You may not be able to safely take valerian if you have epilepsy, liver disease, or certain allergies. Valerian safety precautions also include potential drug interactions, the risk of possibly developing liver disease, and the safety of taking the supplement when pregnant or breastfeeding. Being aware of valerian warnings and precautions before taking the supplement can help minimize risks and ensure safe treatment.
Valerian is an herbal supplement that is often used to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders, although it is sometimes used for other purposes. You may not be able to take valerian safely if you have:
- Seizures or epilepsy
- Liver disease, such as liver failure, cirrhosis, or hepatitis
- Allergies, including allergies to food, dyes, or preservatives.
Also, let your healthcare provider know if you are:
- Pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
Make sure to tell your healthcare provider about any other medications you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Some of the warnings and precautions to be aware of concerning the safety of valerian include the following:
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies valerian as "generally recognized as safe" for use in food. However, this does not mean that it is safe for medicinal use, which is usually at much higher doses than when it is used in food.
- There have been reports of liver damage in people who took a combination of herbs that included valerian. It is not clear if valerian, the other herbs, or the combination caused the liver damage. Therefore, if you already have liver disease, you should check with your healthcare provider before taking valerian.
- The herbal supplement is sometimes claimed to be useful for treating epilepsy or seizure disorders. However, you should not treat yourself for seizures or take yourself off of your usual seizure medications without your healthcare provider's approval and supervision.
- Do not suddenly stop taking valerian, especially if you have been taking a high valerian dosage for a long time. This may cause withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia, confusion, or even heart problems.
- Valerian supplements can interact with some medications (see Valerian Drug Interactions).
- It is not known if valerian is safe for use in pregnant or breastfeeding women (see Valerian and Pregnancy and Valerian and Breastfeeding).
- If you decide to use supplements, what you see on the label may not reflect what is in the bottle. For example, some herbal supplements have been found to be contaminated with heavy metals or prescription drugs, and some have been found to have much more or less of the featured ingredient than their label states.
Therefore, make sure the manufacturer of your valerian product is trusted and reputable. It is a good sign if a manufacturer abides by the rules of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). It is also a good sign if a product has the United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) seal, which means that the product has been independently tested and shown to contain the correct ingredients in the amounts listed on the label. Your pharmacist is a good resource for information about which manufacturers are the most reputable.