This native North American plant acts like a mild sedative on the central nervous system. Valerian root makes getting to sleep easier and it increases deep sleep. Unlike popular prescribed sleeping pills, valerian does not lead to dependence or addiction. Nor does it cause a morning drug hangover. Scientists have learned that valerian promotes sleep by interacting with two brain receptors called GABA receptors and benzodiazepine receptors. Compared to drugs like Valium® and Xanax®, valerian binds very weakly to brain receptors.
Valerian Valeriana officinalis for Insomnia Photo Gallery
In one double-blind study conducted in Germany, 44 percent of patients taking valerian root reported perfect sleep, and 89 percent reported improved sleep, compared to those taking the placebo pill.4 Another small study found that individuals with mild insomnia who took 450 milligrams of valerian experienced a significant decrease in sleep problems. The same researchers studied 128 individuals and found that, compared to the placebo, 400 milligrams of valerian produced a significant improvement in sleep quality in people who considered themselves poor sleepers.5
Many experts attribute the herb’s effect to essential oils in the root. Buy a product that is standardized to contain at least 0.5 percent essential oils or 0.8 percent valerenic acid. Take 400 to 900 milligrams in capsule or tablet form, 30 minutes to one hour before bedtime. If you wake up feeling groggy, reduce the dose. Don’t expect results overnight. The herb works better when used over a period of time.
Do not take valerian with alcohol or sedative medications. The herb is not recommended for use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
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