Valerian is an herb that is primarily used as a supplement to help treat insomnia. Although it is not exactly clear as to how it works, it may affect a certain brain chemical that produces a naturally calming effect. If you have epilepsy or liver disease, talk to your healthcare provider before taking it. Possible side effects of valerian include headaches, excitability, and morning drowsiness.
What Is Valerian?
Valerian is an herbal supplement that is commonly used to treat insomnia, although it is sometimes claimed to be helpful for other purposes as well. It is a perennial plant that has been used medicinally for various health conditions since ancient times.
It is not exactly clear how it works to treat insomnia or other health conditions. There are a variety of different active compounds in valerian, and researchers are not sure which of these compounds are responsible for the sedative-like properties of the supplement. Some of the compounds seem to increase gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical in the brain that has a naturally calming effect.
Is It Effective?
Some studies have shown that valerian is effective at treating insomnia, although further research is needed to establish how best to safely and effectively use the supplement for this condition. There is not enough evidence to recommend it for other uses at this time.
Valerian is available in a large range of doses. For many uses, the safe and effective doses have not yet been established. However, general dosing information is available based on clinical studies and years of experience with these products.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Jellin JM, editor. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Available at: http://naturaldatabase.com/. Accessed January 10, 2008.
Office of Dietary Supplements. National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Questions and answers about valerian for insomnia and other sleep disorders (April 2006). NCCAM Web site. Available at: http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/factsheets/valerian.asp. Accessed January 10, 2008.
Willey LB, Mady SP, Cobaugh DJ, Wax PM. Valerian overdose: A case report. Vet Hum Toxicol. 1995 Aug;37(4):364-5.
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