You went to bed exhausted. Now your eyes are wide open, staring at the ceiling, and there is no way you can relax your way into sleep. Will it be another night of watching the hours click by, knowing you have a full day of work ahead?
These are the moments you could reach for Valerian Root, a medicinal herb that has been used since the days of ancient Greece and Rome for its calming, sedative effects.* Today Valerian Root is one of the most widely used natural herbal supplements for occasional sleeplessness.*
But will it work for you? Before you take any natural supplement, you should learn what it is, how it works, what side effects it may have, and whether there are alternatives to consider.
What Is Valerian Root?
Valerian Root comes from the plant, Valeriana officinalis, a flowering perennial native to Europe and Asia that now grows all over North America. Natural Valerian Root supplements are made from the roots and rhizomes (underground stem) of the plant.
The plant’s fragrant pink or white flowers attract a range of pollinators and make great cut flowers for decoration, but they are not used in the herbal supplement.
Valerian Root for Occasional Sleeplessness
Valerian Root is made up of many different chemical compounds, and no human study has yet identified which specific chemical components or combinations of components produce its sleep-inducing properties.
Therefore, we don’t have conclusive evidence of the effectiveness of Valerian Root as a sedative. Numerous human clinical trials have been conducted on Valerian Root. Many indicate that the root has significant calming properties and improves sleep, while other studies have shown no measurable effect.
Inconsistent test results might stem from the variable quality of the herbal extracts used, according to a 2020 study.REF#199 Past human studies have likely used different percentages of the active compounds found in the root to test the root’s health benefits. Results of the 2020 study also suggest that Valerian Root may be more effective when combined with other herbal extracts.
More research is needed using carefully processed whole roots/rhizomes to determine how efficient Valerian Root is as a supplement for sleep and to identify the exact mechanism of Valerian Root's therapeutic effects.
Types of Valerian Root Supplements and How to Take Them
Valerian Root can be purchased as a fluid extract, capsule, or powder. The root has a strong odor, often compared to dirty socks or curdled milk. While the strong odor may turn you off, it’s likely a sign that the root’s beneficial oils are still active.
If you want to make a tincture, tea, or capsules, you can buy Valerian Root in powder form. If so, you should store the powder in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. Both rats and cats are attracted to the smell of Valerian Root, so keep it where animals can’t get to it.
Valerian Root tea can be purchased as a single herb infusion or as a blend. Different herbs and flowers can add complementary health benefits to the tea and mellow out the flavor. You can also mix drops of Valerian Root extract in warm water to create a tea.
No matter what form of Valerian Root you purchase, make sure it has been carefully processed to extract all chemical compounds in the root and rhizome. Select a brand that has been tested to ensure its purity, integrity, and potency.
Dosage for Valerian Root
There is no official recommended dose for Valerian Root for occasional sleeplessness. Most studies have been conducted with dosages of 300-600 mg of extract, which are found to be safe for short-term consumption.
Studies indicate that Valerian Root may be most effective after you’ve taken it regularly for two weeks or longer. You may need to continue its use for a month before you experience noticeable effects.
If you’re using Gaia Herbs’ Valerian Root Extract, you’ll take 30-40 drops in a glass of water. If necessary, this can be repeated right before hopping into bed. For other preparations, follow the directions on the package.
You should take Valerian Root when you are getting ready for bed, within an hour of turning in for the night.
Valerian Root should not be taken for more than eight weeks at a time. If you still have issues with sleeplessness after two months, you should consult your doctor.
Potential Side Effects of Valerian Root
We do not know the long-term effects of taking Valerian Root. However, most people tolerate this herbal supplement quite well, especially for short-term use.
Potential side effects are generally minor and may include dizziness, headache, upset stomach, and sleepiness the next morning. Some people have experienced withdrawal symptoms after stopping the supplement suddenly. To avoid this, reduce use gradually over one or two weeks.
Valerian Root may have interactions with medications, sedatives, and other supplements with sedative properties. These include:
- St. John’s wort
Taking Valerian Root with any of these products could accentuate drowsiness and dizziness. If you are taking other medications or are being treated for medical conditions, always talk with your doctor before taking Valerian Root.
Pregnant persons and children should not take Valerian Root.
When Not to Take Valerian Root
We all have periods in our lives where stress makes sleeping difficult. Occasional sleeplessness is normal. But when you can’t sleep for months on end, you may want to consult with your healthcare practitioner.
Other Natural Herbal Options for Sleep
Valerian Root can be more effective if you take it with other herbal supplements known for their sedative properties.* If it isn’t improving your sleep on its own, try alternative herbs or herbal blends with similar or complementary sedative effects:
- Passionflower: Supports a more restful sleep if you’re dealing with restlessness and frequent wakeful periods throughout the night*
- Lemon Balm: Provides a sense of balance in the nervous system and promote a sense of calm*
- Mimosa: Supports the adrenal glands, offers antioxidant support, and helps maintain a calm and normal mood*
- Ashwagandha: Helps you manage stress and sleep better*
- Calm A.S.A.P. ®: Provides relief from occasional anxiousness*
- Adrenal Health ® Nightly Restore: Nourishes the adrenals overnight for sleep and stress support*
- SleepThru®: Calms your mind when the list in your head keeps you awake at night*
- Sound Sleep®: Prepares your body for restful sleep by promoting relaxation*
- Nighttime Comfort: Promotes calm and comfort during menopause*
Lifestyle Changes That Can Help You Sleep
When you know that stress is the main cause of your sleeplessness, Valerian Root may help provide calm.* But ultimately, you need to manage your stress to improve your overall wellness. There are several lifestyle changes you can make that will help you sleep at night and thrive by day:
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: Set your body’s internal time clock to a schedule to train it to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day.
- Shut down the screen: Research indicates that bright screens and electronics stimulate the brain and make it hard to turn it off. Stop using your computer or smartphone at least an hour before going to bed to avoid over-stimulation.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake: Coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate contain caffeine and may inhibit sleep, especially if you consume them within six hours of bedtime. Alcohol can help you fall asleep but cause you to wake up in the middle of the night restless. Try limiting or eliminating these foods one at a time to see if this has any effect.
- Eat foods rich in magnesium: Magnesium can be a natural sedative. Make sure you eat lots of leafy greens, legumes, seeds, almonds, and cashews to get the magnesium your body needs.
- Get sufficient exercise: Your body needs to move. Getting enough exercise every day can help improve your sleep.
- Practice mindfulness: Understanding how your brain and body react to situations and how you respond emotionally can help reduce your stress levels and care for yourself in a way that should benefit your sleep.
Getting sufficient sleep is critical to your vitality and long-term physical and mental health. Consider Valerian Root as a valuable addition to your wellness toolkit and a great supplement to turn to when you need those extra ZZZs.*
- 1. Shinjyo N, Waddell G, Green J., "Valerian Root in Treating Sleep Problems and Associated Disorders-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis", J Evid Based Integr Med. 2020 Jan-Dec;25:2515690X20967323. doi: 10.1177/2515690X20967323. PMID: 33086877; PMCID: PMC7585905.. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33086877/ 1 1. Shinjyo N, Waddell G, Green J., "Valerian Root in Treating Sleep Problems and Associated Disorders-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis", J Evid Based Integr Med. 2020 Jan-Dec;25:2515690X20967323. doi: 10.1177/2515690X20967323. PMID: 33086877; PMCID: PMC7585905.. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33086877/