Valerian Root For Insomnia: Effectiveness and Side Effects

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With its long history of usage as a sleep aid and frequent claims of anti-anxiety benefits, valerian root is a natural remedy. It is offered as a nutritional supplement in the US in a variety of forms, including as a powder in capsules, a liquid extract, and a tea (either by itself or in herbal tea blends).

Varying concentrations of the herb’s chemical components in various products may be the cause of the conflicting results of studies on valerian’s efficacy as a sleep aid. But virtually every investigation has found that valerian is generally safe, with only a few major negative effects identified. 

valerian root for insomnia

But it doesn’t imply that using this supplement doesn’t come with hazards. There haven’t been many long-term valerian studies, so it’s unclear if taking it frequently for years has any health hazards.

There are plenty of reasons to exercise caution when using valerian, notwithstanding the acknowledged hazards connected with it. Here is everything we understand regarding the potential adverse effects of valerian and why you might want to think twice before taking it.

Insomnia

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Because it is seen as soothing and harmless, valerian is a well-liked substitute for pharmaceutical sleep aids. According to some research, it facilitates sleep and makes people feel as though their sleep is of greater significance.

Valerian may come with fewer negative consequences than many prescription sleeping drugs, such as morning tiredness.

However, not every investigation has discovered an advantageous benefit for valerian. According to one assessment of several trials, valerian probably has little effect on treating insomnia. The evidence presented is still inconclusive.

To treat insomnia, valerian is frequently mixed with other sedative herbs, including hops (Humulus lupulus) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). In one study, valerian and lemon balm combined to lessen the symptoms of sleeplessness in postmenopausal women.

According to one of the best-designed trials, valerian was slightly more beneficial compared to a placebo for the first 14 days, but by day 28, it significantly improved sleep quality for those taking it. Some studies now believe that Valerian may take a few weeks to start working. In contrast, valerian proved more beneficial than a placebo in a different study practically right away.

According to other research, valerian speeds up the process of falling asleep and enhances the quality of sleep. 

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Common Valerian Side Effects

The National Institutes of Health states that only a small number of serious adverse effects have been observed in valerian clinical studies. Furthermore, those who took placebos, or inert pills, also experienced some of the most frequently reported adverse effects. 

The following are some of Valerian’s most common side effects:

  • Headaches
  • Unsteadiness
  • An itchy body
  • upset in the stomach
  • Unusual heartbeats (1, 2)

Since valerian is frequently used as a sleep aid, sleepiness is typically regarded as a benefit rather than an adverse consequence. But you ought to be conscious that this medication could also make you a little tired if you’re taking it in smaller amounts to aid in anxiety relief. Because of this, you shouldn’t consume valerian if you need to be awake or are driving. 

Some data suggests that valerian may make some people drowsier the morning after taking it. Your supplement dose may play a role in this; greater amounts may make you feel more sleepy the following day. 

Valerian can have what is known as a paradoxical effect on certain people, making them feel less drowsy while perhaps contributing to sleeplessness. If you consumed valerian before retiring and then discovered it harder than normal to fall asleep, this could have been the case. 

Although the effects of valerian on people who have abnormal cardiac rhythms have not been thoroughly researched, it has been shown to slow the heart rate in some individuals and may cause some irregular rhythms. Due to the aforementioned reason, you should take Valerian with the utmost caution if you already have an irregular heartbeat.

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Although valerian is not known to disrupt sleep patterns or cause peaceful sleep, this may not be possible if it results in insomnia.

It’s possible that your dose was too high or that valerian made it harder for you to fall asleep if you feel sleepy the next morning. 

Possible Valerian Drug Interactions

Dietary supplements may interact with any additional supplements or medications you take, just like traditional medicines and treatments can. This is why it’s crucial that you talk about valerian use with your healthcare provider if you regularly take any other medications or dietary supplements. 

Unless you’re doing so under a doctor’s supervision, you shouldn’t take valerian with any other medication or supplement meant to promote relaxation or treat anxiety or depression since it might make you drowsy. These medicines, along with supplements for food, involve the following:

  • Benzodiazepines like triazolam (Halcion), lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), and alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Barbiturates like propofol (Diprivan) and phenobarbital (Luminal)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are examples of antidepressants or anxiolytics.
  • Codeine, hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin), acetaminophen and oxycodone (Percocet), methadone, or morphine are examples of narcotics or opiates.
  • Any sleeping pills, whether they are prescribed or available over-the-counter (OTC), such as zolpidem (Ambien), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and zaleplon (Sonata).
  • Dietary supplements such as melatonin, kava, and St. John’s wort.

When taken with valerian, the sedative effects of alcohol, a depressant that can have a sedative impact on certain people, may be exacerbated. If you take valerian throughout the day, avoid drinking alcohol, provided you are familiar with how the two together impact you in any way possible. You should be aware that drinking alcohol in the evening may intensify the effects of valerian at night. 

Who Must Not Use Valerian?

It is usually advised to see a medical professional prior to beginning the use of any new nutritional supplement. This can be particularly valid for valerian individuals who also use other medications or dietary supplements.

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Those who belong to the following categories shouldn’t consume valerian:

  • those who have liver disease.
  • Women who are expecting or nursing
  • children under the age of three 

It’s best to stay away from valerian if you’re pregnant or nursing because the possible effects on a growing fetus or a newborn infant haven’t been studied. Children shouldn’t be given valerian since its effects on young children haven’t been studied.

Resources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394901/

Balderer G, Borbely AA. Effect of valerian on human sleep. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1985;87(4):406-409.

Bent S, Padula A, Moore D, Patterson M, Mehling W. Valerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2006;119(12):1005-1012. Review.

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