In the United Kingdom, Germany and other European countries, healthcare professionals have officially approved the use valerian as a sleep aid. This perennial wild plant grows in North America and Europe, and has pink flowers growing from roots, rhizome. Rhizome, a part of a plant that is harvested when the plant is about two years old, contains many important ingredients – valepotriates, valeric acid and volatile oils. Each of them was credited with the sedative effect of plants. Many herbalists believe that it is a joint activity of various active ingredients.
How does it work?
For centuries, valerian has been used as a sleep aid, but it also acts as a calming medication in a state of stress. It is used in the treatment of anxiety and disturbances that worsen during periods of stress, such as diverticulosis and iritable bowel syndrome.
MAIN USEFUL EFFECTS: active ingredients of valerian increase the level of chemical substance (neurotransmitter) in the brain with the name gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA. It is believed that the action of these plants (stimulating sleep and alleviating anxiety) is the consequence of this effect. Unlike drugs from the group of benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Apaurin) and alprazolam (Xanax), it does not induce addiction and a sense of numbness. Valerian does not actually stimulate sleep, but calms the brain and body, and the sleep comes as a normal consequence. One of the best properties of these plants when taken at the recommended dose is the lack of feelings of numbness, which occurs when taking some medications.
Studies have shown that this plant is as effective as standard medications and, unlike placebo, it really helps with a sleep. In one research, 128 people took some of the valerian preparations or placebo. It has been shown that this plant improves the quality of sleep: in the first group, which took the herbal preparation, people fell asleep faster and rarely woke up at night. In the second research, almost all the patients who took valerian slept better, and 44% rated their sleep as perfect. Herbalists often recommend valerian to people with anxiety.
ADDITIONAL USEFUL EFFECTS: valerian relaxes the smooth muscles of the digestive system and is useful in irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis, when painful cramps are more frequent. As the disease is spread in stressful times, some of the beneficial effect of valerian is likely to be the result of its calming effect.
How to take it?
DOSAGE: In insomnia: take 250 to 500 mg of valerian extract in the form of capsule or tablets (or a teaspoon of tincture), some 30 to 40 minutes before you go to bed. Studies show that higher doses do not have any extra beneficial effect. If smaller doses have no effect, you may take up to 900 mg of extract (or two teaspoons of tincture). If you have anxiety: take 250 mg twice a day, and 250 to 500 mg before you go to bed.
USE GUIDELINES: since valerian does not have the most pleasant taste, you can mix tincture with little honey or sugar to make it more enjoyable. Although this plant does not cause addiction, it is not advisable to completely depend on it (if you have problems with sleep). Therefore, do not take the medication for longer than 14 days in a row and do not combine it with medication for sleep or rest. This plant may be used with other plants, such as chamomile or lemon balm. When treating depression, it can be combined with cantarion.
Possible side effects
Studies have shown that doses even twice as high as those recommended do not cause side effects. However, enormously high doses can cause dizziness, restlessness, blurred vision, nausea, headaches, unconsciousness or feeling of numbness in the morning.
IMPORTANT: if the preparations are taken during the day after the sleepless night, drowsiness may appear.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take dietary supplements with valerian.