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Valerian

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What other names is Valerian known by?

All-Heal, Amantilla, Baldrian, Baldrianwurzel, Belgium Valerian, Common Valerian, Fragrant Valerian, Garden Heliotrope, Garden Valerian, Grande Valériane, Guérit Tout, Herbe à la Femme Meurtrie, Herbe aux Chats, Herbe aux Coupures, Herbe de Notre-Dame, Herbe de Saint-Georges, Herbe du Loup, Indian Valerian, Mexican Valerian, Pacific Valerian, Rhizome de Valériane, Tagar, Tagar-Ganthoda, Tagara, Valeriana, Valeriana angustifolia, Valeriana edulis, Valeriana jatamansii, Valeriana officinalis, Valeriana Pseudofficinalis, Valeriana Rhizome, Valeriana sitchensis, Valeriana wallichii, Valerianae Radix, Valeriane, Valériane, Valériane à Petites Feuilles, Valériane Africaine, Valériane Celtique, Valériane Commune, Valériane de Belgique, Valériane des Collines, Valériane Dioïque, Valériane du Jardin, Valériane Indienne, Valériane Mexicaine, Valériane Officinale, Valériane Sauvage.

What is Valerian?

Valerian is an herb. Medicine is made from the root.

Valerian is most commonly used for sleep disorders, especially the inability to sleep (insomnia). It is frequently combined with hops, lemon balm, or other herbs that also cause drowsiness. Some people who are trying to withdraw from the use of "sleeping pills" use valerian to help them sleep after they have tapered the dose of the sleeping pill. There is some scientific evidence that valerian works for sleep disorders, although not all studies are positive.

Valerian is also used for conditions connected to anxiety and psychological stress including nervous asthma, hysterical states, excitability, fear of illness (hypochondria), headaches, migraine, and stomach upset.

Some people use valerian for depression, mild tremors, epilepsy, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Valerian is used for muscle and joint pain. Some women use valerian for menstrual cramps and symptoms associated with menopause, including hot flashes and anxiety.

Sometimes, valerian is added to bath water to help with restlessness and sleep disorders.

In manufacturing, the extracts and oil made from valerian are used as flavoring in foods and beverages.

Is Valerian effective?

There is some scientific evidence that valerian can help people who have trouble sleeping. It seems to help people fall asleep faster and get a better night's rest. Valerian might work about as well as some low-dose sleeping pills, but it may take up to a month of nightly use before sleeping improves.

There is also some evidence that valerian can improve mood and the ability to concentrate.

There isn't enough information to know whether or not valerian is effective for the other conditions people use it for, including: depression, convulsions, mild tremors, epilepsy, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), muscle and joint pain, headache, stomach upset, menstrual pains, menopausal symptoms including hot flashes and anxiety, and many others. Do not use valerian for these conditions until more is known.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Inability to sleep (insomnia). Some research suggests that valerian does not relieve insomnia as fast as "sleeping pills." Continuous use for several days, even up to four weeks, may be needed before an effect is noticeable. Valerian seems to improve the sleep quality of people who are withdrawing from the use of sleeping pills. Not all evidence is positive, however. Some studies have found that valerian doesn't improve insomnia any better than a "sugar pill" (placebo).

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Anxiety. There is contradictory evidence about the effectiveness of valerian for anxiety. Some people have reported that it seems to reduce stress in social situations. Yet, other studies have shown no effect.
  • Depression. Some early research suggests that taking valerian plus St. John's wort improves symptoms of depression. Taking higher doses of valerian with St. John's wort improves depression symptoms faster than low doses.
  • Restlessness. A specific combination product, providing valerian root extract 160 mg and lemon balm leaf extract 80 mg (Euvegal forte, Schwabe Pharmaceuticals), has been tried to reduce symptoms of serious restlessness (dyssomnia) in children under the age of 12. Early results show it might be effective, but more research is needed.
  • Menstrual disorders (dysmenorrhea). Early research suggests that taking valerian three times daily for two menstrual cycles reduces pain and the need for other pain relievers during menstruation.
  • Stress. Early research suggests that taking 600 mg of valerian for 7 days reduces blood pressure, heart rate and feelings of pressure when under stress. Other research found that taking 100 mg before speaking in front of an audience reduces feelings of anxiety. Another study found that taking a combination product containing valerian and lemon balm night lower anxiety caused by stress at low doses but increase anxiety when taken in larger doses.
  • Convulsions.
  • Mild tremors.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
  • Muscle and joint pain.
  • Headache.
  • Stomach upset.
  • Menopausal symptoms including hot flashes and anxiety.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of valerian for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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