There’s a good reason why valerian root is often called “nature’s Valium” — Research shows that valerian root can reduce anxiety and help a person sleep better.
Valerian root is an herb that comes from the root of the flowering plant Valerian, belonging to the Valerianaceae family and native to Europe and Asia. While the flowers have a nice scent, the root has a sharp, distinct smell that may put people off. This is due to the volatile oils and other compounds that are responsible for valerian root’s sedative effects.
People from ancient Greece and Rome used the root as a natural remedy for insomnia, headaches, stress and anxiety. Nowadays, it is commonly used by people to help them fall asleep. Valerian root is available in various forms: powder, liquid extract, capsule, tablet and tea.
Valerian root reduces anxiety and spurs good sleep
One study found that the root significantly improved sleep quality among poor sleepers, smokers and people who take a longer time falling asleep. Researchers said that the participants who took valerian root displayed increased levels of gamma-Aminobutyric acid or GABA. This works as a neurotransmitter that helps regulate nerve impulses in the brain and the nervous system.
Previous research revealed that low GABA levels related to acute and chronic stress are associated with anxiety and low-quality sleep. Valerenic acid, which is found in the root’s extract, was found to inhibit the breakdown of GABA in the brain which causes feelings of calmness. Medications for anxiety and insomnia also work in a similar manner in the brain.
Along with other compounds in the root, valerenic acid may also reduce excessive activity in the amygdala. The amygdala is the part of the brain that processes fear and emotional responses to stress. In one study, mice treated with valerian displayed better responses to physical and psychological stress by maintaining levels of serotonin. This, in turn, regulates mood and is believed to influence the quality of sleep.
Valerian root is also rich in hesperidin and linarin — antioxidants that were found to have a sedative effect as well as properties that enhance sleep. Meanwhile, isovaleric acid in valerian root has been known to prevent sudden or involuntary muscle contractions similar to valproic acid, a medication used to treat epilepsy. (Related: Vitamins, supplements and teas: Relieve anxiety naturally with these 16 home remedies.)
How much valerian root extract to take
The appropriate dosage of valerian root varies according to what ailment a person wants to target.
When using valerian root for sleep, research recommends taking 400 milligrams (mg) of the liquid extract. According to one study, this dosage appears to improve the sleep patterns of people who are self-reported poor sleepers.
Valerian tea has also been linked to improving insomnia, so instead of taking the extract itself, a person may also drink valerian root tea.
For treating anxiety, one study found that taking 50 mg of valerian extract three times daily for four weeks significantly reduced anxiety levels. Further research showed that a daily dose of 600 mg for seven days reduced stress as well as systolic blood pressure. Still, consulting with a medical professional regarding the right dosage is advised.
Valerian root, a potent superfood, ranks as one of the most powerful herbs that improve sleep. For poor sleepers or people suffering from anxiety, valerian root can be an effective and natural alternative to available medications.
Learn more about the benefits of valerian root at Herbs.news.