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Valerian – Uses and Benefits

Valerian

Overview

Latin Name: Valeriana officinalis
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Synonyms: Valerian root, Valeriana, Valeriana radix
Common Names: Valerian, All-heal, Garden Valerian, Capon’s tail, Phu, Setwell, Vandal root

Natural or Hybrid: Valeriana officinalis is a natural plant species.

Wild Species: Valeriana officinalis is commonly found in the wild in various parts of the world.

Description:

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a perennial herbaceous plant known for its fragrant, delicate, and pinnate leaves, which are composed of smaller leaflets. It can grow up to 5 feet in height, with a hollow, upright stem. The plant is most renowned for its underground parts, the rhizomes and roots, which possess a strong, distinctive odour. Valerian produces clusters of small, fragrant, white or pinkish flowers that bloom in the summer months. These flowers are arranged in umbels and attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. The root system of Valerian consists of thick, gnarled rhizomes that give rise to the roots, which are the primary part used for medicinal purposes.

Properties and Actions:

Valerian has been traditionally used as a sedative, anxiolytic, and mild analgesic. It contains compounds such as valerenic acid, valeranone, and various alkaloids, which are believed to contribute to its sedative properties. Valerian is known to relax smooth muscle, making it useful for conditions like insomnia, anxiety, and muscle cramps. It also has antispasmodic and carminative properties, aiding in digestive complaints. The root’s calming effect on the nervous system is attributed to its impact on GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors.

Valerian flowers

Valerian flowers

Parts Used Medicinally:

The root and rhizome of the Valerian plant are used for medicinal purposes. The root and rhizome are commonly used to prepare various herbal remedies. They can be used fresh or dried to make tinctures, capsules, teas, and extracts.

Medicinal Uses:

Valerian has a long history of use in various parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, and North America, for its medicinal properties. It is cultivated and wild-harvested in many regions. It is used mainly for:

  1. Insomnia and Sleep Disorders: Valerian has long been used as a natural remedy to improve sleep quality and treat insomnia.
  2. Anxiety and Stress: Valerian can help alleviate anxiety and stress due to its sedative effects.
  3. Muscle Relaxation: It is used to ease muscle tension and relieve cramps.
  4. Digestive Disorders: Valerian’s antispasmodic properties make it beneficial for gastrointestinal complaints like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and indigestion.

Preparation and Dosage:

  • Valerian root can be consumed in various forms, such as capsules, tinctures, or teas. The recommended dosage may vary depending on the specific product and the individual’s needs.
  • Typical doses for insomnia and anxiety range from 300 to 600 mg of dried Valerian root or 2 to 3 mL of tincture taken 30 minutes to 2 hours before bedtime.
Valerian plant

Valerian plant

Scientific Research:

Numerous scientific studies have investigated the efficacy of Valerian in treating insomnia, anxiety, and other conditions. The exact mechanisms of Valerian’s actions are still the subject of ongoing research. Here are some research information:

  1. Effectiveness of Valerian on insomnia: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials
    MI Fernandez-San-Martin, R Masa-Font, L Palacios-Soler, P Sancho-Gomez, C Calbo-Caldentey, and G Flores-Mateo.
    Review published: 2010.
    Summary: The review concluded that the evidence suggested that valerian would be effective for a subjective improvement for insomnia, although its effectiveness was not demonstrated with quantitative or objective measurements.
    Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20347389/
  2. Valerian-hops combination and diphenhydramine for treating insomnia: a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial
    Authors: Charles M Morin, Uwe Koetter, Célyne Bastien, J Catesby Ware, Virgil Wooten
    Published: 2005
    Summary: Overall, these findings indicate that a valerian-hops combination and diphenhydramine might be useful adjuncts in the treatment of mild insomnia.
    Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16335333/
  3. Valerian for Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
    Author: Stephen Bent, MD, Amy Padula, MS, Dan Moore, PhD, Michael Patterson, MS, and Wolf Mehling, MD
    Published: 2006
    Summary: This systematic review suggests that valerian may improve sleep quality, but methodologic problems of the included studies limit the ability to draw firm conclusions.
    Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394901/
  4. Plant Extracts for Sleep Disturbances: A Systematic Review
    Authors: S. Guadagna, D. F. Barattini, S. Rosu, and L. Ferini-Strambi
    Summary: Sleep aids based on plant extracts are generally safe and well tolerated by the population.
    Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7191368/
Valerian root

Valerian root

Herbal Recipes:

  1. Valerian Tincture: To prepare a tincture, macerate dried Valerian root in alcohol (usually vodka) for several weeks, then strain and bottle it. The tincture can be taken in small doses to promote relaxation and alleviate anxiety or insomnia.
  2. Valerian Tea: Steep dried Valerian root in hot water for about 10-15 minutes to make a relaxing tea. It can be consumed before bedtime to aid with sleep.

6 Medicinal Recipes for Valerian

Here are six medicinal recipes using Valerian:

  1. Valerian Tincture for Insomnia

    Ingredients:

    • Dried Valerian root
    • High-proof alcohol (e.g., vodka)

    Instructions:

    1. Fill a glass jar with dried Valerian root.
    2. Pour alcohol over the root until it is fully submerged.
    3. Seal the jar tightly and store it in a cool, dark place for 2-4 weeks, shaking it daily.
    4. Strain the tincture, discarding the plant material.
    5. Take 1-2 mL (approximately 20-40 drops) before bedtime to improve sleep quality.
  2. Valerian Tea for Anxiety

    Ingredients:

    • Dried Valerian root
    • Boiling water

    Instructions:

    1. Steep 1-2 teaspoons of dried Valerian root in a cup of boiling water for 10-15 minutes.
    2. Strain and drink the tea to help alleviate anxiety and promote relaxation. You can consume it 2-3 times a day.
  3. Valerian and Lemon Balm Relaxing Syrup

    Ingredients:

    • Dried Valerian root
    • Dried Lemon Balm leaves
    • Agave nectar or date sugar
    • Water

    Instructions:

    1. Simmer 1 part Valerian root and 1 part Lemon Balm in 4 parts water for 15-20 minutes.
    2. Strain the liquid and mix it with an equal amount of agave or date sugar.
    3. Take 1-2 teaspoons of this syrup as needed for relaxation and stress relief.
  4. Valerian and Chamomile Sleep Pillow

    Ingredients:

    • Dried Valerian root
    • Dried Chamomile flowers
    • Muslin or cotton bag

    Instructions:

    1. Mix dried Valerian root and Chamomile flowers in a muslin or cotton bag.
    2. Place the bag under your pillow to promote a restful night’s sleep and alleviate anxiety.
  5. Valerian and Lavender Bath Salts

    Ingredients:

    • Epsom salts
    • Dried Valerian root
    • Dried Lavender flowers

    Instructions:

    1. Combine Epsom salts with dried Valerian root and Lavender flowers.
    2. Add this mixture to your bath for a calming and relaxing soak that can help relieve muscle tension and promote restful sleep.
  6. Valerian and Peppermint Digestive Tincture

    Ingredients:

    • Dried Valerian root
    • Dried Wild mint leaves
    • High-proof alcohol (e.g., vodka)

    Instructions:

    1. Fill a glass jar with dried Valerian root and wild mint leaves.
    2. Cover the herbs with alcohol and seal the jar.
    3. Store it in a cool, dark place for 2-4 weeks, shaking daily.
    4. Strain the tincture, and take a small dose (e.g., 1 mL) before or after meals to help with digestive discomfort and relax gastrointestinal muscles.
  7. If you feel you need specialised assistance see a herbalist before using these recipes, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications, to ensure they are appropriate for your specific needs.

    Contraindications, Interactions, and Side Effects:

    • Valerian is generally considered safe when used as directed. However, it may cause drowsiness, so it should not be used before driving or operating heavy machinery.
    • Individuals with liver disease should use Valerian with caution, as there have been rare reports of liver toxicity associated with its use. Valerian may interact with medications such as sedatives, anti-anxiety drugs, and alcohol, potentially enhancing their effects.
    • Some people may experience mild side effects, including headaches, dizziness, and gastrointestinal upset.

    Reference(s):

    Blumenthal, M., Goldberg, A., & Brinckmann, J. (Eds.). (2000). Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. American Botanical Council.
    Marderosian, A. H., & Liberti, L. (Eds.). (2000). Valerian. In Natural Product Medicine: A Scientific Guide to Foods, Drugs, Cosmetics. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
    Sarris, J., & Panossian, A. (2019). Herbal medicine in the treatment of psychiatric disorders: A systematic review. Phytotherapy Research, 33(10), 2634-2642.
    Bent, S., Padula, A., & Moore, D. (2006). Valerian for sleep: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Medicine, 119(12), 1005-1012.
    GABA Receptor. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/gaba-receptor.

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    The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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