Valerian is a form of root that has been used as an herbal supplement for a number of different reasons over hundreds of years, but that is most commonly used in the Western world today as a sleep aid.
It is also known as radix valerianae, valerianan officinalis, as well as red, Belgian, common, fragrant, or garden valerian. Some also refer to it as amantilla, setewale, setwall, all-heal, heliotrope, capon’s tail, and vandal root.
It functions well to help to soothe the body and mind, easing anxiety, mental strain, restlessness, lack of focus, stress, excitability, pain, discomfort, emotional distress, menstrual symptoms, menopause, and other tension creating issues that can make it difficult to fall asleep.
It’s important to speak with your doctor before taking valerian, as it may cause conflicts or need dosage adjustments based on certain other drugs that you may be taking or medical conditions that you have. Because this herb can cause dizziness or drowsiness, it is important that you take it only when you are ready for bed and have the full night to sleep before you will need to focus on an activity such as work, driving, operating machinery, or taking part in other forms of potentially hazardous activities. All of these should be avoided until you are very familiar with your body’s reaction to this herb.
Your doctor may recommend that you not take valerian if you are already taking anxiety or sleep medications, antidepressants, pain medicines, muscle relaxants, or other substances that result in a drowsiness effect. These may cause increased dizziness or drowsiness effects from the herb.
The effects of valerian on an unborn child or on a baby that is being breast fed are not known, so it is recommended that pregnant women and nursing mothers avoid the use of this herb. As of yet, this herb has not been studied in terms of its use by children, therefore it should not be given to a child unless it is recommended by a pediatrician.
There are many different ways that it can be taken, though as a sleep remedy it is typically administered in the form of a pill. That said there are tinctures, standardized extracts, and solid formulations commonly available. It may also be used in a tea or as a bath additive. It is important to check with a doctor before using it in a bath, and to carefully go over the body for any cuts or scrapes, as this can cause serious problems such as infections and other unwanted health conditions.