Botanical name: Valeriana officinalis
Plant part used medicinally: Root
Traditional Uses: Sleep-promoting effects of Valerian have been recognized in Europe since the 18th century and is currently the world’s top-selling herbal supplement for insomnia. Historically also been used for many other conditions including anxiety, depression, migraine, rheumatic pain and spasms.According to renowned herbalist Matthew Wood “valerian is principally used as a remedy for insomnia or to relax muscles and ease pain”. The Modern Herbalism Textbook describes valerian as being the most effective for people with excess sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system activity.
Important chemical components: Valerenic acid and free amino acids such as GABA and tyrosine.
Cautions/side effects: No significant adverse effects or herb/drug interactions, may potentiate effects of other sedatives. In large doses, or in rare susceptible individuals, can cause opposite reaction of restlessness and wakefulness.
Research supports its effectiveness in treating anxiety, insomnia and muscle tension attributed to binding GABA receptors and affecting levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor).
Studies on valerian show:
- reduced insomnia and increased deep sleep
- improvement in symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal
- lessened anxiety
- skeletal muscle relaxation
Donath F et al. Critical evaluation of the effect of valerian extract on sleep structure and sleep quality. Pharmacopsychiatry. 2000 Mar;33(2):47-53
Caudal D et al. Skeletal muscle relaxant effect of a standardized extract of Valeriana officinalis L. after acute administration in mice. J Tradit Complement Med. 2017 Oct 12;8(2):335-340
Andreatini R et al. Effect of valepotriates (valerian extract) in generalized anxiety disorder: a randomized placebo-controlled pilot study. Phytother Res. 2002 Nov;16(7):650-4
Andreatini R, Leite JR. Effect of valepotriates on the behavior of rats in the elevated plus-maze during diazepam withdrawal. Eur J Pharmacol. 1994 Aug 1;260(2-3):233-5
Poyares DR et al. Can valerian improve the sleep of insomniacs after benzodiazepine withdrawal? Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Apr;26(3):539-45
Gonulalan EM et al. The roles of valerenic acid on BDNF expression in the SH-SY5Y cell. Saudi Pharm J. 2018 Nov;26(7):960-964