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What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Valerian?

More than 200 plant species belong to the genus Valeriana,but the one most commonly used as an herb is Valeriana officinalis.The root is used for medicinal purposes.

Galen recommended valerian for insomnia in the second century AD. From the sixteenth century onward, this herb became popular as a sedative in Europe (and later, the United States). Scientific studies on valerian in humans began in the 1970s, leading to its approval as a sleep aid by Germany's Commission E in 1985. However, the scientific evidence showing that valerian really works remains incomplete.

As with most herbs, we are not exactly sure which ingredients in valerian are most important. 1 Early research focused on a group of chemicals known as valepotriates, but they are no longer considered candidates. A...

Valerian is commonly recommended as a mild treatment for occasional insomnia . However, evidence from the best positive study on valerian suggests that it is only useful when taken over an extended period of time for chronic sleep disorders. 2 Overall, it is not clear whether valerian is effective for sleep at all. 3 Like other treatments used for insomnia, valerian has also been proposed as a treatment for anxiety , but there is no reliable evidence as yet that it is effective.

Finally, valerian is sometimes suggested as a treatment for a nervous stomach; however, as of yet, there is no supporting scientific evidence for this use.

Safety Issues

Valerian is on the FDA's GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list and is approved for use as a food. In animals, it takes enormous doses of valerian to produce any serious adverse effects. 4 Valerian has shown an excellent safety profile in clinical trials. 5 In a suicide attempt, one young woman took approximately 20 g of valerian (20 to 40 times the recommended dose). Only mild symptoms developed, including stomach cramps, fatigue, chest tightness, tremors, and light-headedness. All of these resolved within 24 hours, after two treatments with activated charcoal. 6 The woman's lab tests—including tests of her liver function—remained normal. Keep in mind that this does not mean that you can safely exceed the recommended dose!

One report did find toxic results...