Valerian has been traditionally used due to its beneficial properties for the organism. Above all, it encourages a state of relaxation and improves the quality of sleep.
- 1 What is valerian?
- 2 The valerian plant
- 3 Types of valerian
- 4 Benefits of valerian
- 5 Properties of valerian
- 6 Medicinal and therapeutic effects
- 7 Properties of valerian to sleep
- 8 Valerian as a tranquilizer
- 9 For focus and cognitive performance
- 10 For gastrointestinal discomfort
- 11 How to take valerian
- 12 Valerian infusion
- 13 Dose of valerian
- 14 Who can benefit from taking valerian?
- 15 Contraindications of valerian
- 16 Choose safe and quality valerian
- 17 Bibliography
- 18 Related Entries:
What is valerian?
For thousands of years, the valerian plant has been renowned due to its extraordinary medicinal properties. In fact, it helps to relieve the pain, to treat nervous disorders as well as spasms and convulsions.
The word valerian comes from the Latin word “Valere” which means “being healthy”. Actually, its origin comes from the god “Baldur” who, according to mythology, had the ability to help.
In any case, this plant has many benefits for our health, since it can heal many pathologies.
Historically, it has been used due to its medicinal properties in order to treat from simple eye problems to the most devastating epidemics, like the Plague. From an esoteric point, the dry leaves of this plant grant good luck and repel bad things.
The valerian plant
Also known as valeriana officinalis, this plant is commonly cultivated in humid areas. Although its cultivation has considerably spread in the last few years.
Even though it is native to Europe and Asia, it is also present in North America, as well as the Netherlands, Chile and Argentina.
Types of valerian
Its name comes from the shape of the plant, which is similar to an ear of corn.
This plant can grow up to 15cm high, it flowers from June to August. They can grow between 1800 and 3300m high, like the Andes, and their main feature is their intense smell. Above all, it is used to make soaps, creams and products to repel moths.
It is mainly cultivated in central Europe. Actually, its effects are similar to those of medicinal valerian or valeriana officinalis. However, they are less intense and they last less too. This variety can grow up to 35cm, its flowers are very small and they appear from the end of spring to the beginning of summer (May to June).
This plant grows in the Himalayan mountains and in the Mediterranean regions. Particularly, it is used to make oil, creams and as a relaxant.
Benefits of valerian
It helps to treat and relieve:
- Stomach discomfort
Properties of valerian
Its healing properties come from the essential oil contained in its roots. In fact, its main ingredient is bornyl-acetate, which interacts with the GABA receptors from the nerve cells, producing a sedative effect.
On the other hand, thanks to the valepotriates from the plant, it can relieve nerve cramps.
In general, valerian is a relaxant that provides serenity and muscle relaxation thanks to its antispasmodic effects.
Due to this, it is advised for those who suffer anxiety, stress, irritability and insomnia.
Due to this, it is not adequate for treating those who suffer severe symptoms of nervous disorders.
Medicinal and therapeutic effects
The valerian root has been used for thousands of years as a sedative due to its antispasmodic and relaxing effects.
During the Middle Ages, it was used as a remedy against the Plague and similar diseases. Currently, valerian products are used as a remedy against insomnia, nervous tension or gastrointestinal diseases.
Moreover, people also use it to relieve problems regarding the central nervous system and the muscle-skeletal system. In fact, valerian relieves the cramps and relaxes the muscles. Also, the studies have proven its efficacy to treat asthma, rheumatism and some neurological problems.
Valerian has proven its efficacy when it comes to regulate hormone changes in women. In addition, it also has anti-convulsive effects which are useful to treat and relieve menstrual pain and the common symptoms of menopause.
Another benefit of valerian consists of relieving the anxiety and tension of those who have stopped taking nicotine, caffeine or alcohol.
Properties of valerian to sleep
Usually, valerian is used to deal with insomnia.
Due to its calming and relaxing properties, valerian encourages a deep and restful sleep in a natural way. Therefore, it is advisable to take valerian as a long-term treatment. Be patient, you will start experiencing its effects in two or four weeks.
Apart form valerian, there are other types of herbs that also help us sleep. For instance, hop, lemon balm, St John’s wort, lavender and passionflower. But valerian is better, since its effects last longer and it produces a deeper sleep.
However, valerian is not adequate when the sleep problems are product of a disease. Therefore, we suggest consulting a physician in this case.
Valerian as a tranquilizer
Valerian relieves temporary nervous disorders, as long as they are not caused by an underlying disease. Therefore, it is advisable to deal with punctual problems, such as stress due to work or study; as well as situations when we have to face new challenges or unexpected problems.
Due to its antispasmodic properties, taking valerian can help to overcome stress and anxiety. Moreover, it stimulates a state of calmness and helps us sleep.
Moreover, we suggest being patient, since it does not work immediately. In fact, you need to take it for several weeks in order to benefit from its properties. From a purely scientific perspective, valerian calms the nervous system and it is better than medicines, since it does not hinder the performance.
For focus and cognitive performance
Moreover, valerian also improves the focus and cognitive performance.
Consequently, valerian produces a balance and complete relaxation from head to toes: it reduces the anxiety and nerves, while stimulating the cognitive activity and improving the recovery after an intense work or stressful situations.
For gastrointestinal discomfort
Taking valerian helps to treat gastrointestinal discomfort. Valerenic acid from valerian heals the gastrointestinal problems.
In fact, the ingredient valepotriates from valerian helps to prevent painful spasms and cramps.
Above all, valerian relaxes the so called smooth muscles, which are located in the gastrointestinal tract and uterus. That is why it relieves the symptoms of menopause, menstrual pain and cramps. Moreover, it is also used as a remedy against kidney stones, stomach and bladder pain, as well as headaches, nerve spasms, inflammation and convulsive vomits.
However, its effects have not been clinically tested on ulcers (at least on humans).
The clinical studies with valerian on animals with ulcers have provided positive results. This means that animals that suffer stress can suffer stomach ulcers. However, humans suffer ulcers due to a bacterial infection, while stress only worsen the symptoms.
How to take valerian
Valerian drops is probably the most popular format. However, we need to be careful and count the drops to take the recommended dose in order to avoid and overdose.
In this case, they are not used to calm, but rather to stimulate animals. Valerian has an aphrodisiac effect on cats, since its fragrance is irresistible for them. The use of valerian on horses is similar to that of human beings, since it helps to relieve the spasms and convulsions. Currently, due to the rise of dietary supplements, we can buy valerian in other different formats.
Valerian tablets are very easy to take and dose.
Valerian tablets are available in pharmacies, herbalist’s shops and online. Always make sure to check the composition and origin of the product, as well as following the recommended dose and paying attention to possible side effects. This is due to the fact that valerian is often combined with other ingredients.
If we experience any problem or side effects, we have to consult our doctor always. Most tablet supplements are distributed in several servings: breakfast, lunch and dinner, always with plenty of water.
According to the prospect of each product, you will probably have to take one or two tablets, depending on the recommended dose. Moreover, you should never combine valerian tablets with alcohol, drugs, medicines, sedatives or sleeping pills.
Valerian salts have a relaxing effect that relieves the muscle tension. Alternatively, we can make an infusion by dissolving 100g of valerian root in two liters of hot water and let it settle for ten minutes. Then, strain the infusion and use it for bathing.
Infusions are the most popular format and you can drink them before bedtime or in the evening. In fact, it could be the best remedy to relax the body and get rid of sleep problems.
Apart from its individual format, you can also find combinations of valerian with other calming plants such as St John’s wort, hop, lemon balm, orange blossom, lavender, etc.
Dose of valerian
This is an approximation, since we always need to take into account the prospect of each product. In fact, it should prevail over these indications:
- Dry extracts: the dose tends to be between 50 and 600 milligrams a day.
- Infusions: the general advice tends to be an infusion daily made up of a teaspoon with 150ml of water. You should never boil it more than 15 minutes.
- Tablets: each tablet tends to have around 300ml of valerian. Therefore, you should never take more than 4 tablets a day.
- Drops: follow the recommended dose from the prospect meticulously and never exceed it.
- Bath salts: the recommended dose is around 100 grams of valerian root in water. The water should not be hotter than 35 degrees centigrade and the bath should not last more than 20 minutes.
- Against insomnia: take valerian at least half an hour before bedtime. Depending on the severity of the problem, the dose will be between 400 and 900 milligrams.
- Against nervousness, anxiety or stress: the recommended dose will be around 300 or 450ml a day.
Who can benefit from taking valerian?
- Nervous people who suffer stress or anxiety.
- Those who have problems to fall asleep.
- People who suffer hypertension, palpitations or gastrointestinal spasms.
- Women who want to relieve the symptoms of menopause and the pre-menstrual syndrome.
- Women who suffer pain and cramps during the menstruation.
Contraindications of valerian
Even though it is a completely natural plant, this does not mean that is intake is harmless. Specially because we need to take it for a long time in order to benefit from its properties.
The side effects are quite rare, although sometimes some people may experience:
- Mild fatigue
- Skin rash
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
However, it is much easier to control the effects of those products that are solely made from valerian. Then, you just have to follow the instructions of each product in order to avoid any risk. In fact, the side effects tend to occur when the preparation or application of the product is incorrect.
This plant can interact with some medicines and trigger side effects if we combine it with drugs, alcohol or medicines.
There are no thorough studies about its effects on children, pregnant and lactating women. Therefore, we suggest not taking valerian in these cases due to safety reasons. Basically, you should not take it if you are taking other type of medicines.
In this case, you should consult a physician in order to avoid unwanted interactions.
Choose safe and quality valerian
European valerian does not entail any risk for our health.
However, the plants from Mexico, Japan and India have a high cancerous valepotriate content that can reach up to an 8%.
On the other hand, we need to take into account that valerian is a small combination of active ingredients, such as:
- Essential oils
- Mono terpenes and sesquiterpenes (phytochemicals, like fragrances and aromas)
- Sesquiterpene acids
- Phenol carboxylic acids
- Amino acids
The different types of this plant vary depending on the composition of their ingredients. Valerenol has a calming effect; the essential oil helps to relieve the cramps; alkaloids (chatinin and valerin) relieve the heartburn or stomach discomfort.
The common infusion has the following benefits for our health:
- Producing a calming effect
- Improving our sleep
- Relaxing the muscles
- Relieving the stomach pain
- Dorian Caudal, Isabelle Guinobert, Aude Lafoux, Valérie Bardot, César Cotte, Isabelle Ripoche Pierre Chalard and Corinne Hucheta. Skeletal muscle relaxant effect of a standardized extract of Valeriana officinalis L. after acute administration in mice. J Tradit Complement Med. 2018 Apr; 8(2): 335–340.
- Michael Penzkofer, Andrea Baron, Annette Naumann, Andrea Krähmer, Hartwig Schulz and Heidi Heuberger. Characterization of essential oil distribution in the root cross-section of Valeriana officinalis L. s.l. by using histological imaging techniques. Plant Methods. 2018; 14: 41.