What is Valerian?
Valerian is a medicinal herb that is used to treat insomnia. It increases the time spent in sleeping and rapid eye movement. Valerian has been used for a long time and is still undergoing clinical trials and studies.
What does Valerian contain?
Valerian supplements contain ingredients from the roots of the valerian herb. The supplement consists of ingredients such as rhizomes and stolons.
Valerian also includes ingredients such as volatile oils, valerenic acids, and valepotriates. Other compounds are also present. The active ingredient that causes sleepiness is still subject to debate. Some studies claim that it may be melatonin or valepotriates.
How is the Valerian supplement made?
The dried roots are made as tea. Tea, dried plant materials, and extracts are put into capsules.
Recent studies have shown that valerian effectively treats Insomnia. In clinical trials, people were given valerian root extract or a placebo. People taking the valerian root extract reported significant improvement in sleeping without morning grogginess.
Valerian also improves sleep latency, which is the time taken to fall asleep. In a double blind study when patients were given valerian extract, they reported significant improvement in sleep latency. Interestingly, higher dose of valerian extract seemed to show the same results as that of moderate dose of valerian extract, whereas in clinical trials it was shown that higher dose brought about better sleep latency.
In some studies, valerian has been shown to improve reaction times. This herb can be taken without alcohol. Valerian extract also has no side effects. However, prolonged use of valerian may cause side effects.
So, regarding to studies and clinical trials, valerian has shown to improve sleep quality, improve reaction times, and decrease anxiety in people. Placebo was far less effective in the studies. Thus, this strongly supports valerian extracts effectiveness.
Historical Uses of Valerian
The uses of valerian go back to the medieval century. Hippocrates extolled valerian’s effectiveness. In the 2nd century, Galen prescribed valerian for insomnia. In the 16th century, valerian was used to treat heart conditions and nervousness and headaches. In the 19th century, valerian was used as a stimulant. During World War II, valerian was used to treat stress.
How does Valerian work?
How valerian works is yet to be confirmed. In fact, many doctors claim that the process is still a mystery. Esters are lost when valerian root is dried and stored for a long time. For that reason, the herb’s effectiveness may vary to a large extent. So, how effective Valerian extract is depends on the quality of the brand.
Valerian consists of chemicals called valepotriates. These chemicals have strong muscle-relaxant and sedative properties. These chemicals are especially concentrated in the roots of the valerian herb. However, that these chemicals cause sleepiness is still contradictory as extracts from the root, excluding valepotriates, has caused people fall asleep.
According to clinical trials, valerian seemed to affect the central nervous systems. Researchers found significant sedative activity. This sedative activity was recorded as an increase in brain waves associated with relaxation. On the other hand, when another group of subjects was given valerian root, the subjects showed different results of sedative activity. So, another chemical, probably melatonin, may be causing sleepiness.
On the other hand, some studies claim that this effect may arise due to the interactions of multiple ingredients than one active ingredient.
Can Valerian be harmful?
There are adverse side-effects shown in studies and clinical trials. However, most are due to prolong use of valerian or high dose of valerian. Side effects like headaches, dizziness, and gastric problems have been observed in the studies.
Does Valerian interact with any other drugs or supplements?
Valerian does have side effects if valerian supplements are taken with other sedatives, medications, herbs or dietary supplements. Therefore, it is extremely important to consult with a professional before taking valerian supplement.
How to use it for insomnia?
Valerian roots can be consumed as supplements. It is sold as a dietary supplement in the United States. However, people should consult with a professional before using valerian supplements.
Regarding all the evidence based on studies and clinical trial, valerian is an effective herb to treat insomnia. However, the final conclusion is yet to be made about the effectiveness and the side effects of valerian.
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