Sound Sleep and a Serene Mind
It’s estimated that above 70% of Americans and 50% of Britons suffer from insomnia, and it’s certainly a common complaint among women going through the stages of menopause. In the UK, the percentage for women goes up to 75%.
The Guardian also reports that, according to the Office for National Statistics, anxiety or depression affects nearly one in five adults.
Are you one of those people? If you’re desperate for a little peace of mind and respite from wakeful nights, valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) ― often called “nature’s valium” ― just might be your answer.
It’s been used for centuries to reduce anxiety, promote serenity and lull people off to a deep, restful sleep.
Valerian’s name, which comes from the Latin word valere, means to be strong or healthy, which we firmly believe includes getting a great night’s sleep . . . every night.
How does Valerian work to combat stress?
Valerian root, which contains valerentic acid, isovaleric acid and a number of antioxidants, works to affect GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) levels in your brain. GABA inhibits your brain’s nerve transmissions and calms anxiety.
This supplement works much like Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam), without, of course, the side effects of those drugs. It suppresses the breakdown of GABA, which increases your brain’s GABA level. Increased GABA causes a sedative effect and increases your feelings of tranquility and well-being,
The antioxidants linarin and hesperidin, also found in valerian root, have calming and sleep-improving properties.
In addition, valerian’s ingredients may also help quiet an overactive amygdala. That’s the part of your brain where feelings of fear and anxiety are processed. Treating mice with valerian showed that it raised their levels of serotonin, which improved their responses to physical and psychological stress.
Does Valerian really improve sleep?
Studies have verified that valerian helps you get to sleep faster and sleep more soundly. Your overall quality of sleep improves, enabling you to get more high-quality, restorative sleep.
Out of 27 young and middle-age adults who took 400 mg of valerian root, 24 said they slept better and 12 judged their sleep to be “perfect.”
An important part of restful sleep is slow-wave sleep, which is necessary to repair and recharge your body so you wake up feeling energetic. In one study, a single dose of valerian allowed subjects to get to deep sleep faster and stay in it longer. (This is the experience of most people, although around one in ten will have the opposite effect, causing people to feel energized rather than sleepy. This suggests that you should start with the minimum dose.)
A 2011 study focused on postmenopausal women. After taking 530 mg of valerian twice daily for four weeks, sleep quality improved for 30 percent of study participants.
Are there any side effects?
It’s important to note that clinical studies have found no serious adverse side effects from use of valerian. It has not been found to negatively affect mental or physical performance.
In comparison, sleeping pills have been shown to affect following-day alertness, reaction time and concentration.
At the same time, you should take certain precautions when taking valerian. For example, you shouldn’t take it with any kind of drug or herbal supplement with sedative effects, antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, narcotics, antihistamines or alcohol.
Also, don’t drive or use machinery for several hours after taking valerian, take it if you’re pregnant or have liver disease, or give it to children younger than three.
What else can Valerian do?
There isn’t a great deal of scientific research on Valerian root beyond its ability to relieve anxiety and promote sleep. It has, however, been shown to:
- lower blood pressure, which aids in reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke
- relieve menstrual cramps by suppressing muscle spasms and acting as a natural muscle relaxer
- significantly reduce severity and modestly reduce frequency of hot flushes in menopausal women
- improve symptoms of restless legs syndrome
- increase antioxidant levels and decrease inflammation in Parkinson’s patients
Supplementing with Valerian root provides you with a simple, safe means of simultaneously decreasing stress and anxiety levels, and getting the sound, restorative sleep you need ― along with several potential bonus benefits.
Anxiety or depression affects nearly one in five UK adults. The Guardian. June 19, 2013.
Insomnia: Britons’ health ‘at risk’ as 50% fail to get enough sleep. The Guardian. Nov. 12, 2011.
Mercola, J. Can Valerian Root Help You Sleep Better? Mercola.com. May 4, 2017.
Spritzler, F. How Valerian Root Helps You Relax and Sleep Better. Authority Nutrition.