mental performance, as long as you take it as directed. You can also enjoy reduced anxiety and better sleep quality without drowsiness or fatigue the next morning.
In the rare event that you do experience side effects from using valerian root, they may include dizziness, stomach pain, and headaches. Patients with liver disease or other serious medical conditions should speak with a healthcare professional before taking valerian root.
Other Uses and Benefits of Valerian Root
While valerian root is mainly used to reduce anxiety and improve sleep, it offers several other benefits including:
Menopause and Menstrual Problems
Some evidence suggests that valerian root can help reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes in menopausal women. Women suffering from PMS (premenstrual syndrome) or painful cramps may also see decreased emotional and behavioral problems as well as more mild cramps.
RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome)
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) affects approximately 10% of the population and is characterized by an irresistible urge to move the legs, especially at night. Some RLS sufferers reported a decrease in daytime fatigue and reduced symptoms after taking valerian root.
Valerian Root Dosage Explained
The proper dosage of valerian root depends on the condition you’re treating. When taking this supplement specifically for sleep or treating insomnia, it’s recommended you take between 300 and 600 milligrams approximately 30 to 120 minutes before bed. Valerian root comes in several different forms including extract powders, capsules, liquid, or as a dried herb used in tea. When using valerian root for sleep, try soaking 3 grams of the dried leaves in approximately 1 cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Remove the root and enjoy! Not only will the active ingredients in valerian root help prepare you for sleep, but a hot cup of soothing tea is another great addition to your bedtime routine. Have a cup every night as a way to signal your brain and body that it’s almost time for bed.
When taking valerian root to ease anxiety symptoms that may be making it difficult for you to achieve a solid night’s sleep, the dosage changes slightly. Users should take between 120 and 200 milligrams three times a day. By ingesting this beneficial herb throughout the day, it can help regulate your mood and ward off negative feelings of anxiety including racing thoughts and irregular heartbeat. Your last dose should be right before bed to help calm your mind and body. Smaller doses throughout the day also prevent you from experiencing unwanted daytime drowsiness.
You can also combine valerian root with other herbal supplements like lemon balm, passionflower, hops, St. John’s wort, and kava for added benefits. Herbal and dietary supplements are not intended for long-term use. While it’s fine to incorporate valerian root into your daily regime for the short term, you’ll want to adopt long-term lifestyle changes and healthy habits that promote quality sleep and reduce stress. Think of valerian root as a way to support your journey toward better sleep, not the ultimate solution. While there’s no evidence that stopping the use of valerian root will cause withdrawal symptoms, it’s best to wean off of the supplement by reducing your intake slowly and over a certain period of time.
Studies show that valerian root is most effective for sleep when taken regularly for two weeks and then continued for up to four weeks. For those using valerian root for anxiety, it’s important to note that this herbal supplement can negatively interact with any current anti-anxiety or antidepressants you may be taking. Alcohol and other sedative drugs may also worsen depression or anxiety when taken in combination with valerian root. Always share your complete medical history and current medications with a healthcare professional before taking any herbal supplement like valerian root.
Choosing the Best Valerian Root Products
Following a quick Internet search, you’ll see that it’s easy to find and purchase valerian root both online and at your local nutrition store. But how do you know which products are safe and offer the most benefits? Unfortunately, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) doesn’t regulate dietary and herbal supplements the same way it does medications. That means sellers and producers of valerian root products can sell them with limited research — or no research at all.
That’s why it’s important for you to perform extensive research on the product and company before making a purchase. Read reviews and see what other users are saying about their experience not only with the company but the product. You should also consult with your doctor.
Valerian Root May Be the Key to a Better Night’s Sleep
Are you looking for an alternative approach to easing insomnia symptoms and improving your quality of sleep? A healthy mix of lifestyle changes, self-reflection, and medication may help. If you prefer natural remedies, valerian root’s calming and sedative effects may offer relief. Also used to help treat anxiety symptoms, this herbal supplement offers a multifaceted approach to achieving deep sleep.
At Somnus Therapy, we pride ourselves in offering numerous resources, therapy and treatment plan to create an individualized approach that fits your unique needs. Through CBT for insomnia and acceptance and awareness, you can finally identify the cause of your sleep troubles and find a solution that delivers the results you’ve been searching for — blissful nights and productive days.