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Valerian

Botanical name(s):

Valeriana officinalis, Centranthus ruber. Family: Valerianaceae

Other name(s):

all-heal, amantilla, carpon's tail, heliotrope, setewale, setwall, vandal root

General description

Valerian is a perennial plant with pink flowers that grows in North America and Europe. The medicinal part is the fresh underground malodorous roots, carefully dried below 40 degrees Celsius.

Valerian root contains two categories of compounds that have sedative properties: the sesquiterpenes (valerenic acid) and the iridoids triesters (valepotriates). It is widely used to produce a sedative effect during periods of agitation and a stimulant effect in extreme fatigue. Valerian root is also claimed to lower blood pressure and relax muscles.

Medically valid uses

There is no evidence that valerian has any beneficial medical effect on any condition.

Although some studies have suggested that valerian may be effective for insomnia, others have not confirmed this. There is not enough evidence to determine if valerian is effective for any other conditions. 

Unsubstantiated claims

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

It is also claimed that valerian may possibly act as a sedative (calms the nervous system and reduces stress and nervousness), as a hypnotic (induces a deep state of sleep, not a trance), as an anti-spasmodic (reduces or eases spasms or cramps in the muscles), as a hypotensive agent (lowers blood pressure), and as a carminative (herbal remedy that is rich in volatile oils and stimulates the digestive system to work properly).

There are also claims that valerian may be used to reduce tension, anxiety, stress, over-excitability, and hysterical states. Finally, although without scientific confirmation, valerian is reportedly effective in the relief of insomnia, menstrual cramps and pain, intestinal colic, rheumatic pain, and migraine pain.

Dosing format

Valerian comes in the form of tea, tinctures, capsules, and liquid extracts. Valerian is light sensitive and should be stored in a light-resistant container. Keep in a dark area to preserve.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Valerian has a very strong smell that many people do not like. (Cats are attracted to valerian because it has a compound similar to that of catnip.)

Do not use valerian to treat infants. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a physician before taking any herbal medicines.

Also, do not use valerian with other sedatives.

There are no known significant food or drug interactions.

Additional information

Click here for a list of reputable websites with general information on nutrition.

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