Valerian Root: Evidence Based Benefits and Side Effects

What is valerian root?

Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) is a traditional herb with many medicinal uses. It has also been widely supported by modern science in treating several health conditions.

Valerian Root
Valerian Root

Possible health benefits – What does valerian root do

Sleep disorders

Valepotriates and sesquiterpenes in valerian root have sedative effects that aid in inducing sleep. Regular consumption of the root tea can treat insomnia.

The sleep-wake cycle in humans is regulated by melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. Melatonin in the form of a drug is often given to insomnia patients for healthy sleep. However, valerian root tea is a better alternative remedy for sleep disorders in both adults and children as melatonin medications can cause unwanted side effects.

A study in insomnia patients showed that it significantly improved the quality of sleep.

Anxiety and depression

Valerian root contains valerenic acid that increases the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter responsible for reducing anxiety by regulating the activity of nerve cells. It has greater effects when combined with passion flower.

Application of the essential oil prepared from valerian seeds can have calming effects on the nervous system. Behavioral studies in mice supported its use in treating different types of anxiety, including social anxiety.

Some studies have shown its therapeutic effects on patients suffering from depression.

Stress

Chronic stress due to different lifestyle factors often has an impact on the overall health of an individual. A marked increase in corticosterone levels causes physical and psychological stress, causing unexpected health problems.

In a recent study, it was shown that valerian root liquid extract significantly reduced the corticosterone levels in stress-affected mice.

Muscle cramps

Valerian root tea is good for reducing cramps in the abdominal muscles, making it an effective remedy for ulcerative colitis, and menstrual pain in women.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the relaxing effects of the herb on the muscles of the uterus.

Valerian Root Pictures
Valerian Root Pictures

Hypertension

High blood pressure might lead to several health complications such as kidney failure, heart disorders, and brain hemorrhage. Major studies have shown its positive effects on blood pressure.

Epilepsy

Valerian root is known to reduce the frequency of seizures in epileptic patients, owing to its sedative effects on the nervous system. Its use as an antiepileptic remedy has been supported in many animal studies.

Memory improvement

The tincture of dried valerian root can enhance memory performance and problem-solving skills in both kids and adults. A study in aged mice revealed the powerful effects of valerenic acid on memory function.

Kidney damage

Inability of the kidneys to filter the toxic wastes from the blood could lead to life-threatening consequences. Research studies in animals have shown the usefulness of valerian root powder in repairing damaged kidneys.

Valerian Root Tea
Valerian Root Tea

Other benefits and safety information

Is valerian root an effective cure for bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

The sedative effects of the herbal plant might be useful in treating ADHD and bipolar disorder. However, there are no clinical evidences available to show its positive influence on these conditions.

Can valerian root treat arthritis?

There are no known effects of the herb on inflamed joints. More research is needed to find its effectiveness in treating joint pain.

Valerian Root Images
Valerian Root Images

Can valerian root be used for birth control?

It would be advisable to consult a health physician as the effectiveness of the herb as a birth control remedy has not been confirmed in any clinical study.

Valerian Root Photos
Valerian Root Photos

Can valerian root help in losing weight?

It might work as a weight loss remedy but requires strong scientific evidences.

Are there any side effects of valerian root extract and the tea?

It is usually not associated with any adverse effects. However, high intake of the root tea can cause stomach upset, headache, allergy, and vivid dreams.

Some previous medical reports have linked its overuse to long-term dangers, including liver toxicity and addictiveness.

Is valerian root safe during pregnancy?

It must not be used by pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers as it may lead to various complications and harmful effects in the baby.

Can alcohol be taken along with valerian root?

Combining alcohol with the herb increases the chances of side effects like drowsiness and dizziness.

Valerian Root Plant
Valerian Root Plant

Does valerian root interact with other drugs?

Some drugs like Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin might interact with the herb and cause unwanted effects.

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valerian_%28herb%29

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-870-valerian.aspx?activeingredientid=870&activeingredientname=valerian

http://www.drugs.com/drug-interactions/valerian,valerian-root.html

http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/herbsvitaminsandminerals/valerian

http://www.medicinenet.com/valerian_valeriana_officinalis-oral/article.htm