Herbal Supplements
Scientific Proofs of Valerian’s Effectiveness

A human body is far from being a “perpetum mobile”. It needs much rest and good care to function well. Nature has reserved the time for rest – it is a night, when all we can restore our strength and give a break to out nervous system after the hard work and psychological stresses of the day-time.

However, many people cannot have healing rest at night, because their bodies are tortured by insomnia. Others cannot get rid of the anxiety even spending a quiet and soothing evening with friends and relatives. Doctors would prescribe them very effective pills (but the latter always have side effects); traditional herbalists would unambiguously recommend to try Valerian – the herb, which people all around the world have been using for centuries to fight sleeping disorders and to sooth the nervous system.

Indeed, Valerian is a powerful sedative; and an anxiolytic. Although it was said to be effective against many different diseases, its main function is to cause the relaxation of the whole body and provoke sleep.

Nowadays scientists carry out multiple trials to discover and make official conclusions concerning the power and effect of Valerian on human bodies.

Actually, the work that has already been done proves that Valerian plant (herbalists and scientists usually employ only one sort – V. officinalis) can really help fight insomnia (usually improving the ability to fall asleep, increasing total sleep time, reducing sleep latency, and making the quality of all sleep stages better), lessen the stress (decreasing systolic blood pressure and heart rate reaction), and reduce anxiety (especially GAD – generalized anxiety disorder).

Many people, who considered themselves to be poor sleepers, reported about the positive effect of Valerian extract after the clinical trials. Researchers concluded that the herb worked best in older male patients, female poor sleepers, younger people, smokers and those who had lengthy sleep latencies.

A great advantage of Valerian treatment was that patients noticed no side effects in response to the doses of the extract used in the trials (400 to 600 mg of a standardized commercial preparation of dried Valerian root). Still, overdose in anything is dangerous. The known symptoms of Valerian overdose are dizziness, blurry vision, nausea, restlessness, excitability, and grogginess upon awakening.

As for the anxiety disorders, clinical trials proved the improvement of patient’s state, significantly decreased subjective feelings of somatic arousal, and reduction in the psychic factor of the Hamilton Anxiety Scale in response to either valerian – propranolol tincture (100mg Valerian, 20mg propranolol), or Valerian extract (50 mg – 3 times daily in one trial and 600 mg of Valerian in comparison to 120mg of Kava Kava and placebo daily in another study).

The results of the trials made are quite promising. Nevertheless, many questions still remain: why do some people not respond to Valerian extract; who cannot take it; what are the consequences of the long-term Valerian usage...? There is no data on all these issues. To be on the safe side, pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as children under 3 are not recommended to take this sedative. High doses are also forbidden.

To study all these aspects, scientists must understand the mechanism of Valerian activity and its components better. For the time being, they defined such constituents in Valerian extract: volatile oil (including valeric acid), iridoids (valepotriates), alkaloids, furanofuran lignans, and free amino acids such as g-aminobutyric acid (GABA), tyrosine, arginine, and glutamine. What ingredient is responsible for the sedative and hypnotic effect is not known exactly. There are two versions, however: either volatile oil or the whole bouquet (which is more likely) may produce such effect.

Scientists suggest that Valerian extract increases the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter) and blocks an enzyme that destroys it. This may cause the sleep-provoking effect of Valerian.

Hopefully, scientists will find the answers to all their and our questions. For the time being, it is possible to confirm that Valerian helped and still helps many people at least lessen, if not solve, their sleeping and anxiety disorders.


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More About Valerian...

Valerian and Insomnia

Valerian, a tall, wispy perennial plant from Valerianaceae family, grows in Europe and Northern ...

Valerian: the Basics

“Men who begin to fight and when you wish to stop them, give to them the juice of Amantilla id est ...

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