Valeriana officinalis - Valerian root contains essential oils with sedative and relaxing effects

Does valerian root treat anxiety and insomnia?

Valerian is a plant that has modest sedative qualities and is used to help people sleep and cure anxiety. Is it, however, effective is valerian root? This is a question we explore in this article.

What is Valerian Root?

Valerian dietary supplements are commonly sold as sleeping aids in the United States (US). People in Europe are more likely to take them for anxiety and restlessness.

Although there are over 250 varieties of valerian, Valeriana officinalis is the most often utilised for medical purposes.

While medicinal valerian has been used since ancient Greece and Rome, there is little clinical proof that it is beneficial in treating insomnia and anxiety.

Nonetheless, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers valerian to be safe and gentler than synthetic medications like benzodiazepines and barbiturates. For these reasons, valerian may be worth a shot if you’re suffering from anxiety or insomnia.

Benefits of Valerian

Some possible benefits of valerian that have been reported by users include:

  • falling asleep faster
  • better sleep quality
  • relief from restlessness and other anxiety disorder symptoms
  • no “hangover effect” in the morning

However, stronger evidence is needed to be confident that valerian, and not some other factor, is responsible for these effects.

It is also necessary to determine whether a person’s insomnia and anxiety improvements are statistically significant.

Function of this herb

Many researchers believe that it is not just one chemical that is responsible for valerian’s effects, but a combination of the plant’s components.

According to the National Institutes of HealthTrusted Source, several of valerian’s chemical compounds have individually demonstrated sedative properties in animal studies.

It is also uncertain how valerian affects the brain. The most common theory is that valerian extract stimulates nerve cells to release a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA.

GABA slows down nerve cell activity instead of exciting it.

Valerian extract may block an enzyme that destroys GABA, which means that more GABA is available for a longer amount of time.

All of these factors together might produce the calming effect that many who try valerian experience. Drugs such as Xanax and Valium also increase the amount of GABA in the body, and their effects are much greater than valerian.


Valerian nutritional supplements are often prepared from the plant’s roots, but stems can also be used. Valerian extracts, dried roots, and other plant components can be ingested in a variety of ways, including:

  • teas
  • tinctures
  • capsules
  • tablets

The recommended dose of valerian varies, but it usually ranges from 400 to 900 milligrammes (mg) at bedtime.

The amount of valerenic acid in the supplement may also influence the dosage. Valerenic acid is one of the most potent sedative components in valerian.

Herbalists recommend utilising valerian for only two to three weeks before taking a break for the same amount of time.

Herbalists advise taking this break because some people who have taken valerian for a long time have had negative side effects such as headaches, depression, or withdrawal when they stop using it.

In conclusion

Despite its gentleness, valerian is not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women because no research have been conducted on the potential hazards of valerian to a foetus or an infant.

Valerian should not be administered to children under the age of three because its effects on early development have not been studied.

Finally, if you are taking any of the following medications, you should talk to your doctor before taking valerian.

  • benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, and Ativan)
  • Depressants of the central nervous system, such as phenobarbital or morphine
  • food supplements that assist sleep, such as kava or melatonin

These medicines and supplements’ sedative and depressive qualities may interact with valerian, resulting in grogginess or more severe side effects.

Even if no other medications are being taken, it is always a good idea to consult a physician before taking any supplements, including valerian.

The doctor will advise you on whether valerian is a good choice, as well as which kinds and dosages are the safest and most effective.

Dried Valerian roots in wooden spoon on sackcloth background

Valerian Root, Insomnia and Anxiety – How It Helps

Realizing how to overcome anxiety and insomnia through the natural benefits of valerian root can seem like an overwhelming task, especially if you suffer from these conditions regularly.

Luckily, valerian root isn’t just safe to use when treating these issues, but it’s also incredibly effective at reducing your symptoms without the side effects commonly associated with prescription drugs.

Keep reading to learn about all the health benefits of valerian root and how it can help you recover from anxiety and insomnia quickly and safely.

What is Valerian Root?

Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) is a herb that’s used in Europe as a mild sedative. The most important ingredient in valerian root is called actinidine; actinidine promotes sleep by relieving anxiety, reducing tension and improving sleep quality.

Valerian root also has sedative properties; it promotes sleep through the relaxation of muscles. Other ingredients in valerian root include essential oils including azulene, which gives valerian its characteristic odour.

How Does It Help Anxiety and Insomnia?

Valerian root is a natural supplement that is known to help with insomnia and anxiety. Its medicinal properties have been used for over 2000 years.

In fact, it’s been recommended by numerous reputable sources including The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and WebMD.

Valerian root has been touted as effective in helping people suffering from insomnia due to stress. Because of its relaxing qualities, it’s also used to treat nervousness or tension before going to bed or while trying to fall asleep at night.

This herb works because it contains a key ingredient called valerenic acid which helps balance our GABA levels.

Is There Any Scientific Proof That Valerian Works?

Yes. A number of studies have been conducted on valerian root as a treatment for anxiety and insomnia.

In one study done at Tufts University in 2007, 100 people who suffered from insomnia took either a placebo or a low dose of valerian extract before bedtime.

Over a five-week period, those who used valerian scored significantly higher on sleep quality tests than those who didn’t use it. In addition to helping people fall asleep faster, they also slept more soundly throughout the night.

How long does valerian take to work?

People often wonder how long it takes for valerian to start working. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer—valerian works differently in different people.

Some people feel its effects immediately; others need up to four weeks of regular use to notice any difference at all. The only way to know if valerian will work for you is to try it and see.

Most people find that it has a mild sedative effect and is helpful for inducing sleep—but it’s not meant as a magic pill with immediate relief.

If your goal is relief from anxiety or stress-related insomnia, research indicates that you may want to give valerian a try alongside traditional anti-anxiety medications or sleeping pills such as Ambien or Lunesta.

But Wait, What About Those Side Effects?

Valerian is generally well-tolerated by most people. Some research studies have even reported that it can be used as a long-term treatment for insomnia. However, because it acts on a number of neurotransmitters in our bodies, there is a small risk of side effects. These can include dizziness, dry mouth and headaches.

If you’re thinking about trying valerian to help treat your anxiety or insomnia symptoms, just know that those risks are very minimal but should still be considered.

In conclusion

Valerian root is one of those long-standing herbal supplements that’s been around for hundreds of years. There are many factors why valerian root helps with insomnia and anxiety including its sedative properties that help to calm your nerves while also reducing stress and tension in your body.