Health Benefits of Valerian

Valerian is a tall, perennial herb with pink-colored flowers. It grows wild throughout the world in Asia, Europe, and of course, North America.

Its underground stems are what’s harvested and that is where its abundant healing compounds are located. Clearly, the effects of valerian are pronounced.

We’ll cover both the positive and the negative, the pros and the cons. First, let’s do the positive. Later on, we’ll show you what to look for when choosing valerian supplements.

Health Benefits

Anciently, valerian was touted as a potent relaxant and stress reducer as well as for its anti-spasmodic and muscle-relaxing properties.

It has also been used in alleviating digestive problems including but not limited to diverticulosis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Its proclaimed soothing effects also purportedly help insomniacs as it promotes sound sleep. It is also used as an oil for bathing as its soothing, calming effect when taken as an oil for bathing although scientific evidence is limited at this point to verify that claim. The chief health benefits of valerian are:

  • Valerian is an anti-stress agent as it is thought to block brain receptors for the neurotransmitter GABA.
  • As mentioned, it is a proven insomnia aid. Swedish researchers found 89% gained not only sleep, but sound sleep. It is also non-addictive unlike other prescribed sleeping pills.
  • Eases panic attack symptoms as well as other nervous conditions.
  • Improves menstrual flow and reduces cramps.
  • Relieves headaches (unless taken in high, consistent doses — then, it can cause headaches).

Clearly, the anti-stress elements of valerian cannot be discounted.

Side Effects

What are valerian side effects? When taken in recommended doses, which are 250 mg to 500 mg per day, valerian is a very safe herb. When taking high doses or if using only valerian for more than two weeks at a time, some side effects are: dizziness, grogginess, heart palpitations, and nausea. Lastly, according to one source,

“Don’t take valerian with any muscle relaxants (carisoprodol, cyclobenzaprine), narcotic pain relievers (codeine, hydrocodone), prescription sleep medications, tranquilizers, or other drugs that can make you sleepy (including certain antihistamines).”

If you have any questions at all, consult with your doctor.

How to Choose a Valerian Alternative Health Supplement

  • Ideally, the supplements should be produced at pharmaceutical standard GMP registered facilities. Facilities that are GMP registered comply with the most rigid standards so as to minimize the possibility of product contaminants. (These are the same standards pharmaceutical companies in the United States are required to operate under as mandated by the FDA.)
  • Freshly picked valierian is, of course, the optimal way to obtain valerian, but this is impractical. Therefore, make sure you obtain freeze-dried extract — especially if it’s freeze-dried immediately upon harvesting. Freeze drying ensures maximum freshness.
  • Make sure your valerian supplement is made from standardized extracts that contain 0.8% valerenic, which researchers say is the chief active compound.

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