Valerian

Scientific Name/Common Name: Valeriana officinalis / Valerian

Part(s) Used: Root

Constituents/Active Ingredients: Approximately 0.5-2% volatile oils; 0.4-1.4% monoterpenes including alpha and beta-pinene; camphene; borneol, eugenol, isoeugenol; sesquiterpenes including beta-bisabolene, caryophyllene, valerianol, valerenic acid, valeranone, pacifigorgiol; valerenol, valerenyl esters, valerenal; caffeic acid; gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA); chlorogenic acid; beta-sitosterol; methyl 2-pyrrolketone; choline; tannins; gum; resin.

Overview: Valerian root and rhizome have been used therapeutically for more than 2,000 years, first described by Dioscorides (50 A.D.) as a sedative. The German Commission E recommends valerian for treating restlessness and sleep disorders based on nervous conditions and it was one of the most prescribed single preparations for psychotropic indications in Germany in 1994. Even just the fragrance, based on studies, has a powerful calming and profoundly relaxing effect. Over 200 scientific studies have been done on the active ingredients of valerian underground parts. Valerian’s main therapeutic indication is as a natural ‘drug’ for treating insomnia. The root tea and its extract have been proven to: 1) shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, 2) reduce the amount of waking time after sleep onset, 3) prolong the overall time spent asleep, 4) increase the length of deep sleep, 5) increase dreaming, and 6) significantly improve the quality of sleep in both normal and insomniac sleepers. Based on numerous human, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials, valerian can alleviate stress, relax muscles, calm frayed nerves, and reduce anxiety.

Traditional Use/Benefits/Body Systems: Used in herbal medicine as a calmative/sedative to relieve insomnia; antispasmodic to relieve menstrual cramps and indigestion/colic.

Clinical Studies/Scientific Research/References:

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J, editors. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Boston (MA): Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Hoffmann D. 2003. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester (VT): Healing Arts Press.

Bent S, Padula A, Moore D, Patterson M, Mehling W. Valerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2006 Dec;119(12):1005-12. Review.

Disclaimer: This information in our Herbal Encyclopedia is intended only as a general reference for educational purposes. It is not a replacement for medical advice. This content does not provide dosage information, cautions/contraindications, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Please consult any relevant product labels for detailed information on use and with a medical practitioner for individual health advice.