In use since the second century A.D., valerian root helps ease anxiety, insomnia, nervous restlessness, as well as stomach cramps. The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of valerian and has listed it as "Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)." Many people use valerian root for sleep and it works in most cases. Some research also backs the fact that valerian root may prove beneficial in the treatment of insomnia. Does it really work? What is the best way to use it? Keep reading to find out more.
Does Valerian Roots for Sleep Work?
Yes, valerian roots helps sleep. Valerian is an herb and its root has medicinal properties. It has been used to treat anxiety and nervousness, and as sleeping aid since ages. Valerian root extract can help improve sleep because it has about 150 nerve-calming compounds and promotes sleep latency, which assures a good night's sleep. Besides, taking valerian root tea regularly helps increase the amount of a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid, which in turn produces a calming effect on your nervous system.
Spikenard, garden heliotrope, and all-heal are some of the folk names of valerian. There are about 250 species of this herb, but any product with the dried roots of valerian proves more effective to treat insomnia. You have to take valerian root for sleep about a couple of hours before you go to bed to get better result.
How to Use Valerian Roots for Sleep
If your doctor asks you to take sleeping pills to treat your insomnia, you may first want to try valerian root to improve your ability to get to sleep. It is a natural alternative to synthetic sleeping pills. Here is how to use valerian root for sleep:
- Before going any further, talk to your doctor and confirm that you can use valerian root safely. Like other herbs, it can interact with other drugs that you may be taking.
- Get valerian root – you can get it as dried root for an infusion and in capsules form. Teabags of valerian tea are also available.
- For teabags and capsules, follow all the instructions provided with these products. When using dried root, simply add a teaspoon of ground valerian root to 6 ounces of hot water. Let it steep for about five minutes and drink.
- If you are taking supplements, you should be taking 250-600 mg of it daily to get positive results.
Whatever the way, you need to use valerian root consistently for a week or so to see its effects. It rarely produces any results in the first few days.
Caution: It is generally safe to take supplements of valerian, but you should not exceed the recommended dosage. It is also important to avoid using the herb for more than three weeks because you may become tolerant to its effects. To get the same effects, you will have to take larger doses but this may produce side effects.
General Side Effects of Valerian Root
When using valerian root for sleep, you need to be aware of its side effects as well. You may experience difficult breathing, hives, and swelling of your lips, face, throat and tongue. Other common side effects are upset stomach, headache, dry mouth, disorientation, strange dreams, nervousness and daytime drowsiness.
You should stop using it if you have developed liver problems, such as upper stomach pain, nausea, dark urine, loss of appetite, itching, clay-colored stools, tired feeling and jaundice.
Mind for Interactions
Just like side effects, valerian root can interact with other drugs and supplements.
- It can interact with other health supplements, so avoid using it with catnip, California poppy, Jamaican dogwood, melatonin, kava, chamomile, yerba mansa, St. John's wort, 5-HTP, skullcap, etc.
- It can cause drowsiness and impaired thinking, so you should avoid driving after you take it.
- Do not drink alcohol when taking valerian root because it can increase drowsiness.
- Do not take it with drugs that make you sleepy. So, ask your doctor when taking it with any narcotic pain medicine, sleeping pill, muscle relaxer, or medicine for depression, anxiety or seizures.
- Avoid taking valerian root if you are taking any medicine to treat asthma, anxiety, erectile dysfunction, migraine headaches, heartburn, hypertension, and any type of infection, including tuberculosis, malaria or HIV. Also, do not take it when taking a medicine for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis or other autoimmune disorders.
Keep Instructions and Precautions in Mind
It is true that valerian root for sleep proves effective, but you should also keep its side effects in mind. To keep side effects at bay, you need to know the correct dosage requirements and follow them.
- Be sure to talk to your doctor to confirm how much to take to get positive results. Also, pay attention to any instructions printed on the package and ask pharmacist or other healthcare providers to help you with it.
- When taking a valerian capsule, you should never chew, crush, or break it. Always swallow it whole.
- Discontinue the use of valerian root at least a couple of weeks before any surgery.
- Store valerian products at room temperature and protect from heat and moisture.
While it works well, you should call your doctor if your sleep problems become worse over time.