Valerian has been used as a medicinal herb since the times of ancient Greece and Rome. Hippocrates described its sleep- promoting properties, and it was later prescribed as a remedy for insomnia. Interestingly, the name “valerian” is derived from the Latin verb valere, which means “to be strong” or “to be healthy”. Valerian root extract is available as a supplement in capsule or liquid form. It can also be consumed as a tea.
Other Names: Garden Valerian, Garden Heliotrope
Origin: Native to Europe and parts of Asia
Uses and Benefits:
Valerian seems to act like a sedative on the brain and nervous system. Valerian can also help improve sleep when combined with other herbs, including hops, passionflower and lemon balm.
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that sends chemical messages through the brain and nervous system. The role of this neurotransmitter is to inhibit or reduce the activity of neurons (nerve cells). Valerenic acid has been found to inhibit the breakdown of GABA in the brain, to produce feelings of calmness and tranquility. Thus, it has been shown to increase GABA levels in the brain which can reduce the amount of time taken to fall asleep, it can also improve the quality of sleep. This is the mechanism by which anti-anxiety medications such as Valium work. Valerian root also contains the antioxidants hesperidin and linarin, which appear to have sedative and sleep-enhancing properties [i] [ii].
Anxiety and Psychological stress:
The aforementioned mechanism on GABA also helps to calm anxiety via the regulation of nerve cells. Research suggests that valerian root may help ease anxious feelings that occur in response to psychological stress [iii] [iv].
Pain Relief and Muscle Relaxant, Menstrual Pain:
Naturally a sedative and an antispasmodic, Valerian root acts as a powerful muscle relaxant. Valerian appears to work directly on the nervous system as a natural pain reliever [v]. Early research shows that taking 255 mg of valerian three times daily for two menstrual cycles reduces pain and the need for other pain relievers during menstruation [vi].
Tincture: 2-4mls up to 3 times per day. or before bed, or as recommended by a herbal practitioner.
Valerian Root Tea: 1-2 tsp of cut herb root to one cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes then enjoy before bedtime.
Valerian Essential Oil: Valerian essential oil can be used in the bath, or vaporised in an oil burner. It can be added to a massage oil or cream. Use 6-8 drops per bath and 10 -18 drops per 30ml of carrier oil.
Do not exceed recommended doses.
Pregnancy or breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information to know if valerian is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Please stay cautious and avoid use.
Valerian slows down the central nervous system. Anesthesia and other medications used during surgery also affect the central nervous system. Therefore, the combined effects might be harmful. It is advisable to stop taking valerian at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.
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