Benefits of Valerian Root

6 Benefits of Valerian Root

What Is Valerian Root?

What Is Valerian Root

Valerian root, also known as Valeriana officinalis, is a plant native to Europe and Asia that also grows in North America. Historically, its medicinal uses date back to ancient Greece and Rome, where it was used to treat insomnia, stomach cramps, and migraines. Today, valerian root is commonly used to help with anxiety, depression, insomnia, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), headaches, and menopause symptoms.

Also called garden heliotrope, valerian features round, flat clusters of flowers that range from pink to white. This perennial herb grows three to six feet tall and belongs to the Valerianaceae family. The plant’s rhizomes (underground stems) and roots are used for medicinal purposes.

Valerian root is known for its calming and sedative effects, offering several potential benefits.

Benefits of Valerian Root

Benefits of Valerian Root

If you’re dealing with mental health issues or sleep problems, valerian root might be a natural remedy worth considering. Here are some key benefits:

May Help with Insomnia

Valerian Root for insomnia

A review of 60 studies on valerian root found it to be a safe and effective herb for promoting sleep and preventing sleep disorders. The active compounds in the roots and rhizomes, such as valerenol and valerenic acid, are believed to aid sleep by stimulating gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the body. GABA is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in regulating sleep and nerve impulses. These compounds not only increase GABA production but also inhibit an enzyme that breaks it down, leading to sedative effects that promote sleep and relaxation.

Additionally, valerian may affect serotonin, another neurotransmitter vital for sleep regulation, by stimulating its receptors.

If you struggle with insomnia or other sleep disorders, valerian root could be a helpful addition to your supplement routine. Research suggests that valerian root can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, increase sleep duration, and improve sleep quality. Valerian root tea is also an option for those who prefer a soothing drink before bed.

Unlike many pharmaceutical sleep aids, valerian root is unlikely to cause dependency or morning drowsiness. For natural sleep support, valerian root is a great choice.

May Help with Anxiety

May Help with Anxiety

Valerian root's calming effects not only aid in sleep but can also alleviate anxiety symptoms. Anxiety, characterized by feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease about uncertain events, has become increasingly common due to factors like the pandemic and economic uncertainty. Rates of anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders have risen since the pandemic began, making natural remedies like valerian root worth considering.

In a study involving 39 participants who took valerian root an hour before bed for a month, significant reductions in anxiety symptoms were observed compared to a placebo group. Numerous studies have demonstrated that valerian root can alleviate anxiety and create a sense of calm by interacting with GABA receptors in the brain.

May Help with Depression

May Help with Depression

The same study that involved 39 participants taking valerian root before bed also noted improvements in depression symptoms. One theory is that valerian root’s ability to promote calm and relaxation helps reduce stress levels, which can positively impact depression, as chronic stress is often linked to depressive disorders.

Another theory is that valerian root's positive effects on sleep may indirectly improve depression symptoms. Insomnia or difficulty sleeping often accompanies depression, so improving sleep can have a beneficial impact on depression. Additionally, the stimulation of GABA receptors by valerian root could be a direct cause. Studies have found that individuals with major depressive disorder often have reduced brain concentrations of GABA, and increasing GABA levels with valerian root supplements may improve depression symptoms.

May Help with Pain and Muscle Spasms

May Help with Pain and Muscle Spasms

Valerian root has a historical reputation for treating pain and spasms, both internally and topically. It has been used to alleviate menstrual pain, rheumatic pain, intestinal colic, and migraines. In a study involving 50 mice, those given valerian root showed a significant decrease in pain scores compared to a control group.

Valerian root's ability to increase GABA levels can also help reduce muscle spasms. GABA calms the nervous system by preventing the transmission of certain nerve signals, which can benefit those experiencing pain and muscle spasms caused by overactive nerves. Additionally, valerian root is known to have mild analgesic, or pain-relieving, properties.

May Help with Hyperactivity and Focus

Valerian root, combined with lemon balm extracts, has shown promise in helping children with restlessness. A study involving 169 primary school children, who exhibited hyperactivity and concentration difficulties but did not meet the criteria for ADHD, provided them with 640 mg of valerian root and 320 mg of lemon balm extract daily. After seven weeks, significant improvements were reported by both pediatricians and parents: symptoms of poor focus decreased from 75% to 14%, hyperactivity from 61% to 13%, and impulsiveness from 59% to 22%.

Additionally, parents noted substantial improvements in their children's sleep, symptom burden, and social behavior. Only two children experienced mild, transient adverse reactions to the herbal extracts. This combination of valerian root and lemon balm could be beneficial for both children and adults dealing with hyperactivity and focus issues.

May Help with Menopause

May Help with Menopause

Menopause can be challenging for many women, with hot flashes being a common and disruptive symptom. A study involving 68 menopausal women suffering from hot flashes administered 255 mg of valerian root in capsule form three times daily. The results showed a significant reduction in hot flash severity in the valerian group compared to a placebo group.

Researchers concluded that valerian could be an effective treatment for menopausal hot flashes, offering an alternative for women who prefer not to undergo hormone therapy.

Precautions and Side Effects

Valerian root is generally considered safe for most people, including children and adults, when taken as recommended. Some uncommon side effects may include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, metallic taste, diarrhea, and weakness. Pregnant or nursing women should avoid valerian root, and it may interact with certain medications, including antibiotics. Always consult your doctor before adding any new supplement or herbal extract to your or your child's health care routine.

Key Takeaways

Valerian root has a long history of medicinal use worldwide. It is especially known for aiding insomnia, but its potential benefits extend to pain relief, muscle spasms, menopause symptoms, hyperactivity, attention deficits, depression, and anxiety. Due to its ability to increase GABA levels in the body—a chemical crucial for sleep, calm, relaxation, and nerve impulse regulation—valerian root can offer relief for various conditions linked to nervous system function.

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