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The medicinal herb Valerian as an alternative herbal remedy for headaches and depression - Valerian is a plant native to Europe and Asia; it is also found in North America.Common Names--valerian, all-heal, garden heliotrope
Latin Names--Valeriana officinalis
What Valerian Is Used For
- Valerian has long been used for sleep disorders and anxiety.
- Valerian has also been used for other conditions, such as headaches, depression, irregular heartbeat, and trembling.
Herbal Remedy Products with Valerian as part of the ingredients
Valerian root has a long and illustrious history and appears in recorded writings from ancient Greece and Rome. It’s well-known for its soothing and calming properties and for its ability to encourage peaceful slumber. Research suggests that natural chemicals found in valerian act on GABA receptors in the brain. Due to its long history of use, valerian has been well-studied. There are also many scientific studies which support its benefits. Marder M, Viola H, Wasowski C, Fernández S, Medina JH, Paladini AC (2003). "6-methylapigenin and hesperidin: new valeriana flavonoids with activity on the CNS". Pharmacol Biochem Behav 75 (3): 537–45. ; Fernández S, Wasowski C, Paladini AC, Marder M (2004). "Sedative and sleep-enhancing properties of linarin, a flavonoid-isolated from Valeriana officinalis.". Pharmacol Biochem Behav 77 (2): 399–404.. Holzl J, Godau P. (1989). "Receptor binding studies with Valeriana officinalis on the benzodiazepine receptor.". Planta Medica 55: 642. doi:10.1055/s-2006-962221. ; Mennini T, Bernasconi P, et al. (1993). "In vitro study in the interaction of extracts and pure compounds from Valerian officinalis roots with GABA, benzodiazepine and barbiturate receptors". Fitoterapia 64: 291–300.
How Valerian Is Used
- The roots and rhizomes (underground stems) of valerian are typically used to make supplements, including capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts, as well as teas.
What the Science Says about Valerian
- Research suggests that valerian may be helpful for insomnia, but there is not enough evidence from well-designed studies to confirm this.
- There is not enough scientific evidence to determine whether valerian works for anxiety or for other conditions, such as depression and headaches.
- NCCAM is funding a study to look at the effects of valerian on sleep in healthy older adults and in people with Parkinson's disease.
Side Effects and Cautions of Valerian
- Studies suggest that valerian is generally safe to use for short periods of time (for example, 4 to 6 weeks).
- No information is available about the long-term safety of valerian.
- Valerian can cause mild side effects, such as headaches, dizziness, upset stomach, and tiredness the morning after its use.
- Tell your health care providers about any herb or dietary supplement you are using, including valerian. This helps to ensure safe and coordinated care.
News About Valerian
Benefits of Valerian Root Revealed
- (Health Goes Up)
Valerian root is very popular and has been known for people for many years. This is actually a plant that looks like a herb and it came to North America form Europe and Asia. Other names used for this herb are amantilla and garden heliotrope as well as all-heal- the latter is pretty eloquent. One of the peculiarities of the plant is that it can reach about 4 feet in height and remains green without the reference to a season. Besides, it is noted for small pinkish or whitish flowers that possess very interesting smell that resembles wet socks. However, everything that grown on the upper level above the ground does no really make any real difference – it is the root that is important and the benefits of Valerian root are much renowned. The root contains so many useful substances and chemicals that its use is hard to overestimate. It is believed to be able to cure a lot of different ailments and disorders and is broadly used in medicine nowadays.
One of the first benefits of Valerian root is its ability to calm down nervous system of a person. This is very useful for many conditions and especially for the ones such as anxiety and excitability, also hysteria, depression and panic attacks. As long as it is a natural remedy, it is recommended for the patients who use sedative drugs as an alternative.
The benefits of Valerian root are numerous for such conditions as insomnia, anxiety and panic. It possesses a sedative effect and therefore helps a person to relax both physically and mentally. A person sleeps better and at the same moment do not suffer from any adverse effects that are associated with many such drugs.
Besides, the ability of muscle relaxation is one of the benefits of Valerian root. It helps a person to get rid of muscle spasms and cramps and helps to improve digestion.
Benefits of Valerian root also spread to such conditions as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis as well as neuralgia. It is also helpful for people with ADHD and is the first thing that is prescribed for kids with the condition as well. The root also is beneficial for heart and helps with tachycardia as it improves irregular rhythms.
Valerian root also serves as a pain reliever. It is helpful for headaches and migraines as well as pains in muscles and menstrual cramps. There are also some other conditions where benefits of Valerian root can be used in full.
Benefits of Valerian root are numerous and everyone can use it in the form that is most suitable for him. It is available in the liquid form as well as powder and capsules. It can be taken as a supplement and added to teas and drinks in its dried form. It starts to produce its effects about a week after its regular administration.
However, it is possible that some people can suffer from some adverse effects of Valerian root. It is, therefore, recommended to ask for a doctor’s advice before taking it. A professional herbalist can be of a great help in many situation.
10 Amazing Benefits Of Valerian Essential Oil
- (Ameya C, STYLECRAZE)
Did you know that sniffing some valerian essential oil can relieve your stomach issues? Did you know that valerian essential oil can help you sleep better at night? What are the other health benefits of valerian essential oil? Read this post and find out about these amazing health benefits.
- What Is Valerian Essential Oil?
Valerian is a flowering plant, with heads of pink or white flowers. The flower has an especially pleasing fragrance and the extract of valerian has been a deodorant for ages. Valerian essential oil is a cold-pressed and steam distilled extract of the valerian flower.
Following are the benefits of valerian essential oil:
1. Treats Insomnia:
As we mentioned above, valerian essential oil is an effective remedy for sleep disorders. It contains active components that stimulate thorough and deep sleep. This is one of the most common uses of valerian essential oil.
2. Cures Stomach Problems:
Many of you turn to pharmaceutical remedies, but using home remedies to treat gastrointestinal problems is safer and more reliable. Valerian essential oil helps induce healthy bowel movements and regulates urination. These mechanisms help detoxify your body and help improve the nutrient absorption of the gastrointestinal tract.
3. Helps Cure Anxiety And Depression:
As valerian essential oil is a potent remedy for insomnia, it finds uses in improving your mood and also helps reduce any anxiety that you may be feeling. The mechanism that triggers sound sleep also reduces negative energy and chemicals in the body, which induce anxiety and stress. Stress hormones can harm the body in many ways and valerian essential oil helps you balance your body and calm your mind.
4. Heart Palpitations:
Valerian essential oil helps lower the risk of heart palpitations in certain study subjects. The volatile compounds in valerian essential oil react with the acid in your heart to stimulate a more balanced metabolic rate and soothe your overworked cardiovascular system.
5. Lowers Blood Pressure:
Valerian essential oil reduces blood pressure. The active ingredient that helps you overcome anxiety also helps regulate your blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension can lead to strain and increase your risk of contracting strokes or heart attacks. Consuming some valerian essential oil can help reduce this risk.
6. Relieves Menstrual Cramps:
Valerian essential oil is a sedative and an effective relaxant. It soothes your body and mind. Its properties make it popular among pregnant women. Valerian essential oil helps reduce the severity and discomfort of menstrual cramps. If you suffer from menstrual cramps, you might want to use a couple of drops of valerian.
7. Improves Cognitive Abilities:
Many essential oils have mooted intelligence-enhancing or brain-boosting properties. Valerian root has been used as a brain booster for centuries now. The oil helps stimulate certain areas of the brain and increases blood circulation. Children and the elderly tend to consume valerian essential oil to boost their cognitive abilities. Having a few drops of valerian every day can also help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other related diseases.
8. Skin Benefits:
Valerian essential oil helps maintain your skin health. Topical or internal application of valerian essential oil is an unexpected ally. Valerian essential oil infuses your skin with many antioxidants and protective oils, which inhibit wrinkles and keep you healthy.
- A Word Of Caution:
There are no negative effects of consuming valerian essential oil. However, you need to be careful about allergies, as valerian oil is rich in many volatile and effective compounds that can lead to giddiness, cramps, depression, stomach aches and even skin rash or hives. Although not common, these situations can occur and you need to make sure you follow your doctor’s advice before you use valerian essential oil.
We hope you found the information helpful. Have you ever used valerian essential oil? How was the experience? Tell us below.
How to Grow and Cultivate Valerian in Your Herb Garden
- (Home Remedies Direct)
- Cultivate Valerian in Your Herb Garden for its Medicinal Benefits
Native to Europe and parts of Asia, Valerian is a perennial flowing plant with straight, hollow stems topped by an umbrella-shaped fringe of delicate pink or white flowers.
Despite its elegant look, its roots, when dry, can give off an unpleasant odor.
Ever since the time of ancient Greece and Rome, valerian (Valeriana officinalis) has been used as a folk remedy for a variety of ailments, such as insomnia, anxiety, nervousness and heart palpitations.
Its popularity as a sleeping aid gradually decreased with the advent of modern sleep prescription medication. In 17th century Europe, it was popularly used as a perfume extract.
Scientists are unsure how this herbs works, but believe it to be responsible for the increased production of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which regulates nerve cells and alleviates anxiety. While this plant of many names – Setwall, Capon’s Tail, Setewale etc. – has its medicinal uses, nowadays it is also used widely as ornamentation.
- Cultivation of Valerian
Valerian, or All-Heal or Amantilla as it is sometimes known, blooms abundantly throughout the summer months, prolifically popping out flowers that smell like vanilla and cherry – or perhaps aged cheese.
Its leaves are a moderate green that brings out the light white and pink of the petals nicely, perfect for decoration.
Valerian likes its light, and while it seems to require plenty of water during its infant stage, it does well on dry soil as an adult.
This sedate herb with its trumpet-shaped cluster of airy pink and white flowers is notoriously hard to grow from seed.
- • The germination rates of valerian seeds are unpredictable (in fact, the plant does not bloom its first year from seed), so get root divisions or rooted runners of an established plant from your local nursery if possible.
- • Plant the roots firmly in fertile soil in a place where it gets plenty of sunlight. Water frequently enough so that the roots don’t dry out: a growing valerian needs its moisture.
- • The roots are the medicinal part of the plant. Harvest in fall before the frost starts biting.
- Tips on Growing Valerian
- • Valerian has been known to attract dogs and cats (it acts like a catnip for the latter, in fact), so in order to avoid having your valerian dug out by the pesky feline addicts, wedge in some rocks in the root around the soil.
- • Add mulch to your valerian during both spring and fall.
- • If you really want to try growing valerian from seeds, purchase fresh seeds and plant them in moist, well-worked soil. Start planting in the spring, but beware of birds. Valerian seeds germinate close to the ground since they need light – as such, they’re very prone to predation. By keeping the seeds more or less moist, you should have germinating seeds on your hands in about 10 days.
- Medicinal Uses of Valerian
In medieval Sweden, this hardy, aromatic herb was tucked in the pockets of bridegrooms in order to ward off the evil eye of elves, and it is rumored that the Pied Piper used valerian to entice the rats into following him to the river.
Such superstitious and fantastical applications are well and all, but it is perhaps more important to note that valerian has been long dubbed as “the poor man’s Valium” for its sedative effects.
And that should come as no surprise because ever since the time of ancient Rome and Greece, valerian has been used as a treatment for insomnia.
Today, valerian ranks as the most used non-prescription sedative in Europe. Here are a few ways in which valerian can be used for medicinal purposes:
Sleep like a log – One of the most effective ways to battle insomnia is to use valerian, which does not leave a “hangover” effect (characterized by fatigue or drowsiness) unlike some other sleeps aids. Try our valerian tea recipe now for a good night’s sleep.
Although not all studies show a positive correlation between valerian intake and quality or longevity of sleep, positive results can be achieved if valerian is consumed daily over a period of 2-4 weeks along with a combination of hops (Humulus lupulus), lemon balm (Melissa officianalis) and other herbs that induce drowsiness.
Ease your anxiety – Although no concrete evidence for its effectiveness in curing anxiety yet exists, valerian has long been used as a treatment for illness related to anxiety and psychological stress, including nervous asthma, headaches, migraine, hypochondria (the irrational fear or illness), and stomach upsets.
Say goodbye to pain – For muscles pains and joint aches, valerian is ideal. Some women take valerian as to ward off menstrual cramps and other symptoms, for example, hot flushes, associated with menopause.
And so much more – The uses of valerian are many and varied.
This perennial herb can be used to battle against epilepsy, neuralgia, multiple sclerosis, vertigo, chronic skin diseases and sciatica. Like spearmint, valerian has a calming and relaxing effect on the body.
Unbelievable Health Benefits & Uses Of Valerian Root
- By Dr.Gopi Krishna Maddikera
With the evolution of conventional methods of treatment, we have started relying too much on chemicals rather than the natural options.
But, the demand of time emphasises on the dependency on herbs to purify our blood, mind, and soul! Herbs are an exquisite replacement for the chemically imbalanced bodies.
They play a major role for decades to heal diseases.
Herbs strengthen the immune system, lowers blood sugar, prevent from various types of diseases and cancer as well. Even scientists have finally proved that these effectively cure diseases.
Valerian root is one of these herbs. If you are looking for a herb which can cure all your mental as well as physical problems then, this article has utterly been written for you. Let’s take a look upon valerian root and its health benefits.
- Valerian Root:
Valerian is a flowering plant, with a head of sweetly scented white or pink flowers. These flowers generally bloom in summer. The root of valerian is dried and used as an herbal remedy.
The root of Valerian is dried and used as an herbal remedy.
Valerian Root contains Volatile oils. These oils are responsible in calming the central nervous system of a body.
The medicines are made from it as well. Valerian flower extracts were used as a perfume in the 16th century. The scientific name of valerian root is Valeriana Officinalis.
- Valerian Root Origin:
Valerian Root is derived from Valerian, a perennial flowering plant from the Valerianaceae family. It is native to Europe and Asia but now grows in North America as well.
The name of valerian root is derived from the Latin verb “Valere” (to be strong, healthy). It has been used as a medical herb since the ancient time of Greece and Rome.
- Health Benefits Of Valerian Root:
1. Stress Management:
Stress is a major cause of all health problems on our body. It is the nuisance of every problem. It gives birth to every disease.
Everyone finds ways to make their lives stress free, some even take medicines for it. But these medicines do nothing, only slower down your brain.
Exercise can help in managing the daily stress. But, if you don’t have time for exercise and you don’t want to take any antibiotic to manage stress then here is the solution- VALERIAN ROOT.
It is a natural way that helps you to deal with the stress.
Valerian root improves GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) level in the brain. It relaxes both mind and the body. Valerian root helps in fighting with depression as well.
2. Sleep Disorders (Insomnia):
Sleep disorder which is also known as insomnia is very common in people due to stressed lives.
Many people use antibiotics to treat it, no doubt these antibiotics help you to fall asleep, but on another hand, the side effects of these antibiotics have also been considered.
But, don’t get tensed, we have the most commonly used herb ‘valerian root’.
Valerian root is generally used for insomnia. It helps you to fall asleep.
The extract of Valerian Root has a sedative effect, so it helps to have a sound sleep. Sedation effect can increase your brain’s inhibitory neurotransmitter level, which ultimately promotes sleep.
Medical Marijuana plant also helps in sleep disorders.
3. Anxiety Problem:
Some people are oversensitive or emotional. When they suffer from stress, their body gets anxious. Their anxiety causes them to shiver or loose motions.
This anxiety problem decreases the GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) in the brain, which can also lead to mental problems.
Valerian root helps in increasing the GABA level in the brain, which regulates the nerve cells and calms anxiety.
Valerian Root is a herb, it has no side effects like antibiotic drugs, but it does the same job like an antibiotic, without giving you any side effect.
4. Menstrual Cramps:
Every second woman suffers from menstrual cramps. Valerian root is god’s gift to every woman, to get rid of this unbearable pain.
The natural solution prepared from the roots helps in relaxing the muscles. It aids in calming the uterine muscles which cause the pain during mensuration period. There are other yoga poses that give you relief in menstrual cramps.
5. Healthy Heart:
Heart Health is very important for our body.
Poor heart health can increase the pressure of blood, which can lead to heart stroke.
Valerian root helps in keeping your heart healthy. It calms the mind and lowers blood pressure.
GABA helps in regulating the blood pressure as well.
6. Digestive Problems:
Valerian root is used to cure the problems of the stomach and poor digestion which is the common problem faced by many. Poor digestion can cause diarrhoea, bloating, colic and many more problems.
But, this herb gives one solution for all these problems. It is easily available in the supplement form.
Please note you are advised to consult a doctor before taking it.
Though there is no research about the healing properties of valerian root on migraine. But, some experts say that, as it has the sedative properties to calm down the anxiety, stress and blood pressure, so, it can work on migraine as well.
Being a good supplement for your health, it would certainly relax you , so give it a try.
8. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD):
OCD is a very common condition, characterized by the need to check the things again and again.
This disorder sounds not a big one, but it can have an impact on your daily routine.
Nowadays, herbal remedies are safer options for treatment, than pharmaceutical medication. A study has found that valerian root had some effects that can treat such disorders.
- How To Use Valerian Root:
Valerian Root can be used as a supplement which is easily available in the medical stores.
It is sold in the form of oils, dry powder, fluid extract, and tea.
The roots of the valerian are dried first and powdered to form tablets and capsules.
There is no difference between valerian capsule and tea, as long as ingredients are the same per dose.
It may take a few weeks to show its effects on your body.
For Insomnia, it may take one to two hours before bed. The valeric acid is responsible for its sedative actions
The intake of dosage is as follows:
- • Dry powdered extract: 250 to 600 milligrams
- • Tea: boil one cup of water, use 1 teaspoon (2-3 grams) of dried root
- • Fluid Extract: ½ to 1 teaspoon
- • Capsules: 200 milligrams, 3-4 times a day
It should be taken for two to three weeks for its best results. But, you should consult a doctor before taking it. The excess taking of it can produce side effects of it.
- Side Effects And Caution Of Valerian Root:
As there are pros and cons of everything. Valerian root has also some minor side effects. These meager side effects of valerian root can be ignored if you want to get rid of major problems that you suffer.
Side effects of valerian root include
- • Headache
- • Dizziness
- • Nausea
- • Gastrointestinal problems.
Some people who have used valerian root over a very long period; don’t feel any side effect of it.
But, it happens with some, who have just started taking it. If you want to stop taking valerian root, then you should stop it gradually rather than stopping all at once.
- Precautions While Taking Valerian Root
If you take some precautions before taking valerian root then its side effects can be reduced.
- • The herb may increase the effect of other sleeping aids. Hence, you should not combine it with other sleeping aids and as well as depressants, such as alcohol and narcotics because it can increase the sedative effects of depressants.
- • You should not take valerian root before driving and after alcohol because it promotes sleep.
- • You should also not mix it with other herbal supplements like California poppy, catnip, kava, Gotu kola, Jamaican dogwood, St. John’s wort, yerba mansa and others.
- • It is necessary for pregnant ladies to speak to a doctor before taking it. Others can take it in doses as mentioned above but if you have chronic health issues then, you must consult your doctor.
Valerian root is a natural way to deal with some common problems; it offers relief for these common problems like:
- • Menstrual cramps
- • Stress
- • Nervousness
- • High blood pressure
- • Anxiety
- • Insomnia
So, try the herb out.
What Is Valerian: How To Grow Valerian Plants In The Garden
- By Liz Baessler
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is an herb that’s been used in traditional medicine for centuries and is still known for its calming effects even today. It’s very tough and easy to grow, earning it a place in plenty of medicinal and ornamental gardens. Keep reading to learn more about how to grow valerian plants.
- How to Grow Valerian Plants
What is valerian? It’s a hardy perennial native to Eurasia. It’s very cold tolerant and thrives in USDA zones 4 through 9. A valerian herb plant will die back to the ground in the winter, but the roots should be fine and will put up new growth in the spring.
It will grow in a wide variety of conditions, from full to sun to partial shade and in any well-draining soil. It does, however, like to be kept moist. As part of valerian herb plant care, you’ll need to water it frequently and cover it with mulch to help retain moisture.
Also, a valerian herb plant will self-seed very readily. If you don’t want your plants to spread, remove the flowers before they have a chance to develop and drop seeds.
Growing valerian herbs is very easy. The seeds can be sown directly in the ground after all chance of frost has passed, or they can be started indoors several weeks earlier and then transplanted outside.
The plants grow to between 3 and 5 feet in height and produce white, faintly scented flowers. The roots are used for their calming properties when eaten or brewed into tea. Harvest the roots in the fall by watering the plant, then digging the whole thing up. Wash the soil from the roots, then dry them in the oven at 200 degrees F. (93 C.) with the door open a crack. The roots may take two growing seasons to be large enough to harvest.
6 Health Benefits and Uses for Valerian
- By Michelle Schoffro Cook
In my early adult years, I managed two health food stores–one of which I owned. After trying a product called Nerves and Stress, I decided to stock it in the stores. It contained valerian, which is known to relax the nervous system and alleviate the tension linked to stress. Many of my customers who complained of high stress levels reported excellent results with this product. Today, many people have lost interest or forgotten about valerian but I hope I can help restore this plant to its rightful place in the world of herbal medicine.
Anxiety Alleviator: Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is well-documented for its antianxiety effects that can be attributed (at least in part) to the compound valerenic acid.
Fibromyalgia Fix: Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers tend to experience sleep disturbances, such as difficulty falling asleep, interrupted sleep, and a lack of deep sleep. One of the goals in the treatment of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome is to improve sleep quality to enable sufferers of these debilitating conditions to sleep more deeply. Deeper sleep allows the body a greater opportunity to heal at the cellular and tissue level.
Insomnia Solution: Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers are not the only ones who can benefit from using valerian root tea to help with sleep.
Bipolar Disorder Remedy: Many people who suffer from the high and low moods of bipolar disorder also suffer from anxiety and insomnia, researchers assessed the potential effectiveness of eleven different herbs as possible natural treatments for these individuals. In an article published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, scientists found that valerian showed the greatest promise for the treatment of both anxiety and insomnia in people suffering from bipolar disorder.
Muscle Tension and Cramp Alleviator: Because valerian helps alleviate tension, it is often effective in the treatment of muscle and uterine cramps.
Childhood Restlessness and Hyperactivity Remedy: Researchers who assessed a combination of valerian root extract and lemon balm extract to reduce restlessness, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness in elementary school children found that the blend was effective and also significantly improved concentration after seven weeks of treatment.
- Using Valerian
Enjoy valerian’s ability to help you relax and cope with stress with this decoction. Combine two quarts of water and three tablespoons of dried valerian root in a medium to large pot and bring to a boil. Once it boils, cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and let the liquid simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Strain and drink as desired, storing any remaining tea in the refrigerator for up to three days. Drink one to three cups daily for best results.
Alternatively, use one-half to one teaspoon of the tincture at a time, up to two teaspoons daily. Some people express concern about a possible interaction of valerian with benzodiazepines, a class of drugs used as antianxiety medications (such as Valium), anticonvulsives in epilepsy, and muscle relaxants, which have a long list of potentially harmful side effects. A study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that valerian extract had no chemical affinity for benzodiazepine binding sites, suggesting that the herb and the drugs have different mechanisms of activity and that interaction between them is unlikely. It can induce sleepiness or drowsiness, but these are typically the intended effects. In extremely rare instances, people have the opposite reaction to valerian, finding that it actually has a stimulating effect. If you discover that you’re one of these people, simply discontinue use.
The best herbs to help you sleep - and how to grow them
- By Chelsea Clark
Have trouble falling and staying asleep? Suffer from insomnia or another sleep disorder? No one enjoys lying awake at night trying, to no avail, to drift into sleep. While over-the-counter sleep medications or prescription drugs might be tempting to combat a sleepless night, they don’t always work and can put you at risk for several negative side effects, such as cognitive impairment. These can be especially dangerous for youth. Instead, look to all-natural herbal solutions, such as valerian root, for sleep disorder and insomnia treatment.
- What Is Valerian Root?
Valerian is an herb that has yellowish-brown roots, dark green leaves, and white and pink flowers. The root of this plant has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. Primarily, valerian is known for it’s sedative qualities, which can help to increase sleepiness, as well as to decrease nervousness and restlessness. In many European countries, valerian root extract is a commonly used, approved over-the-counter medicine for the treatment of insomnia, anxiety, and disturbed sleep.
Valerian has a variety of active compounds that give it these sedative qualities. These include valerenic acid, amino acids, and more. Although the mechanism is not entirely known, researchers do know that valerian root extracts increase the activity of GABA, one of the body’s main neurotransmitters that reduces excitability of the nervous system. By doing so, valerian has a calming effect in the body.
- Does Valerian Improve Sleep Quality?
Studies have found significant improvements in sleep quality, the amount of time it takes to fall asleep, and the depth of sleep in studies using valerian root. One review found that valerian may decrease the time it takes to fall asleep by 14 to 17 minutes. Another study found that 530 mg daily of valerian root significantly improved insomnia symptoms in postmenopausal women aged 50 to 60 years old.
Valerian root can mimic the effects of some anti-anxiety and sleep medications, but it is without side effects and is considered very safe. One of the main advantages of valerian is that it does not produce a “hangover” effect, meaning that no side effects are felt upon waking. It is also useful for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and restlessness, as well.
- A Combination of Herbs Is Often Most Effective
Valerian alone may produce substantial benefits and can help you to fall asleep and stay asleep, but many studies show that using valerian in combination with other sedative herbs is extremely effective. Try valerian with hops extract (Humulus lupulus), which has been shown to increase time spent sleeping as well as time spent in deeper sleep. Lemon balm and valerian is another effective combination, which can be used in children to help reduce restlessness and promote healthy sleep.
- How to Use Valerian Root for Sleep Improvement
Valerian can be purchased as a dietary supplement. The recommended dose ranges from 30 to 600 mg daily about 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime. You might also try valerian root tea, which can be found in natural groceries. Drink a cup of tea before bed to promote sleep.
The best herbs to help you sleep - and how to grow them
- By JANE WRIGGLESWORTH
Can't sleep? Forget counting sheep. Count instead on the effect of soporific herbs. Many herbs can help with a good night's sleep, but to find the ones that work best for you, experiment one at a time. Later you can combine herbs that work for a synergistic effect. The following, however, are four herbs that are renowned sleep-enhancers.
- VALERIAN (VALERIANA OFFICINALIS)
This is often described as the herbal tranquilliser, and it works extremely well for many people. But not all. Unfortunately, for me valerian has the opposite effect: it stimulates. It makes me feel completely wired.
Here's why. In herbalism, herbs are matched to the individual to achieve a balance. Warming herbs like valerian, for example, are matched to people with cooling tendencies (not me – I have a hot constitution).
"A person with signs of coldness is typically wearing a jersey while others are in T-shirts," says Rosalee de la Forêt, a US-based herbalist. "They may have pale skin and feel lethargic. But if someone has signs of heat – fast pulse, red face, they feel warmer than others – then valerian has a higher chance of causing the opposite desired reaction."
For those who can take it, valerian can be extremely effective at reducing anxiety, relaxing muscle tension and aiding sleep. "Valerian is the herb I use more than any other to help a person who is not sleeping well," says Richard Whelan, a Christchurch medical herbalist. "When it is the right herb for the right person, it is a superb ally."
The active constituents in valerian depress the central nervous system in a similar way to GABA, a relaxing neurotransmitter in the brain. Clinical studies have shown that valerian is effective in the treatment of insomnia, mostly by reducing the time it takes to go from fully awake to asleep and improving sleep quality. And unlike prescription drugs like benzodiazepine it doesn't cause drowsiness when used at the recommended dosage.
So what's the right dose? "The one that palpably works," says Richard. "I mostly use teas and tinctures but for valerian I use an extract in capsule form, which allows me to give very strong doses. In some cases I will get the patient to take two tablets an hour before bed and then another two just before they turn in. This puts a very high level of active constituents into the bloodstream overnight and is particularly effective for those who have a habit of frequent waking and restless sleep. It often starts working from the first night. Though, as is always the case with herbs, the longer you take them the better they work."
How to grow and use: Valerian is easy to grow in rich, heavy loam with good moisture. It's a hardy perennial, with summer flowers reaching up to 1.5m high, but as it's the root that is used, you may want to snip off the flowers so that the plant puts more energy into the rhizomes.
You can make a tincture by soaking the chopped roots in three times their volume of vodka. Place both in a jar, screw the lid on tightly and store in a cool, dark room. Shake daily for 4-6 weeks, then strain. Alternatively, you can steep slices of fresh or dried root in freshly boiled water to make a tea.
Valerian is safe for people of all ages with no contraindications. It has been shown to be safe in pregnancy.
- SKULLCAP (SCUTELLARIA LATERIFLORA)
This is a relaxing nervine used to relieve stress and anxiety, and it can also be taken at night to quieten a busy mind. It is often used with passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) as a overall herbal mind-body sedative. Both these herbs are cooling, so are apt for those with hotter constitutions, says Richard. "Such people are often troubled by bad sleep when they have just too much energy and have not managed to completely exhaust themselves before they hit the hay."
That's me to a T. Long ago I realised I needed something to dampen my enthusiastic mind-chatter come bedtime, and skullcap fitted the bill.
Richard adds: "Good-quality skullcap in a sufficient dose (via tea or tincture) can be used as a sleep remedy or when there is just too much overall tension in the nervous system – which will not be helping with getting good sleep."
Skullcap leaves can be used either fresh or recently dried, as they lose their potency as they age. For a good night's sleep, a strong tea is ideal, taken perhaps an hour before retiring. A tincture can be beneficial too.
"I find that skullcap tincture is excellent. Around 1-2ml in a dose is enough for most people to feel a noticeable effect and taking this amount two or even three times in a day is ideal to help create a lasting shift in tension levels," says Richard.
How to grow: Scullcap is a hardy perennial from the mint family that grows best in moist soil. It produces purple flowers on stems reaching 60cm or so high. Seeds are available from Carol's Heirloom Garden.
This herb's relaxing effects are also well-known. Small doses – as little as 10 drops of the tincture for a more sensitive individual, or double that for someone who may need a stronger action to feel the effect – used during the day can relieve nervous tension without causing drowsiness or loss of concentration. But passionflower can also be taken in larger doses at night to promote sleep.
"Passionflower is remarkably relaxing when you take enough of it, and the effects are long-lasting so it is highly conducive to helping you sleep through the night," says Richard.
"I have used larger doses (up to a full teaspoon of a tincture or several grams of the dried herb) in people who are having trouble falling asleep or who are in severe anxiety or agitation."
How to grow: Passionflower is available at all garden retailers. A perennial climbing vine, it does best in frost-protected areas, and prefers a well-drained, slightly sandy soil in full sun. The aerial parts (leaves, stems, flowers) are used medicinally.
Both skullcap and passionflower are safe for people of all ages with no contraindications. They can also be used during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Derived from the root of Piper methysticum, this mostly acts as a relaxant, and is often used as a remedy for sleep. However, the plant received bad press and in some countries outright bans when it began to be overused, then was linked to liver disorders.
New Zealand was not one of them, thanks in part to the Kiwi herbalists who lobbied against its ban. A submission to the medicines classification committee stated that a number of reviews of kava's toxicity to the liver by prominent herbal experts found that the risk was at best very low, and there was little convincing evidence of a causative link.
Like anything, it's about sensible use. "Yes, kava can be a dangerous plant if used excessively or unwisely," says Richard. "But you could say the same thing about just about anything; people have died from drinking too much water. Used responsibly, kava is an extraordinary ally with two of the worst experiences to deal with in life: loss of sleep and anxiety. Frankly, this can be a life-changing herb so long as it is used patiently and wisely."
What, then is a safe dosage? "I start at 1 or 2ml per dose for most people, typically given two or three times a day. We can increase this if needed but the best long-term dose of kava is the lowest one that can be clearly felt."
How to grow: As a tropical plant, kava is happiest between 20 and 25˚C. It likes partial shade in moist, free-draining soil. Plants are available from Subtropica but if you can't grow your own, find kava roots or readymade tablets and tinctures at health stores.
If taking as a tea, be aware that the kava lactones are insoluble in water and destroyed by heat. The chopped or powdered root is infused in cold water then strained through fine cloth. You can also make your own tincture using the vodka method.
Check with your doctor first before using kava. Avoid while pregnant.
And if all else fails? "Try yawning 10-12 times just before going to bed," says Donna Lee of Cottage Hill Herbs. "This disengages the limbic system, easing anxiety and worrying thoughts throughout the night."
Valeriana Officinalis: Grow Valerian for a Natural Sleep Aid
- By Heidi Cardenas
Valerian is an interesting and attractive herbaceous perennial to grow in a dedicated area of the herb garden or in wet areas of the landscape.
Used since ancient times for its sedative and relaxing properties, Valeriana officinalis, commonly known as garden heliotrope, is native to Europe and Northern Asia, and its native habitat is marshes and river banks. Valerian grows from thick rhizomes, with 2- or 3-inch-long dark green, lance-shaped serrated leaves growing from a central rosette and a 3- to 4-foot-tall flowering stem with clusters of flower buds. The central rhizome sends out smaller rhizomes, which grow new plants around the mother plant. The foliage has a stinking, putrid odor, especially when handled or disturbed, but the flowers have a fragrance similar to cherry pie. The stinking foliage is as attractive to cats as catnip, and they will roll in the plants and tear them up if given the opportunity. You can sew up tiny pillows stuffed with valerian leaves for the cats in your life to enjoy.
Cultivation: Sow valerian seeds in spring when the soil has warmed up or plant seedlings or divisions. New seedlings need consistent moisture, grow slowly and need protection from faster-growing weeds. After a few years growth, dig up and separate very thick stands of plants. Established valerian seeds freely, self-sows if flowers are left on the plant and can be difficult to remove from the landscape. Unless you plan to harvest many roots, you may want to plant it in a half barrel or contain it with a sunken barrier. If you plan to harvest roots to use for herbal preparations, clip off the flower stalks to let the plant concentrate on root growth, do not use any chemicals in the garden and wait until the second year to dig up roots. Roots dug in early fall, around the end of September, have the highest concentration of essential oil.
Medicinal Uses: Valerian root is used in various forms, such as in capsules filled with the dried, powdered root and as tea made by steeping slices of fresh or dried root in boiling water. The fresh root can be put through a juicer for a liquid treatment to be taken straight or mixed with other liquids like chamomile tea or lemonade. Other medicinal uses for valerian include cough syrup made by boiling valerian root with licorice, raisins and anise seed and a headache poultice of leaves quickly blanched in boiling water and wrapped in gauze or muslin and applied to the forehead. Dr. Mehmet Oz recommends valerian as a gentle sleep aid, saying lack of sleep affects health.
Valerian Root: What to Know About this Herbal Sleep Aid
- (Best Health Magazine)
'Sleeping it off' is difficult if insomnia is your problem. Fortunately, there's an herbal sleep aid that also helps ease anxiety. Celebrated for its sedative properties, valerian root may give you the rest and relief you need
Suffering from anxiety or insomnia? Give yourself a rest by giving valerian root a try Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a natural remedy used to treat anxiety and insomnia. The ancient Greeks called valerian root ‘Phu’ (as in phew!) because it smells like nothing other than a stinky old sock. But this substance may be a boon if you’re stressed or unable to sleep. As more and more people commit to healthy living, more and more people are choosing to put the sleeping pills aside and try a herbal remedy first. If you’ve been finding yourself on edge or are having sleep trouble, valerian root is a safe home remedy.
Valerian root’s distinctive aroma comes from isovaleric acid, one of several calming compounds it contains. Traditional use of the plant for insomnia and anxiety dates back thousands of years, to Greece, Rome and China. It became popular in Europe in the 1600s and until the 1940s was even listed in the US National Formulary as a sleep aid and anxiety remedy. Today, valerian is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, as researchers document its sedative properties.
- How to take valerian to help you sleep
If you’d like to try valerian to ease mild insomnia, take 400 to 900 milligrams of valerian extract in tablet or capsule form or 20 to 60 drops of valerian tincture in warm water between half an hour and 2 hours before bedtime.
Valerian tea may also help: mix 2 to 3 grams of dried, powdered valerian steeped in a cup (225 millilitres) of just-boiled water. Mask the unpleasant taste by also steeping a cinnamon stick or star anise in the cup. Extracts containing lemon balm as well as valerian’which a study showed to be effective against anxiety’are also available; follow label directions.
- Modern research and studies on valerian
Nightly tablets of valerian root extract helped about 1 in 13 insomniacs enjoy a longer night’s sleep, with fewer middle-of-the night wake-ups, in a 2007 study conducted by the Norwegian Knowledge Centre for the Health Services. The researchers concluded: ‘A small number of people with insomnia are likely to experience a noticeable improvement attributable to valerian.’
Valerian’s reputation for easing agitation has also been put to the test in a number of studies, with mixed results. In laboratory experiments, it appears to relax mice, rats and even zebrafish. And in 2008, University of Zurich scientists discovered that valerian compounds enhanced the effects of GABA, a brain chemical that eases fear and anxiety by calming excited brain cells. Yet valerian didn’t soothe anxiety in women volunteers during a 2007 study held at the University of Illinois; and in a 2006 review of studies of the use of valerian to treat anxiety in people, researchers from Brazil’s Federal University of São Paulo concluded that there’s not yet enough evidence to prove that this herb is effective. Combining valerian with lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), another calming herb, did, however, ease stress in one 2006 study at the University of Northumbria in England.
How to Split Red Valerian Plants
- (San Francisco Gate)
Sometimes called Jupiter's beard, red valerian (Centranthus ruber) is a flowering perennial plant favored for its showy magenta flowers and extreme drought tolerance. It thrives in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 to 8, where it will reach a mature height of 1 to 3 feet with an equal spread. Red valerian plants propagate easily from divisions, which can be split from the parent plant every one to three years. The divisions root quickly once replanted in a sunny bed with moist soil. However, they must be taken during the right time of year to ensure success.
Divide red valerian plants in autumn every one to three years. Wait until after the flowers have faded since actively blooming plants put their energy toward flowering rather than root production.
2. Water the parent plant to a 5-inch depth the night before lifting and dividing it. Prune back the stems by half to limit water loss through transpiration. Use freshly cleaned and sanitized pruning shears to decrease the likelihood of transmitting fungal or bacterial infections.
3. Measure and mark out a line 3 inches around the base of the red valerian plant. Dig down 6 to 8 inches along the 3-inch mark. Carefully work the shovel blade underneath the root ball and pry it from the ground.
4. Lift the red valerian plant from the ground and move it to a shady location. Cover it with a moist towel to prevent stress and moisture loss while preparing the planting site.
5. Work a 3-inch layer of compost into the planting site to improve the nutrient content and moisture retention of the soil. Remove any stones or other debris that might inhibit drainage. Pull up and discard any weeds.
6. Cut the red valerian root ball into three or four portions, each with an equal share of roots and stems. Cut straight down through the root ball with a sharp gardening knife. Discard the center of the plant if the stems are woody or if the foliage growth is thin and lacks vigor.
7. Inspect the roots of each division for signs of disease. Snip off any blackened or damaged roots using clean, sharp scissors. Discard any divisions with a significant proportion of damaged or diseased roots.
8. Dig a planting hole for each red valerian division. Make the planting holes 1 inch shallower than the rootball. Space the holes approximately 12 to 24 inches apart.
9. Loosen the root ball of each red valerian division. Spread the roots along the bottom of the planting hole. Hold the division so the base of the stems is at soil level. Backfill around the roots until they are covered.
10. Water the divisions to a 3-inch depth after planting to settle the soil. Spread a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch between the red valerian divisions to help keep the soil moist and to prevent weed growth.
11. Water the red valerian divisions weekly to a 1-inch depth. Withhold watering during periods of rainy weather to decrease the likelihood of rot or bacterial growth. Watch for renewed growth in spring.
- Things You Will Need
- • Garden hose
- • Pruning shears
- • Shovel
- • Moist towel
- • Compost
- • Gardening knife
- • Mulch
How to Grow Valerian / Growing Valerian
- (Balcony Garden Web)
Learn how to grow Valerian. Easy growing Valerian is a perennial herb. This flowering, low maintenance medicinal herb is cold hardy. Its fragrant flowers and traditional medicinal use of its roots that soothes and promotes sleep makes it doubly interesting.
USDA Zones— 4 – 9
Other Names— All-Heal, Amantilla, Baldrian, Baldrianwurzel, Common Valerian, Garden Heliotrope, Garden Valerian, Guérit Tout, Herbe aux Chats, Herbe de Saint-Georges, Herbe du Loup, Indian Valerian, Mexican Valerian, Pacific Valerian, Rhizome de Valériane, Tagar, Tagar-Ganthoda, Tagara, Valeriana, Valeriana angustifolia, Valeriana edulis, Valeriana jatamansii, Valeriana officinalis, Valeriana Pseudofficinalis, Valeriana Rhizome, Valeriana sitchensis, Valeriana wallichii, Valerianae Radix, Valeriane, Valériane, Valériane à Petites Feuilles, Valériane Africaine, Valériane Celtique, Valériane Commune, Valériane de Belgique, Valériane des Collines, Valériane Dioïque, Valériane du Jardin, Valériane Indienne, Valériane Mexicaine, Valériane Officinale, Valériane Sauvage.
- Valerian Plant Information
Valerian plant can grows up to 2 m high and 1 m wide. It is cultivated to obtain its rhizomes and roots, which are large and look yellow from outside and white inside. Its blooms are highly fragrant, whereas roots and rhizomes are musty in odor. The use of its root produces a stimulant effect similar to drunkenness. The cats are attracted towards this plant like catnip. Valerian roots also attract rats and other rodents.
- How to Grow Valerian
- Propagation and Planting Valerian
Growing Valerian from seeds is slightly difficult. Better is to propagate it from division or you can buy seedlings from a nursery. For seed propagation, sow them in a seed starting mix. Barely cover the surface. Sprinkle the water frequently to keep the substrate moist until germination. When seedlings are mature enough, transplant them onto a frost free ground, leaving 1 m space between each plant. If you like to plant Valerian in a container, choose a big and deep planter.
- Valerian Varieties and Species
Valerian officinalis belongs to the genus Valeriana (family Caprifoliaceae). This Valeriana genus contains many other wild species that are not cultivated in gardens, such as marsh Valerian (V. dioica) or tuberous Valerian ( V. tuberosa). It should not be confused with the red Valerian that also belongs to the same Caprifoliaceae family, which is actually a kind of Centranthus.
- Requirements for Growing Valerian
- Valerian has no special requirements. It requires temperate climate to thrive. Plant it in semi-shade. If you’re growing Valerian in full sun, you have to provide enough moisture. In cooler zones planting in full sun is possible.
- Keep the soil moderately moist. In summer, water it regularly, especially if it is exposed to direct sunlight.
- In order to proliferate properly and effortlessly, growing Valerian requires soil that is relatively loose, moist, deep, well drained, fertile and rich in organic matter. It needs pH level close to neutral (between 5.5 to 7).
- Valerian Plant Care
- Regularly remove the competitive weeds in the spring.
- Pests and Diseases
It doesn’t get affected with particular diseases or pests. A quality that makes growing Valerian simple and suitable even for beginners.
- When and how to harvest it?
- Harvest roots in the fall (autumn) or in winter with a fork tail, choose mature plants that are at least 2 years old.
How to Grow Valerian
- (The Herb Gardener)
As an herb, valerian is an olfactory contradiction. It's been used as a medicinal herb for centuries, but it's most distinctive feature is its scent. You may love the way valerian smells, but if you do, you're in the minority. Most people who get a whiff of a valerian blossom think it smells a bit like cherry-vanilla (maybe). The surrounding leaves and stems contribute a definite musty, sour, almost rank odor, though, so the overall effect is generally unpleasant.
Still, one common historical use for valerian was in perfumery, so it must have something going for it. It's probably still used in some complex perfume recipes today. Perfumes can have hundreds of ingredients, and some of them are bound to be pretty unique.
Where the plant may smell just marginally tolerable when it's in heavy bloom, the roots definitely smell nasty moldy, and it's the root that's most often dried, powdered and used in herbal preparations.
I can picture valerian in a woodsy/swampy setting where layers of tree leaves are slowly decaying under fallen branches while mushrooms sprout nearby. It's that kind of smell. If you think I'm exaggerating, some word origin experts believe that the word "phew" (for a stinky smell) came from the writings of Dioscorides, a Roman physician in the first century A.D. who called valerian "phu." That seems a bit on the nose to be completely true, but it's a great story.
What valerian lacks in sweet perfume, it makes up for in herbal benefits, though. It's probably the premier sleep aid on the herbal market, and can also be useful as a tranquilizer and anti-depressant. If you think life stinks because you can't catch the zzzzs you need, then valerian may deserve a place in your garden.
- Growing Valerian
A tall perennial, valerian (Valeriana officinalis) produces clusters of (usually) white flowers that attract butterflies and bees. It offers a nice screen for the back of an herb patch, especially if grown near a fence or other support. Provide valerian with full sun for at least 6 hours a day. It likes a nitrogen rich soil that drains well and appreciates plenty of moisture. I maintain my plants on a low spot in the garden that tends to pool -- briefly-- after a heavy rain.
Valerian can grow to about 5 feet high and more than a foot across, so give it plenty of space. It is hardy in zones 4 through 9. Treat valerian respectfully by giving it a layer of mulch spring and fall.
Spring and fall are also the best times to harvest valerian's roots and thin plants as needed. It can get raggedy and neglected looking after a couple of years and benefits from some tough love.
Cats enjoy valerian almost as much as they love catnip. Valerian is also reputed to attract vermin like mice and rats. I haven't had problems with that, but cats are a regular presence in my garden, so they may be acting as a natural pest repellent.
- How to Propagate Valerian
Although you can propagate this herb from seed, the seeds can be persnickety, so prefer root division or rooted runners.
If you really want to try growing valerian from seed: Unlike basil and other hardy herb seeds that can stay viable in storage for years, germination rates for valerian seeds are iffy at the best of times, so get your seeds while they're hot (uh, fresh) and use them soon after purchase. Plant them in rich, well worked, loose soil to a depth of an 1/8 inch or so.
You can plant seeds directly in the garden in spring (they're frost hardy), but watch out for birds. Seeds germinate close to the surface and need a bit of light to quicken, so they're good candidates for predation. Keep them uniformly moist and they should germinate in a week to 10 days. You can also start seeds indoors. (You'll almost always obtain the best results by reading and following the instructions on the seed packet you buy.)
- Valerian, the Sleep Herb
Valerian's dried and powdered root is widely used as an over the counter herbal sleep aid, but you can produce your own powder for pennies. Still, it can be a little sad growing valerian just to dig it up every season for its root crop. (I feel this way about most root herbs, including ginger.) If you grow quite a bit, though, it's easy to harvest a little valerian root and leave a majority of the plant in place.
• Valerian root can be a pretty powerful sleep inducer for some, and the potency of the root will vary somewhat from season to season or even from bottle to bottle when sold at the pharmacy. This can make determining the right dosage a challenge. The general wisdom is that the dryer the soil the plant is grown in, the more concentrated and potent the root's essential oils will be.
A more mild option, especially if you haven't tried valerian before, is to use the leaves in a sleepy time tea. (The leaves aren't as potent or smelly as the root.) I typically harvest some root and lots of leaves. For valerian tea, I also include lemon balm and passionflower in the mixture. Both are also sleep aids, and together they taste more appealing than valerian alone. Hops is another good addition.
As an herbal trinity for night time relief, valerian (leaves and roots), passionflower leaves and lemon balm (all parts) are pretty reliable. All are also easy to grow, dry, store and use.
My motto is: If you have space in your garden, use it to grow something useful. Make the landscape work for you. I've also found over the years that the search for a safe sleep aid is what often sparks a beginning interest in herbal remedies. If you want to grow a few medicine cabinet ingredients in your backyard, valerian is a good place to start.
- Valerian by Any Other Name
Valerian is known colloquially as herbal Valium (seriously), and by many other names too, including:
- • All-Heal
- • Amantilla
- • Baldrian
- • Common valerian
- • English valerian
- • Fragrant valerian
- • Garden heliotrope
- • Garden valerian
- • Set well
- • St. George’s herb
- • Vandal root
I should also mention that there's another common garden plant, Centranthus ruber, known as red valerian. It's a different plant that does not have the curative properties of Valeriana officinalis. It does have a few limited culinary applications: Its young leaves are sometimes used in salads, and the roots are edible. As with any plants you plan on consuming, know what you're growing and harvesting.
- Medicinal Valerian
Over the years, valerian has developed a folk reputation as a kind of herbal wonder plant that can do it all. You've seen above that one of its common names is all-heal. The science hasn't caught up with that anecdotal reputation, though. There does appear to be some support for the belief that valerian is an effective treatment for insomnia. It isn't a knockout herb that will have you snoring in 15 minutes. It takes from 30 minutes to 2 hours to feel the effects, which exhibit as a relaxed, drowsy feeling.
Valerian has been used to treat the following conditions, but at this writing there isn't enough evidence for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or the National Institutes of Health to rate its effectiveness:
- • Anxiety
- • Attention-deficit disorder
- • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
- • Convulsions
- • Depression
- • Epilepsy
- • Headache
- • Hot flashes
- • Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- • Joint pain
- • Menstrual cramps
- • Migraine
- • Muscle pain
- • Stomach ache
- • Tremors (mild)
• Valerian is generally considered safe, but taking it is contraindicated if you are pregnant or nursing. It may be habit forming and should be used for brief periods only. The upper limit seems to be 25 days or so for adults, but verify that with the latest research, please. It is not recommended for very young children, and may cause drug interactions with alcohol, Alprazolam (Xanax) and any number of sedative medications. Valerian should not be taken within two weeks of surgery as it may interact with anesthetics and other medicines. Valerian may also react with drugs that are changed in the liver.
For the latest information about this or any other herb, visit MedLine Plus (a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), The National Institutes of Health and WebMd. Discuss any medical conditions or symptoms you have with a medical professional before adopting or changing your course of treatment.
The Natural Stress, Restlessness and Hyperactivity Remedy
- By Michelle Schoffro Cook
Twenty-four years ago I owned my own health food store. A herb product sales representative thought that a product called Nerves and Stress might be a good one to carry. So after trying it I decided to stock in my store. The key ingredient was valerian, which was known to relax the nervous system and alleviate the tension linked to stress. Many of my customers who complained of high stress levels reported excellent results thanks to this herb.
As more and more exotic herbs from faraway lands have gained popularity in North America, valerian has been largely forgotten, except by herbalists who have experienced its benefits firsthand. But a growing body of research is starting to validate what herbalists have been advocating for hundreds of years or longer: that valerian is a great natural herb for relaxing the nervous system, regardless of whether a person is suffering from hyperactivity, restlessness, anxiety or other nervous system issue.
The anti-anxiety effects of valerian can be attributed (at least in part) to the compound valerenic acid, which is naturally present in the roots of the plant. Researchers who assessed a combination of valerian root extract and lemon balm extract to reduce restlessness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness in elementary school children found that the blend was effective and also significantly improved concentration after only seven weeks of treatment.
The herbal medicine may offer an alternative to the use of methylphenidate (Ritalin), which has been shown to increase the risk of depression and anxiety later in adulthood in those who took the drug as children. Some scientists believe that Ritalin alters the brain’s chemical composition so that it has a lasting effect on mental health. Because the child’s brain is growing and developing, the result could be irreversible brain damage. In animal research scientists found that short-or long-term use of Ritalin caused free radical damage, reduced important brain-protecting enzymes like superoxide dismutase (SOD), and resulted in significant change in energy metabolism in the brain in healthy animals.
While the internet if full of misleading information about adverse interactions of this herb with many drugs, no drug interactions have been reported by the German Commission E, a long-considered world authority on the use of herbs. Having said that, I recommend not combining benzodiazepines, a class of drugs used as antianxiety medications (such as Valium), anticonvulsives used in epilepsy, or muscle relaxants, with valerian as both the drugs and the herb have similar medicinal effects, albeit different modes of action and actually work on different sites in the body, according to research in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Of course, never discontinue any medication without first consulting your physician.
Valerian root can be taken in an extract form (alcohol-based tincture) which tends to effectively extract the medicinal properties of the plant. Follow package instructions for the product you choose. Alternatively, you can boil 2 quarts of water with 3 tablespoons of dried valerian root. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Allow to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Strain and then drink one to three cups daily, storing the remaining tea in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Valerian can induce sleepiness or drowsiness, but these are typically the intended effects. As a result, it’s best to avoid operating a vehicle or heavy machinery after valerian use. In extremely rare instances, people have the opposite reaction to valerian, finding that it actually has a stimulating effect. If you discover that you’re one of these people, discontinue use.
How to Plant Valerian
- By Amelia Allonsy
Valerian is an herbaceous perennial that produces fern-like foliage and clusters of white to light red flowers. The native European species, Valeriana officinalis, is processed widely into herbal sedative and sleep aid products. Valeriana sitchensis, a related species native to the northwestern United States, including parts of northern California, is becoming increasingly common as an herbal remedy. Valerian species do well in Sunset Climate Zones 1 through 24, and prefer sun or partial shade, moderate to heavy watering and nutrient-rich, slightly acidic soil. Valerian is propagated from seed or root divisions taken in spring or fall.
- Planting Seeds
1. Till the soil in a garden bed to break up large clods or turn with a shovel if soil already is loose.
2. Add prepared compost and organic plant matter, such as shredded bark mulch, leaves and grass clippings, to increase the nutrient and humus content in the soil. Valerian thrives in soil with high humus content. Many potting soils are humus-rich, so you could simply work potting soil into the garden soil.
3. Till the soil again or turn with a shovel to incorporate the soil amendments.
4. Sow seeds directly into the soil surface spaced 12 to 24 inches apart. Wait until the soil temperature reaches 68 degrees Fahrenheit. You can start the seeds indoors in cell packs, using a nutrient-rich, high humus potting soil, then transplant seedlings when the soil reaches the optimum temperature.
5. Press the seeds into the soil lightly with your hands to ensure the seeds make proper contact with the soil. Do not cover the seeds with soil because valerian seeds require light to germinate. Seeds germinate within one to two weeks with a germination rate of 60 to 70-percent.
6. Water the soil frequently to keep the seeds and seedlings moist. Valerian commonly grows as a weed in ditches, so it is much more tolerant of excess water than many plants.
7. Fertilize plants with a phosphorous-rich fertilizer, following the package label for specific application instructions. Valerian plants require high levels of phosphorous for best growth.
8. Divide plants as they become crowded or outgrow their growing area. Valerian becomes invasive if not divided and may overwhelm other plants.
- Planting Divisions
1. Cut the soil around the plant with a shovel a few inches away from the plant, then use the shovel as a lever to break the roots from the soil and lift it out of the ground, leaving as much of the root ball intact as possible.
2. Shake the plant gently to remove excess soil from the root ball.
3. Break the root ball into about four sections with the blade of the shovel. Inspect the plant crown and root ball visually for natural separations among the plants in the clump so the root ball is easier to divide.
4. Pull the sections apart into smaller sections to create as many new plants as desired. Look at the roots to find areas where division is most natural. Cut the tuberous roots apart with a knife or garden shears if they don't come apart easily with your hands.
5. Plant divisions 12 to 24 inches apart in the garden bed to the same planting depth as the original plant. Return a division to the original planting area.
6. Water the plants deeply and frequently to keep the soil moist.
7. Apply a high-phosphorous fertilizer, following the package label for specific frequency and application instructions.
- Things You Will Need
- • Tiller or shovel
- • Compost
- • Organic matter
- • Phosphorous fertilizer
- • Knife or garden shears
- Failure to divide valerian plants as they get overcrowded not only affects other plants, but results in poor plant growth for the crowded valerian plants.
Home remedies to manage aches and pains
- By Anusuya Suresh
Each one of us has suffered an occasional niggle in the back or the knee. Most of us have experienced a sense of feeling achy for no apparent reason other than being tired. While some believe time will heal the pain, others pop a painkiller (beware of its side-effects). But why do you want to take a chemical route when there are natural ways to deal with body aches.
- Use a hot water bag
It is amazing how effective heat can be against minor aches and pains. When you use a hot water bag on your back or your calf muscles, you can feel the tense muscles relaxing, and the pain dissolve. Even if you plan on applying a pain-relieving cream or gel to the painful area, do it after you’ve used the hot water bag. This works well because the heat opens up the skin pores, allowing the cream or gel to penetrate deeper, giving more effective pain relief.
- Soak in an Epsom bath
Magnesium is good for muscles magnesium deficiency has been known to cause muscle cramps. Getting enough magnesium into your body may be the right answer to those frequent aches and pains. Epsom salts are made up of magnesium sulphate and the magnesium can be absorbed through the skin, too. Add 2 cups of Epsom salts into the water in your bathtub and soak in it for about 15 minutes. Do this a few times every week and you will notice a distinct reduction in those niggles.
- Get regular exercise
When you feel achy all over, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. In reality, the pain – or your perception of it, too – will only get worse by lying in bed. Instead, get moving and you will find the pain has reduced. Whatever form of exercise appeals to you – walking, jogging, tai chi or yoga – make sure you do it regularly. If short on time, do few basic stretches every day. Exercise makes your muscles and joints more flexible and also has the effect of releasing endorphins in the brain both of which contribute to a lesser experience of pain.
- Massage with essential oils
Essential oils extracted from Peppermint, Wintergreen and Rosemary contain chemical ingredients that have natural anti-inflammatory properties. This makes these oils highly effective against aches and pains. Dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil such as coconut oil and gently massage into the area where you feel the pain.
- Include turmeric and ginger in your diet
Both turmeric and ginger have been found to have potent anti-inflammatory activity. Including them regularly in your diet can help you stay healthier and avoid aches and pains. Add these herbs to your regular food or make an herbal tea by steeping the washed and cut rhizome in hot water. Some people also use a ginger compress – grated ginger root wrapped in cheesecloth and dipped in hot water for half a minute and then applied to the painful area.
- Drink valerian tea
Valerian is a natural painkiller and tranquilliser that relieves pain as well as anxiety and stress. Drinking a cup of valerian tea can thus help you soothe those stress-induced aches and pains quite effectively.
- Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne contains capsaicin that is a natural anti-inflammatory substance. It is therefore, a common ingredient in several natural products used for relief from muscular pain. Use a natural cream that contains cayenne as one of the ingredients and gently massage it into the affected area for some quick relief.
According to some New Thought self-help gurus, aches and pains in the body are an indication of being under constant stress. So, while using these natural remedies may help provide temporary relief, what you should be looking at is avoiding stress or at least, dealing with it in a positive way. Yoga, Pranayama, and meditation are probably the practices you should be exploring to drive those aches and pains away for good.
Benefits and Uses of Valerian (Valeriana Officinalis)
- (Sasha, Vox Nature)
Valerian is a perennial plant that has sweetly scented flowers. This plant blooms in the summer and is native to England and to certain areas in Asia. For centuries, valerian has been taken advantage of as medicine for its sedating properties. The pungent odor of the root makes it easy to identify as valerian.
Ancient Greeks and Romans have used valerian to treat a number of common illnesses. Other regions, like the Middle East, adopted valerian as medicine, and it is, thereby, often referred to as a “heal-all”. Additionally, besides medicinal purposes, valerian has been used as a perfume, as a spice in food, and it has a place in folklore, as it was once thought to be an ingredient in love potions.
Valerian also goes by the following names: Valerian Root, Amantilla, Capon’s tail, All-heal, Common Valerian, Garden Heliotrope, European Valerian, Kediotu, Phu, Garden Valerian, Seiyo-Kanoko-So, Set Well, Setwall, Valeriana, and Vandal Root. Health Benefits of Valerian
The root of valerian is used to make medicine. More commonly, because of its sedative properties, valerian is used as a treatment for insomnia and other sleep disorders; it induces drowsiness. Additionally, valerian is used to reduce anxiety and stress symptoms, including a nervous state, migraines and stomach aches. Similarly, it is used as treatment for depression, ADHD and chronic fatigue.
Other uses of valerian include the treatment of pains associated with the muscle and joints. Women also use valerian to treat symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes and anxiety.
The list continues:
- • Confusion
- • Dysmenorrhea
- • Cramp
- • Hives
- • Tension
- • Hysteria
- • Hypochondriasis
- • Palpitations
- • Intestinal colic
- • Nervous excitability
- • Rheumatic fever and pain
- • Lack of concentration
- • Tranquiliser withdrawal
- • Improving circulation
- • Retarded and scanty menstruation
- How to Use Valerian
More frequently, valerian is used to make tea. Valerian root tea is simple and fast to make. Boil the root in hot water. Cover and let steep for approximately fifteen minutes. Uncover and strain out the root. Your tea is now ready to be consumed.
Valerian roots can also be added to the bath. It can help induce drowsiness and invoke a state of relaxation that will help you sleep better at night.
- How and Where to Buy Valerian
Foods and beverages containing valerian extracts are commercially available. The root itself can be purchased fresh at health food stores to be added into a number of dishes, or consumed in capsule or tincture form.
Valerian Root Tincture Recipe
- (Heather, mommypotamus)
It’s been called Nature’s Valium . . .
And yet, unlike the pharmaceutical drug with all of its potential side effects, valerian root is a Safety Class 1 herb – the safest rating possible!
If you’re not familiar with it, valerian root has long been used to support relaxation and sleep. But don’t think of it as just a nighttime herb – many people use it during the day to promote emotional well-being.
That makes perfect sense when you consider its name is derived from the Latin valere, “to be well” or “to be strong.” In fact, during World War II, the Vegetable Drugs Committee listed valerian root as one of the most essential plants for collection and use – presumably because of the emotional support it offered. (source) So what does Safety Class 1 mean, exactly?
According to the Botanical Safety Handbook: 2nd Edition, which is the herbal equivalent of Robert Tisserand’s authoritative guide, Essential Oil Safety, this category is described as:
“Herbs that can be safely consumed when used appropriately.
- • History of safe traditional use
- • No case reports of significant adverse events with high probability of causality
- • No significant adverse events in clinical trials
- • No identified concerns for use during pregnancy or lactation
- • No innately toxic constituents
- • Toxicity associated with excessive use is not a basis for exclusion from this class
- • Minor or self-limiting side effects are not bases for exclusion from this class”
That said, “caution is advised during use of barbiturates, bensodiazepines, and other sedative drugs,” because valerian may increase their effects.
In addition, for a small percentage of the population valerian root has a stimulating effect rather than a calming one. Herbalists generally do not recommend valerian root in those cases.
- Why a tincture instead of capsules?
When I first started working with herbs, I wondered why anyone would go to the trouble of making a tincture when they could simply take a capsule or tea. The answer, I learned, is that tinctures don’t require digestion – their benefits are available to the body within minutes. When taken as a capsule, the body needs considerably more time to break down and assimilate the nutrients.
Teas are often a good option, but in some cases beneficial compounds are left behind in the herb because they are not water soluble. In those cases, alcohol is considered a better medium. Valerian root contains flavinoids which are not water soluble, so I prefer to take it as a tincture.
- How much should I use?
According to renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, valerian root “is a nonaddictive, non-habit-forming sedative, and it will not make you sleepy or groggy unless really large amounts are consumed. So don’t be afraid to take adequate amounts of valerian. Begin with a low dosage and increase it until you feel its relaxing effects. You’ll know you’ve taken too much if you have a ‘rubberlike’ feeling in the muscles – as if they were too relaxed – or a feeling of heaviness. If that’s the case, cut back the [amount] so that you feel relaxed but alert.”
When taken as a tincture, she recommends starting with 1/4 teaspoon, taking an additional dose after 30 minutes if needed. Another reputable source recommends 1/2-1 teaspoon, taken up to three times daily. Is it safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding?
According to the Botanical Safety Handbook: 2nd Edition, “Animal studies and human case reports have indicated no adverse effects of relatively high doses (2.8g/kg) of valerian in pregnancy.
No information on the safety of valerian during lactation was identified in the scientific or traditional literature. While this review did not identify any concerns for use while nursing, safety has not been conclusively established.” What about children?
On evenings the little potami are finding it difficult to wind down, I tend to opt for milder herbs like the ones in these sleep tinctures or sweet dreams tea.
That said, it’s generally considered safe when used in age-appropriate amounts. In fact, some commercial tincture preparations – such as Herbs for Kids Super Calm – incorporate valerian root into blends specifically intended for children.
Daddypotamus, on the other hand, opts for the valerian.
- How To Make a Valerian Root Tincture
- 1 part dried valerian root (Valeriana officinalis – here’s where to find it) (I used 1/2 cup)
- 2 parts vodka (Preferably 100 proof, but 80 proof is okay. I used 1 cup)
- Fill your jar about halfway with valerian root. Pour vodka all the way to the top, then cover with a cap and shake well. If desired, write the start date on the jar using a sticky note, label, or piece of tape – it makes keeping track of how long it’s been steeping easier.
- Place the jar in a dark area that is relatively warm. (I keep mine in a kitchen cabinet.) Let the mixture steep for 3-5 more weeks. Shake occasionally.
- When it’s ready, strain the mixture through a cheesecloth, making sure to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Pour the liquid in a clean container and store in a cool, dark area.
Health Benefits Of Valerian Root
- (Your Health)
Valerian is a pink and white flowering herb that has been used as a traditional herbal medicine for many years. It is popular in tinctures, tablets and tea. Here are a few of the valerian benefits:
Sleep – Valerian is most famously known for its benefits with instigating a healthy sleep cycle. Currently, about 50% of the population struggle to get to sleep or they wake-up during the night. People are often frustrated with the sleeping pills that doctors prescribe and would like to try a natural alternative.
Heart health – Valerian helps to maintain the health of the heart; it strengthens the blood vessels and improves their elasticity. Valerian may also help to normalise blood pressure. Considering that the biggest cause of death in the UK is cardiovascular disease, this may be a popular choice of herb for many people.
Relaxation – Valerian is thought to work on calming down nervous function; important for helping you to cope with the stress of a busy lifestyle. Valerian can be used to help you relax and unwind, which may help you to deal with both psychical and mental tension, calmness and irritability.
Digestion – Valerian can be used in digestive disorders and spasms of the digestive tract. It may stimulate the activity of the digestive tract which is beneficial in many digestive conditions. Many people may find some relief in digestive disorders by taking valerian. Gas can be uncomfortable and embarrassing at the best of times, however it is a surprisingly common problem. Taking some valerian tea may be especially beneficial after a meal.
Cognition- Valerian may help to maintain good cognitive function. Many people desire a higher cognitive function and performance. Valerian may be the herb for you.
Valerian can be taken in a tincture, capsules, tablets and as a delicious tea. If you are using it to help with sleep, take it 30 minutes before bedtime; for digestive stimulation, take before meals or use the tea to relax intestinal spasms. If you are using Valerian to help with cardiovascular issues, then you can take it any time of the day, just beware of the calming and sleep inducing affects.
Valerian for Insomnia, Anxiety, Pain, Drug Withdrawal, and ADHD
- By Conan Milner (Epoch Times)
For many, a busy mind makes sleep elusive. Once the lights go out, fears of the future, regrets of the past, and everything else in between keep the wheels spinning.
Experts say that good sleep habits are the first step toward an easy transition to dreamland. But if you are already practicing the basics (no caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime; no napping during the day; keeping the lights low at night; and winding down before bed), and you still can’t fall asleep, valerian may help.
Valerian is one of the best-known herbs for insomnia. It was used to help the ancient Greeks fall asleep, and it remains a popular sleep aid throughout Europe and North America.
The plant has feathery leaves, and a tall stalk topped with a cluster of small white and pale pink flowers that last all summer long. The favored medicinal part is the root, which is harvested in early autumn.
Feeling the strain? Seven ways to deal with stress
- By Lily Soutter [Bsc (Hons) Nutrition, Dip ION, mBANT, CNHC]
The occasional stressful event is part of life. Stress is the body’s way of helping us to focus so we can tackle the problem. When stress is ongoing, whether it’s from work demands or taking care of everybody else – it can take its toll on the body.
Chronic stress can result in all sorts of health problems such as hormonal, heart as well as causing fat to gather around the middle. Whilst we can’t always control stressful events from occurring, we can control how we respond to them.
- 7 Ways To Deal With Stress: Gain Back Serenity and Control…
•Keep cool with 3 meals a day
Skipping meals can cause our blood sugar levels to drop.
Low blood sugar not only stimulates the release of the stress hormone cortisol, but also can leave us feeling tired, irritable and even tearful.
•Ease tension with magnesium
Known as ‘Nature’s tranquilliser’, upping your magnesium intake is a must if you’re feeling the tension. Magnesium can help with sleep, resilience to stress and muscle relaxation.
Eat more dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocado, yoghurt and dark chocolate.
•Calm your nerves with chamomile
Chamomile is a calming herb with potent anxiety reducing effects.
Chamomile can be consumed daily as a tea, infused in oils or honey, and can be added to smoothies.
•Unwind with a little bit of chocolate
New research has shown that eating a square of dark chocolate a day can relieve emotional stress. It’s the high quantity of antioxidants called flavonols, which are responsible for these positive effects.
Stick with dark, organic, unprocessed chocolate for maximum benefits.
•Stay peaceful with deep breathing
The way you breathe can affect your whole body. By slowing your breathing down, you can dramatically reduce anxiety and emotional intensity.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, simply perform 20 slow deep breaths.
•Clear your thoughts with movement
Exercise is one of the most potent stress relievers but also the most underutilised.
Take a brisk 5-minute walk to stimulate anti-anxiety effects, clear your thoughts and allow you to deal with your stressors more effectively.
•Sleep deeply with a valerian root tea
Lack of sleep dramatically increases the output of our stress hormone, cortisol. Fatigue also hinders our ability to deal with stressful situations.
Valerian root tea is the most commonly used herb for sleep disorders and insomnia. Make a brew and drink one hour before bedtime.
7 Foods That Can Help You Sleep Better at Night
- Source: http://www.cheatsheet.com/health-fitness/foods-that-can-help-you-sleep-better.html/?a=viewall
- By Chloe Della Costa
Nutrition can affect everything from energy levels to disease prevention to stress relief. Food choices also have the power to encourage or discourage a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, numerous studies have shown people who are sleep-deprived are more likely to eat unhealthy, high-calorie foods. To break this vicious cycle, you’ll need to rethink your eating habits from morning until night. Several small meals throughout the day, for example, will help you sleep better. Eating a large meal late at night, however, can disrupt your body’s sleep cycle.
Certain vitamins and minerals have been linked to relaxation and sleep. According to Fitness, B vitamins, calcium, zinc, iron, and copper are all beneficial to people looking to sleep soundly, so seek out foods that deliver these nutrients. Potassium, magnesium, vitamin D can also be helpful. Tryptophan, an amino acid that helps make you sleepy when combined with carbohydrates, is another commonly-cited sleep aid.
It’s important to pay attention to your body’s specific needs. People who suffer from gastrointestinal issues stemming from dairy or gluten intolerance should definitely avoid these foods at night. Ultimately, you’ll have to listen to cues from your own body to discover what makes you feel calm, relaxed, and ready for bed. To help give you a head start, here are seven foods that can help you settle in for a full night’s sleep.
Grab some fresh cherries or a glass of cherry juice before bed, and you could start catching Zs in no time. Researchers have found drinking tart cherry juice right before bed helps you fall asleep. Some studies suggest it is more effective than taking melatonin supplements.
A glass of warm milk before bed has long been thought of as the ultimate sleep remedy. Since calcium promotes relaxation and has a calming effect on the body’s nervous system, try drinking milk or a non-dairy milk substitute that’s calcium-fortified before you start your nighttime routine.
Research has suggested the omega-3 fatty acids in fish such as salmon, halibut, and anchovies can enhance your brain’s secretion of melatonin. The presence of vitamin B6 in many types of fish is also thought to be helpful. EverydayHealth recommends a three-ounce serving of fish at least two times per week to aid in restful sleep.
4. Jasmine rice
A small dinner or bedtime snack rich in complex carbohydrates can be beneficial for sleep, and Jasmine rice offers unique benefits. A 2006 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when participants ate high-glycemic-index jasmine rice with dinner instead of lower-GI long-grain rice, they fell asleep faster. Researchers speculate high-GI meals may boost tryptophan.
A well-rounded sleep-promoting food, bananas are a great source of both magnesium and potassium, which act as natural muscle-relaxants. It’s easy to incorporate bananas into a bedtime snack, such as a smoothie or a small bowl of oatmeal. Bananas also contain vitamin B6 and copper. 6. Oysters
Oysters contain a sleep-inducing mixture of zinc, iron, magnesium, and vitamin B11. According to LiveStrong, oysters are the best food source of magnesium and zinc. A 3-ounce portion of cooked oysters provides 19% of the daily recommended amount of magnesium and well over 1,000% of your RDA of zinc
7. Herbal tea
The calming ritual involved in brewing and sipping a cup of hot tea is relaxing in itself. On top of that, chamomile tea is thought to act as a mild sedative, encouraging relaxation and relief from anxiety. Some studies have shown Valerian tea can encourage sleep and even improve sleep quality.
What Are the Benefits of Valerian Root?
- By Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN (Medically Reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT)
- What is it?
- 1. Valerian root became popular in the 7th century as a way to help people sleep better.
- 2. Although research supports its use as a sleep aid, scientists aren't entirely sure how or why it works.
- 3. One 2016 study found that the root could be helpful for women with severe PMS symptoms.
Valerian is a flowering plant with light pink, purple, or white flowers that appear in early June. People have used the root of the plant throughout the years as an alternative medicine. Valerian has been used as early as the second century, although it became especially popular in the 7th century as a way to help people sleep better.
- What are the benefits of valerian root?
Many studies have found that valerian root could be helpful as a sleep aid. The plant root is thought to have a mild sedative effect, although scientists aren't entirely sure just exactly why or how it works.
One 2016 study found that valerian root can be helpful for treating severe PMS symptoms. Researchers found that the extract made a significant difference in decreasing PMS symptoms.
Evidence suggests that valerian root is effective when used with St. John's wort to help treat depression and anxiety disorders together. A 2016 study also found that valerian root might be helpful as an anti-inflammatory for certain medical conditions, such as arthritis.
- How to use valerian root
You can buy prepared valerian root capsules at your local supermarket or health food store. You shouldn’t crush or separate the capsule. Instead, you should swallow it all at once.
The correct dosage will depend on what you’re using valerian root for. If you’re doctor has recommended that you use valerian root, they’ll likely provide you with an advised dose.
Valerian root is generally sold in 500-milligram tablets. For PMS, one study suggested taking 530 milligrams of valerian root twice per day. You can take 500 milligrams daily to help you sleep.
Although the most common way to use valerian root is by taking a prepared capsule, you can also drink it in a tea. Many herbal remedies also combine valerian root with other ingredients. For example, some sleeping pills mix valerian root and melatonin for better results.
Valerian root is also found in over-the-counter sleep agents, such as Valerian Sleep and Nature's Way Valerian Nighttime.
- What you can do now
If you’re interested in adding valerian root to your routine as a supplement or aid for a specific disorder, talk to your doctor about it first. They can advise you about how to best use valerian root for your specific medical condition, such as using it as a sleep aid, for depression and anxiety, or for PMS symptoms.
You should also make sure that it's safe to take with any medications you’re currently taking. Although it’s generally safe to use, valerian root interacts with many different medications, alcohol, and other herbs. If you’re at risk of having medicinal interaction, your doctor may advise you about how to correctly wean yourself off of any other medications you’re taking before trying valerian root.
Benefits of Valerian Root
Valerian is a very beneficial herb used in many herbal supplements that produce sedative effects. If you have never taken valerian root in any form, you should give it a chance, for it is a valid alternative to chemical anxiolytics and relaxants. Check below to discover the most significant health and mind benefits of valerian root.
- Valerian Root Helps Beat Insomnia
One of the first and most important benefits of valerian root consists in fighting insomnia.
Valerian root is widely known for its calmative effects and is largely used to treat sleeping disorders. It has anxiolytic and tranquilizing properties, and sleep-inducing and calming effects on the nervous system.
Valerian root is therefore very efficient in reducing sleeplessness and helping people who have to deal with restless nights and insomnia. It fights anxiety and nervousness, and lowers heart rate, relieving hypertension and tachycardia.
Owing to its sedative properties, valerian root is also useful in alleviating nervous disorders, such as panic attacks, depression, hysteria, excitability and others.
Valerian root contains a number of active constituents, including valerenic acid and various valepotriates, which are responsible for its sedative effects. It seems that these compounds are able to increase the effect of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino-acid naturally produced in the brain, which has tranquilizing and mood-improving effects.
Valerian root seems to affect also the autonomic nervous system and relax tensed muscles.
Unlike other prescribed sleeping drugs, valerian root has just a few side effects and is not addictive. It also doesn’t cause morning drowsiness and grogginess, or sleepiness during the day.
- Valerian Root Acts Also as an Efficient Pain Reliever
Apart from sleeping disorders, valerian root can be very useful in treating a variety of other ailments as well.
Valerian root acts as a natural muscle relaxant and is very effective in reducing pain. It also tranquilizes the nervous system, which in turn aids in alleviating different types of aches. Valerian root therefore helps getting rid of headaches and migraines, reduces menstrual cramps and muscle spasms, and relieves arthritis and other pains.
Owing to its muscle-relaxing properties, valerian root is also known to reduce stress-related digestive problems, by calming the digestive tract muscles. It is efficient in easing the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), flatulence, bloating, intestinal colic and other disorders caused by nervous tension.
- Tips on Using Valerian Root Remedies
Valerian root is available in various forms, including capsules, tinctures, powder and dried extract for making tea.
The valerian root dosage depends on the ailment, and can vary from person to person. High doses can, however, produce negative effects, which goes for every herb and medicine. It does not always have an immediate effect, but recommended doses should never be altered.
Dosages of crude valerian root may vary from 2–10 grams per day, while standardized root extract can range from 200 to 600 mg. It is highly recommendable to consult your physician before deciding on the amount of valerian root to take.
Valerian root can be found in both standardized and unstandardized forms. It is always preferable to choose standardized products, which contain 0.8% valerenic or valeric acid. Make sure also that the product you are buying is 100% valerian, without substitutes or additional ingredients.
Always carefully read the product label and follow the directions written on it. Speak to your doctor if you are taking other medicines or herbal and dietary supplements, because valerian root may interact with them. Also if you have a specific medical condition, consult your doctor before using valerian root.
Have you ever experienced some of the above mentioned benefits of the valerian root? If yes, leave a comment and let us know.
What are the benefits of valerian?
- By Lindsay POUI-DI
Graceful, with its small flowers grouped in bouquets, this plant has relaxing virtues that have been known for millennia.
- To stop smoking
With it, weaning yourself off cigarettes is much more serene. It comes as additional help from nicotine substitutes and stimulates the self-gratification. It is ideal for fighting nervousness, as it prevents mood changes, palpitations due to withdrawal, and the food compulsions that lead to weight gain.
- To fall asleep smoothly
Its underground stem and roots contain active ingredients that act as natural sleeping aids. They are capable of erasing the light and moderate insomnia, especially during periods of stress, and improve the quality of the light and paradoxical sleep. The valerian does not fight against the night-awakenings. On the other hand, it fights the very annoying restless legs syndrome. Its effects are not immediate. They become perceptible only after two to four weeks of continuous use (2 capsules of 100 mg in the morning and evening). Thus, it is necessary to persist.
- An antispasmodic effective painkiller
It limits premenstrual pains, as well as the irritability and tiredness that precede or often accompany periods. Laboratory experiences have shown that valerian extract inhibits in vitro the contraction of the uterine muscles. Consumed in the form of herb tea, it also soothes migraines, stomach pains and intestinal cramps.
- An ally against anxiety
While the grass of Saint-Georges, the other name of the valerian, excites felines, it calms the human beings. “The acid of valerian acts on intellectual receptors (GABA) involved in the regulation of the anxious disorders”, explains Dr Franck Gigon, medical herbalist. To reduce anxiety, it is used with the balm or the hop (2 to 3 cups of herb teas a day).
If the valerian is especially known for its effects on sleep, stress and insomnia, it is also effective to stop smoking.
DECOCTION OF THE VALERIAN
We can benefit from the valerian in the form of dry extract, conditioned in capsules. For those who are not averse to its very acquired taste, it is also effective in herb tea: pour a tablespoon of dried roots into 250 ml of cold water. Bring to the boil for 5 minutes, then cover for 10 minutes before filtering and drinking. To combat insomnia, drink a cup 30 minutes before sleeping. For anxiety, drink 2 to 3 cups a day. Valerian grows as well in the shade as in the sun. It is a good way to save money and to have it always at hand.
Health Benefits of Valerian
- By Elizabeth Millard
Valerian can be reliever for those plagued by stress, anxiety, and depression, works as a sedative for insomnia, and can even be a perfume.
Many common, easy-to-grow herbs and plants have beneficial properties. Ground basil can be added to toothpaste for fresher breath. Mullein flowers in olive oil can treat chapped lips. Raspberry leaves soothe sunburn. Homegrown plants like these can improve everyday wellness, and by growing them you can become more self-sufficient and take charge of aspects of your health. Backyard Pharmacy by Elizabeth Millard gives detailed information for the best plants to grow in your garden, or even indoors, to treat daily ailments. Complete with color photographs of the herbs, this book provides an overview of preparation methods, growing needs, harvesting tips, storage, and scientific research about each plant. With this as your guide, you can truly turn your yard or garden into a pharmacy. Valeriana officinalis
One of the best-known herbal sedatives, valerian was used during both World War I and World War II to treat battle-related stress. Before that, the perennial flowering plant was used to make perfume extracts in the 16th century, and was favored in ancient Greece for treating ailments of the urinary tract, liver, and digestive system. Valerian was once used as a spice, and its roots added to stews or softened enough to be added to salads. Although it’s not consumed much (if ever) in the US as an edible, the herb continues to be added to dishes in other parts of the world. In addition to medicinal and culinary uses, valerian was once thought to bring squabbling couples back together, and acted as a major ingredient in love spells.
Valerian is the ultimate chill-out herb, and has been noted as one of the most effective plants for lowering blood pressure. As with many herbs, valerian shouldn’t be taken indefinitely; instead, use for a couple weeks, then take a week off from the herb before resuming use.
Here are a few ideas for your Rx/medicinal preparations:
- • For a general calming effect, make a tonic wine by using about 2 ounces of the dried root; crush and add to 1 cup of dry white wine, then steep for a month, gently shaking occasionally. Use up to three times daily or as needed.
- • To relieve PMS symptoms or assist with insomnia, create an infusion by crushing a teaspoon of fresh valerian root and soaking in a cup of room-temperature water for at least twelve hours. Strain, and then drink a small cup in the evening.
- • To create a compress for drawing out a splinter or bee stinger, make the infusion double strength and soak a clean cloth in the liquid, and then apply to the affected area.
A towering perennial, valerian can grow to about 5 feet tall and often sports white flowers that provide a happy space for bees and butterflies. Because of that, it’s advisable to plant near vegetables and fruits that can benefit from pollinators, such as melons, tomatoes, or cucumbers. Its robust size also makes a nice backdrop to an ornamental landscape, and it trellises well on fencing.
The standard variety of valerian is called simply “common valerian,” or “official valerian” in reference to its botanical name. This type is native to Europe and temperate parts of Asia, and is remarkably hardy, down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Although other varieties are sometimes mentioned, finding seeds for these is difficult, and it’s much easier to secure the familiar, well-known variety.
Although valerian can be grown from seed, germination can be tricky, so it’s best grown through root division. Dig up a small amount of an existing plant, leaving the majority of the roots in place, and transplant into a your garden space after loosening the soil. Place transplants into the soil carefully, and water thoroughly to help reduce shock. Mulch around the roots to assist with moisture control.
If you prefer to give seeding a try, start the seeds indoors in a small container (about 2 inches or so) first, which will keep the roots warmer, aiding in germination. Cover with a very thin layer of vermiculite, a silicate that’s fluffy and pebble-shaped. It helps to promote fast root growth, anchor young roots, boost moisture retention, and assist germination. Look for horticultural vermiculite, as opposed to other types that are used for shipping chemicals or enriching concrete. In the case of valerian, it helps to let light in for the seeds, but still protects the top layer of the soil during the germination process.
As the plant grows larger, transfer to a larger container (at least 6 inches deep) so the roots can establish more firmly. Transplant outside in early spring, after the last frost.
Use valerian seeds as soon as you can; they don’t store for long and germination suffers if you’re using seeds that are left over from the previous season.
Once valerian is established, maintenance is minimal. It’s best to mulch around the roots each spring and autumn so that roots are well protected.
Keep in mind that cats love valerian, usually as much as catnip, and some ancient herbalists would gauge a plant’s potency based on how eager cats were to destroy it. If kitties are becoming an issue, consider some fencing or netting, but in general, if your cats are rolling in the valerian, it means you have a good crop.
- Harvest and Store
Although valerian leaves can be dried and used, the part of the plant most commonly used is its potent roots. Wait till after the plant’s flowering and summer stages and harvest part of the roots in late autumn of its second year, once the greens have died back and the plant’s energy is going into the roots to prepare for winter. Be sure to leave enough roots to keep the plant healthy for the next season—that’s not too difficult since even a small amount of the roots can be potent, and it only takes about a teaspoon of ground roots to make an infusion.
During the autumn, you can use fresh roots, as long as they’re thoroughly washed and allowed to dry. For preparations during the winter, let the roots dry in a well-ventilated area and store in an airtight glass jar in a cool, dark place.
One important note: valerian root has a very distinct aroma, which I tend to equate with dirty feet. Be prepared. If the smell bothers you too much while drinking tea, you can also get valerian’s benefits by putting some powdered root into empty gelatin capsules, available at co-ops, online, or some drug stores.
You can also dry the leaves to use as a tea for relaxation and insomnia. They aren’t as potent as the root, but they’re also much less stinky.
Valerian may aid menopausal sleep problems: study
- By Amy Norton (NEW YORK)
(Reuters Health) - The popular herbal sleep aid valerian could help ease some of the sleep problems that can come with menopause, a small study suggests.
Valerian root has been used since ancient Greek and Roman times for various health problems, including insomnia. Modern science is split on whether the herb works: some studies have indicated that it can ease insomnia, but few rigorous clinical trials have put valerian to the test.
For the new study, researchers in Iran randomly assigned 100 postmenopausal women with insomnia to take either two valerian capsules or inactive placebo capsules every day for a month.
That type of clinical trial -- in which neither researchers nor participants know who is taking the real treatment or the placebo -- is considered the "gold standard" of medical evidence.
Overall, the study found, 30 percent of the women assigned to valerian reported an improvement in their sleep quality -- which includes factors like how long it takes to fall asleep at night and how often a person wakes up overnight.
In contrast, only four percent of women taking the placebo reported better sleep.
Simin Taavoni and colleagues at Tehran University report the findings in the journal Menopause.
Sleep problems tend to become more common as people age, with studies suggesting that about half of older adults have insomnia symptoms, such as trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
For women, menopausal hot flashes and night sweats can add to sleep problems.
The current findings are "encouraging," according to Dr. Jerome Sarris of the University of Melbourne in Australia, who was not involved in the study but has researched herbal approaches to treating insomnia, anxiety and depression.
And for women with sleep problems who are interested in valerian, "there is no harm in trying it," Sarris told Reuters Health in an email.
Women in this study reported no side effects, according to Taavoni's team. And in general studies suggest that any side effects from the herb are mild, like headache or upset stomach.
Valerian is also fairly cheap, with 100 capsules generally costing less than $10.
On the other hand, there's no research on the safety of long-term use, according to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
And despite the positive findings in the current study, there are still questions about valerian's effectiveness. In a recent review of clinical trials on alternative remedies for insomnia, Sarris and his colleagues found only weak evidence that valerian -- or other herbs -- work.
There was better evidence in support of yoga, tai chi and acupressure.
Lifestyle changes like cutting down on caffeine and getting regular exercise (but not too close to bedtime) are often recommended for insomnia. When those don't work, the mainstream medical fixes include prescription medications and cognitive behavioral therapy.
According to Sarris, future studies should look at valerian's effects on other measures of sleep -- like the total amount of time that people taking the herb are able to stay asleep and their daytime functioning.
Women in the current study took two valerian capsules a day, each containing 530 milligrams of valerian root extract. Both the valerian and placebo capsules they used were made specifically for the study.
One question that arises when taking valerian is whether you are actually getting the amount listed on the product label.
A recent report by ConsumerLab.com, an independent testing company, found that of nine valerian supplements sold in the U.S., five had lower amounts of the herb than indicated on the packaging. That included one product with no valerian in it at all.
In the U.S., valerian and other medicinal herbs are considered dietary supplements, and not regulated in the same way as drugs.
Valerian has an ancient reputation for sleep
- (The Irish Times)
DOES IT WORK? Valerian and sleep disorders
VALERIAN IS one of the world's top-selling herbal remedies. This is surprising given how bad it smells. Its odour has been compared to that of socks badly in need of washing or a sharp cheese that starving mice would avoid.
Nonetheless, valerian has been recommended since ancient Greek and Roman times for sleeping difficulties.
The root and rhizome (underground stem) are soaked in either alcohol or water to give an extract. Traditional herbalists recommend using the alcohol extract (or tincture).
However, most products are available as tablets made from dried extracts. The composition of the extracts has been shown to vary widely depending on how they are made.
- Evidence from studies
A recent systematic review of valerian research found 37 studies. However, much variation existed in how these studies were conducted, which makes overall recommendations difficult. The most recent and highest quality studies were conducted on tablets made from alcohol extracts.
Studies comparing valerian with a placebo found it no better at speeding up how quickly people fell asleep or for improving sleep quality. However, three studies compared valerian with benzodiazepines (sleeping pills from the same group as Valium). These showed that valerian was as effective as the pharmaceutical drugs.
Studies testing water extracts of valerian against placebo were much more variable in their results. Most of these studies were small, older and of lower quality. A few showed valerian was no better than placebo, but most showed benefits on some, but not all, tests.
Another group of studies tested combination products of valerian along with hops and/or lemon balm. These herbs are alleged to improve sleep themselves and to have even better effects in combination. However, the studies had variable results, mostly showing that the combinations were no more effective than placebo.
In contrast to pharmaceutical sleeping tablets, valerian does not have an immediate sedative effect. General recommendations usually state that it needs to be taken consistently for one to two weeks before improvements will be seen. While this approach to taking valerian has not been tested specifically, most of the placebo-controlled studies that lasted two weeks or longer did not find valerian more effective than placebo.
- Problematic aspects
The various studies did not report any serious adverse effects with valerian. Some mild side effects were reported, such as headache, intestinal problems and morning drowsiness. The side effects with benzodiazepines were more frequent and more problematic.
Valerian should not be taken along with alcohol, benzodiazepines or other sedatives in case they enhance one another's effects in unpredictable ways. Concerns have been expressed that valerian may interfere with how other drugs are eliminated from the body, but little research has been conducted in this area.
Valerian is a herbal remedy with an ancient reputation for improving sleep quality. It appears to be safe and does not have as many side effects as commonly prescribed sleeping tablets. While people often report beneficial results, most recent studies have not found it any more effective than placebo. However, a few studies have found it to be similar in effectiveness to benzodiazepines.
Such contradictory results may arise because of the variety of valerian products that are available. These are made from different species and prepared in different ways.
The studies themselves have also used numerous ways to measure the quality of people's sleep, which can be difficult to measure accurately.
Given its lack of side effects, valerian may be worth trying. Most studies use 400-900mg valerian extract, taken about two hours before bedtime. If no improvements are seen after two to three weeks, other options should be investigated.
What You Need to Know About Valerian
- By Cathy Wong, ND (Reviewed by a board-certified physician)
Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More
- What is Valerian?
Valerian is a plant native to Europe and Asia. It grows to up to four feet high and has trumpet-shaped flowers. The roots are used medicinally. Although the fresh root is relatively odorless, the dried root has a strong odor that many find unpleasant.
Valerian is believed to have been used since at least the time of ancient Greece and Rome. It was used as a folk remedy for a variety of conditions such as sleeping problems, digestive complaints, nervousness, trembling, tension headaches and heart palpitations.
Valerian's popularity waned with the introduction of prescription sleep medication.
There is no consensus on the active constituents of valerian. It's possible that valerian's activity may result from a combination of compounds rather than any one. Valerian appears to increase the body's available supply of the neurotransmitter gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), possibly by increasing its production, decreasing its absorption or slowing its breakdown.
Valerian can be found in capsule, tea, tablet or liquid extract forms in most health food stores, some drugstores and online.
Other names for valerian include All-heal, Amantilla, Setwall, Setewale, Capon's Tail, and Valeriana officinalis. Uses for Valerian
So far, scientific support for the potential benefits of valerian is fairly lacking.
The use of valerian is supported by some evidence from clinical studies. The problem with many of the studies, however, is they've generally been small, used different amounts of valerian for varying lengths of time, or had problems with the study design, making it impossible to form a conclusion about the effectiveness of valerian.
Valerian appears to be less effective than prescription sleep medication. One possible advantage of valerian, however, is that it may not have as much of a "hangover" effect on mental or physical functioning the following day. Also, people taking sleeping pills sometimes have a temporary worsening of insomnia when they are discontinued, an effect that hasn't been reported with valerian.
Valerian is also used for anxiety, although there's insufficient evidence that it's effective.
People taking medications for insomnia or anxiety, such as benzodiazepines, should not combine these medications with valerian.
Side effects of valerian may include headache, dizziness, itchiness, upset stomach, drowsiness during the daytime, dry mouth and vivid.dreams.
Rarely, liver damage has been associated with the use of valerian. It's not certain whether the cause of the liver damage was due to valerian itself or to contaminants in the product. Until we know more, people should use valerian only under the supervision of a qualified health care practitioner and those with liver disease should avoid it. Although liver damage doesn't always produce noticeable symptoms, if excessive tiredness, intense itching, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pain or discomfort in the upper right side of the abdomen, or a yellowing of the whites of the eyes or skin occurs, see your doctor immediately.
Valerian may cause excessive sleepiness or daytime drowsiness if combined with other drugs that cause drowsiness, such as the benzodiazepines Ativan (lorazepam) or Valium (diazepam), some antidepressants, narcotics such as codeine, and barbituates such as phenobarbitol, or with over-the-counter sleep and cold products containing diphenhydramine and doxylamine.
It may also cause excessive sleepiness if taken with herbs thought to have a sedative effect, such as hops, catnip and kava.
Valerian is broken down in the liver. Theoretically, it could interfere with the effectiveness of medications that are broken down by the same liver enzymes, such as:
- • allergy medications like fexofenadine
- • cholesterol medication such as lovastatin
- • antifungal drugs such as itraconazole and ketoconazole
- • cancer medications such as irinotecan, etoposide, STI571, paclitaxel, vinblastine or vincristine
Valerian supplements haven't been tested for safety and keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of valerian, talk with your primary care provider first.
Herb to Know: Valerian
- By Barbara Pleasant
Try soothing valerian for sweeter sleep.
Sometimes known as garden heliotrope, valerian is one of the most fragrant perennials you can grow. Its rounded clusters of pale pink blooms perfume the garden and indoor bouquets for up to six weeks in early summer.
But valerian is much more than a pretty flower. Its roots contain compounds with calming effects so potent that valerian sometimes is called "poor man’s valium." (Valium is not made from valerian, but the two travel similar neural pathways in the brain.)
More than 1,800 years ago, the Greek physician Galen prescribed valerian for insomnia. The National Institutes of Health’s recent review of studies on valerian’s effectiveness drew "inconclusive" results, but two of these studies showed that valerian helped people fall asleep faster. In the study with the most participants, conducted in Switzerland in 1982, valerian reduced nighttime awakenings, especially among people who reported they were poor sleepers.
The active ingredients in valerian are water soluble, so you can take it as a simple tea. Although some think its flavor "foul," I find these claims to be wildly exaggerated. I steep ½ teaspoon dried or fresh snipped valerian root and 1 teaspoon chamomile in 1½ cups boiling water to make a potent nightcap for two. Even without honey, the tea tastes just fine to my sleep-challenged palate.
Other people like to combine valerian with hops, which also has sedative effects. Or you can buy valerian as a supplement. The typical before-bed dosage is 600 mg; exceeding this level could make you feel groggy the next day.
- Growing Valerian
Native to Western Europe, valerian grows into a robustly upright, 5-foot-tall tower of sweet vanilla-and-clove fragrance. You can grow the plants from seed sown directly in the garden; or start seeds indoors, then set out container-grown plants in spring or late summer. Choose a sunny spot with access to water as valerian grows best with constant light moisture.
Established plants bloom in early summer and are most fragrant in late afternoon. If you live in the Northeast—where valerian often becomes weedy—be sure to snip off faded flowers to prevent reseeding. After several seasons, established clumps can be dug and divided in spring or fall.
In spring and fall, the medicinal compounds in valerian roots are at their peak potency, so these also are the best times to harvest. Simply dig the plant, with roots intact, and hang it in a dark location indoors to dry. Freshly dug valerian roots have been said to smell like dirty socks, but to me they smell more like slightly soured laundry with a hint of mint … and after a couple of days of drying, the odor dissipates. When the roots are crisp-dry (after several weeks), snip off the best and store them in airtight containers in a cool, dark place.
Three herbal remedies to beat insomnia
- By JANE WRIGGLESWORTH
- HOP PILLOW
Most of us know that hops are a key component of beer - but in herbal medicine they're favoured for their calming effect on the nervous system.
That's good for those who suffer from insomnia (myself included), and it's especially good for those who cannot take valerian (which has the opposite effect on some people – like me), though frequently you see the two herbs combined.
Hop pillows were first made popular by King George III, who supposedly used one to relieve his insomnia.
You can make your own hop pillow easily enough – just fill a small bag with fresh hops and sew it closed, then sleep with the bag in such a way that you can smell it. Replace it every few months as the therapeutic properties will diminish over time.
- VALERIAN TINCTURE
The active constituents in valerian depress the central nervous system in a similar way to GABA, a relaxing neurotransmitter in the brain. Clinical studies have shown that valerian is effective in the treatment of insomnia, mostly by reducing the time it takes to go from fully awake to asleep and improving sleep quality.
Valerian is easy to grow in rich, heavy loam with good moisture. It's a hardy perennial, with summer flowers reaching up to 1.5m high, but as it's the root that is used, you may want to snip off the flowers so that the plant puts more energy into the rhizomes.
You can make a tincture by soaking the chopped roots in three times their volume of vodka. Place both in a jar, screw the lid on tightly and store in a cool, dark room. Shake daily for 4-6 weeks, then strain. Alternatively, you can steep slices of fresh or dried root in freshly boiled water to make a tea.
- SCULLCAP TEA
Scullcap is a relaxing nervine used to relieve stress and anxiety, and it can also be taken at night to quieten a busy mind. It is often used with passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) as a overall herbal mind-body sedative. Skullcap leaves can be used either fresh or recently dried, as they lose their potency as they age. For a good night's sleep, make a strong tea with a couple of tablespoons of leaves, taken perhaps an hour before retiring.
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7 Ways to Fall Asleep Without Ambien
- By Leslie Price
Stress, caffeine, car alarms, the neon sign outside your window — there are all sorts of elements conspiring to ruin your sleep. If you’re not quite ready for prescription solutions, natural sleep aids can seem like a promising middle ground. But which ones actually work? We sifted through medical studies and spoke with experts to round up seven ways to get some rest when your blackout curtains just aren’t cutting it.
Before we start, some caveats: Natural sleep supplements aren’t subject to the same restrictions as, say, Ambien, so “there’s a bit of a buyer-beware situation with these,” says Dr. Lawrence Epstein, assistant sleep clinic medical director, division of sleep and circadian disorders, at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital. “Supplements aren’t regulated the way that medications are regulated,” he cautions. “Companies are not required to prove that they work. They’re not even required to prove that they’re safe, or that they deliver what they say they deliver."
There’s also lack of data regarding supplements’ efficacy, which doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t work — many simply haven’t been studied enough. “With pharmaceuticals, there is a company that is going to make a lot of money if the pharmaceutical is proven to work,” says Dr. Catherine Darley of the the Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine in Seattle. That’s not the case with many natural cures, which is part of the reason why there is a dearth of scientific research. “There are financial forces at play in funding the research.”
That said, if you’ve been on the Ambien train a few times and are searching for something that won’t make you blackout and sleep eat, natural sleep supplements are worth a try. They don’t come with a laundry list of freaky side effects, aren’t habit forming, and don’t require a trip to the doctor’s to obtain.
When considering supplements, it would behoove you to consult with a naturopathic doctor. “The dose you take, how you take it (with or without food), and the timing makes a huge difference,” says Darley. But first, here’s our list of seven all-natural options to choose from.
Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body to help regulate our circadian rhythm, the internal clock that includes the sleep-wake cycle. There are both over-the-counter and prescription medications that include melatonin. Though it does have a “mild” soporific effect, says Epstein, “its greater role is with the timing of sleep and helping people regulate their circadian rhythms.”
“It is very useful for circadian problems,” echos Darley, “particularly delayed sleep phase. People need to take it six hours before bed to have that phase-shifting effect, to shift your body clock earlier. Many people don’t know that.” If you’re a night owl, have jet lag, or are a shift worker, melatonin could help you fall asleep at a normal time of night.
L-tryptophan: The amino acid L-tryptophan was pulled off shelves in the '90s due to a contamination issue (speaking to that earlier point about supplements being unregulated), but has been back on the market for ten years and is now considered safe by the FDA. LT is not naturally produced by the body; you have to get it from food (it’s in sleep-inducing foods like turkey and milk) or a supplement. Once absorbed, it’s eventually converted to serotonin, the precursor to melatonin. Unlike other natural sleep aids, there have been many studies concerning LT’s effectiveness. It seems to work like a sedative, helping you feel sleepy and fall asleep faster.
“5HTP can be helpful, and sometimes can be more easily taken than tryptophan. The thing with tryptophan is you are supposed to take it away from food, so it’s not competing with other amino acids. Take it a few hours after dinner,” says Darley. “It can give some people an allergic response, like a rash,” says Sanjeev Kothare, M.D., associate professor, department of neurology, NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. “So you have to be careful with tryptophan.”
Valerian root: This herb is commonly included in sleep supplements, and research backs up its effects: It can help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep. “Valerian root has been around for a very long time,” says Epstein. “It has some potential to affect a couple of the sleep systems, like GABA and serotonin, and there have been a number of small trials performed.”
“Valerian is pretty well studied, though some of the results are mixed,” says Darley. “I don’t often use it in my practice, but I am working with people who have chronic, long-term insomnia and are at the point where they need something stronger.” It could be more effective, “for a person having insomnia thanks to temporary upset or a life event, for those whose sleep isn’t as disturbed long-term.”
“There’s anecdotal data that Valerian does work in sleep induction. How it works is unclear,” says Kothare. “But it works.” Valerian root is endorsed by Dr. Andrew Weil, who writes that the “sedative herb,” which can be found relatively easily, should be taken a half-hour before bedtime.
Magnesium: A few small studies have shown a link between magnesium deficiency and poor sleep. And according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, most people in the U.S. aren’t getting enough magnesium in their diets. The “miracle” mineral is endorsed by Dr. Frank Lipman, Gwyneth Paltrow’s guru, who recommends “taking 1,000 mg” before bed, as well as Dr. Weil.
“Magnesium is known to have relaxing properties,” says Darley, “and it’s one of the nutrients that many Americans are deficient in because we don’t have a very magnesium-rich diet and because magnesium is used up in the metabolism of sugar. We have high-sugar diets, so we burn through a lot of magnesium, and then we’re not replenishing it with magnesium-rich foods.” Try one of the magnesium drinks on the market that “seem more absorbable and calming.”
Hops: This plant, a crucial component of beer, has been studied for its sedative effects and has historically been used for sleep issues. Hops “have a soporific effect,” says Kothare. Though there’s not a ton of evidence that hops alone will cure insomnia (it’s often taken with valerian root), there have been some positive results regarding its usefulness. As Men’s Health explains, “Most hops-related sleep studies with humans pair the extract with valerian and prove that, when taken together — usually 120 mg of hops extract with 500 mg of valerian extract — the combination may help to improve sleep and decrease the time it takes to fall asleep.”
An important note: This doesn’t mean that beer is a sleep aid. Alcohol has been proven to disturb the quality of sleep, and over time, alcohol abuse can screw up your sleep permanently.
Chamomile: Consumed as a tea or tincture, chamomile is a very, very gentle sleep inducer. In other words, this one isn’t going to help you if you’re a chronic insomniac. Still, if you’re doing all the things to try to sleep better, it certainly can’t hurt. “It’s mild but helpful,” says Darley. “I have had many patients say that they get some help with chamomile tea. It doesn’t solve their problem, but it decreases the amount of time it takes them to fall asleep or helps them feel more relaxed.”
“It works well with lavender, “ says Kothare, who recommends the herbal combination in a soothing bath.
Tart cherries: Tart cherries are a close relative to sweet cherries. They offer more nutritional value, and their juice is a proven source of both melatonin and tryptophan. In a much-talked-about study published last year, tart cherries were shown to help people sleep longer — nearly an hour and a half more per night. If you don’t have problems falling asleep but tend to wake up way too early, tart cherry juice could be just the trick. It “could be something worth trying for mild insomnia,” says Darley.
Medicinal Uses & Benefits of Valerian
- By Tracey Roizman, D.C. (Demand Media)
Valeriana, a genus of perennial flowering plant native to Europe, North America and South America, contains several species with potentially medicinal benefits, collectively referred to as valerian. Herbalists have used valerian, a mainstay in traditional medicine, since 200 A.D., according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Consult your doctor about the appropriate use of valerian.
Valerian helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety, according to a study published in the July 2010 issue of the journal "Phytomedicine." In the laboratory animal study, two valerian extracts showed the ability to bind to receptors for GABA, one of the brain's calming neurotransmitters, in a manner similar to that of benzodiazepine drugs. Doses of 3 mililiters per kilogram of body weight of whole valerian root extract and 3 miligrams per kilogram body weight of valerenic acid, an extract of valerian, both reduced anxious behavior. Results of this preliminary study support valerian's traditional use as a natural method to manage mild anxiety.
- Sleep Improvement
A type of valerian known as Valeriana wallichii, may help you sleep better, according to a laboratory animal study published in the July 2012 issue of the journal "Phytomedicine." Participants who took doses of 200 and 300 milligrams per kilogram of body weight fell asleep faster and woke up fewer times during the night. Total sleep time increased and brain levels of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin were improved. Additionally, slow brain waves during non-REM sleep increased, indicating improved sleep quality. Researchers concluded that Valeriana wallichii's sleep benefits may be related to its effects on levels of neurotransmitters and certain other amino acids in the brain.
- Liver Protection
A form of valerian known as Valeriana jatamansi, an herb used in traditional Indian herbal medicine, may offer liver-protective benefits, according to a study published in the December 2010 issue of the journal "Methods and Findings in Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology." In the laboratory animal study, supplementation with Valeriana jatamansi for nine weeks reduced elevated liver enzymes. Researchers note that the herb has also been shown to decrease overactive cell reproduction in response to chemical irritants and conclude that Valeriana jatamansi shows potential as a natural treatment for liver cirrhosis. Further studies are needed to determine if these preliminary benefits extend to humans.
- Antioxidant Benefits
Antioxidants help protect cells from the damaging effects of toxins and cellular waste products. Antioxidant activity of valerian was demonstrated in a test-tube study published in the January 2013 issue of the "Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences." In the study, levels of valerenic acid and valepotriates, valerian's active constituents that provide antioxidant benefits, were compared between Valeriana officinalis and two other plants that contain valerenic acid -- Valeriana sisymbriifolia and Nardostachys jatamansii. Results showed that the compounds were present in all three plants and that Valeriana officinalis contains the highest levels, providing the greatest antioxidant activity.
Valerian—How this “Stinky Herb” May Help Us Sleep
- By Alison Stanton
For thousands of years, people have been taking valerian to help them sleep, and to ease the effects of stress and anxiety.
However, if you’re going to give this herbal remedy a try, you might want to put a clothespin over your nose—it is often referred to in literature as the “stinky herb.”
Actually, if you take it in capsule or tablet form, you should be just fine. Having said that, we recently were out of state visiting relatives and I had placed my bottle of valerian capsules in the same bag that contained our toothbrushes and my older son definitely noticed the smell coming from the bottle as he reached into the bag to get his items. I often take valerian with me when traveling by plane for many days with my two sons, just in case I need a boost to my emotional equilibrium!
In spite of its odor, valerian appears to be quite sweet when it comes to its abilities to help us feel calmer and to get a better night’s rest. Some people have also used it as both a diuretic and to help ease stomach cramps.
To make the tablets or capsules, the root of the valerian plant is typically freeze-dried into a powder. I’ve also seen valerian “calming” teas in the health food section of my favorite grocery store. I prefer the capsules as they are easy and quick to swallow. It is often standardized to contain 0.3-0.8 percent valerenic or valeric acid, although interestingly, researchers are not 100 percent sure that this is the key ingredient.
What scientists do believe is that valerian works by increasing the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid, or GABA, in our brains. GABA helps to modulate our nerve cells and can help reduce anxiety. The drugs Xanax and Valium, which are in the class of drugs called benzodiazepines, also work by increasing the amount of GABA in the brain.
Many people take valerian to help them fight bouts of insomnia. It is often combined in formulas with things like lemon balm, hops, and other herbal remedies that are also typically found to cause