Valerian root has been used for thousands of years for its qualities to soothe and calm the central nervous system and for other medicinal purposes. Valerian root is derived from a perennial flower that grows mainly in Europe, South Africa, Asia and has now been introduced into North America for production and harvest. The name Valerian means to be strong and healthy in Latin. One of the prevalent things about Valerian is its very strong and pungent odor. Many feel that this is the main reason it was given its name.
We can find references going back to the Ancient Greeks who used this herbal preparation for digestive disturbances, liver ailments, nausea and vomiting and for insomnia. Valerian has been used since medieval times for nervous conditions such as anxiety disorders, hysteria especially in females, insomnia, and epilepsy. We can also find reference to Valerian being used as a diuretic for other chronic conditions.
Valerian has been used throughout history for its sedative purposes. It is very popular as a natural type of sedative or anxiety agent for those who do not want to take prescription medication for those problems. It is very helpful to people who have insomnia. Valerian is not habit forming nor does it cause side effects such as feeling hung over the next morning which are side effects that continue to plague the prescription medications that are used for these problems.
Some other great uses for valerian that are not as widely known are to relieve the pain of menstrual cramps and the anxiety and mood swings of PMS. Valerian has been successfully used to treat the pain of migraine headaches as well as abdominal cramps and nausea that are related to digestive ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Valerian was used during history for epilepsy. We have found reference to Valerian being used to treat seizures that are related to epilepsy however there is little or no scientific evidence that Valerian is effective in this respect. It would be wise to consult with a medical professional and to approach this cautiously before adding Valerian to other medications used for seizures due to its sedative effect.
Researchers feel that valerian has some effect on the GABA receptors in the brain and that it has the ability to keep GABA from being broken down by the body. Valerian root has a high amount of GABA in its chemical make up. GABA is one of the main neurotransmitters that is responsible for inhibiting excitability in the brain and central nervous system. It regulates the amount of excitability or irritability that the central nervous system is exposed to.
Valerian root is available for consumers in the forms of capsules, tablets and as a tea. The regular recommended dosage of Valerian for most adults is 300-600 milligrams of the root extract per day. Valerian is recommended to be taken approximately 30 minutes before bedtime. Dosages can be adjusted to the individual if Valerian is used to treat a nervous condition or anxiety disorder. Lower dosage throughout the day may be warranted. A healthcare provider should be consulted prior to taking Valerian root to establish the safety and efficacy of this supplement.
Women who are pregnant or nursing should not take valerian root. People who are taking sedatives or drink alcohol should not take this supplement as it will increase the effect of the other medication or alcohol. This is also true for other preparations that include over the counter cold, sinus and sleep medications.
There are some medications that Valerian can inhibit the absorption or effectiveness of. These medications include allergy medication, cancer drugs, anti-fungal medications, and some cholesterol medications. Anyone taking these medications and Valerian or considering taking it should consult their healthcare provider before doing so.
Valerian has few side effects however they do need to be mentioned here. Some people have reported headaches, dizziness, some nausea and some drowsiness during the daytime. Anyone taking Valerian and experiencing these side effects should stop taking it and consult their healthcare provider.
Valerian root is not habit forming like some prescription sleep medications however some people who have taken the herb for long periods of time have reported some mild withdrawal symptoms when they stopped taking it. It is recommended to taper off the dosage if stopping the herbal supplement rather than stopping it all together.