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Can Valerian Help to Relieve Anxiety Naturally?


Dr. Kristie Leong

Living in today's fast paced and complicated world can be a challenge and for some people those challenges can lead to anxiety and sleep disturbances. Anxiety can manifest itself in a variety of ways including excessive nervousness, panic attacks, physical symptoms, and difficulty sleeping at night. In some cases, anxiety can become so debilitating that it needs to be treated. Although there are prescription medications to help reduce anxiety, they can be too sedating for some people. For this reason, some anxiety sufferers turn to herbal supplements for relief. One of the most popular is the use of valerian for anxiety. Is this an effective treatment for stress and anxiety?

What is valerian?

Valerian is derived from the roots and rhizomes of a plant grown in temperate regions of North America and Europe. It's been used for many centuries to relieve a variety of ailments including anxiety, insomnia, and even to control pain. The active components of the Valerian plant appear to increase levels of a neurotransmitter found in the brain known as GABA which is associated with maintaining a relaxed, restful mood. Although the active component of valerian is still unknown, it's believed that chemical compounds known as valepotriates which have sedative properties are involved.

Has valerian for anxiety been shown to be effective?

There's little medical literature to support the use of valerian for anxiety, but a variety of small studies have shown it may help to promote sleep. An analysis of a variety of studies involving 1093 patients taking valerian did show some improvement in sleep quality.

What about the safety of valerian? 

The biggest concern about taking valerian for anxiety or insomnia is the potential of valerian to interact with other medications that cause drowsiness. It should never be used with alcohol or when alertness is critical such as when driving. If taken with muscle relaxants or prescription medications for anxiety, the effects could be enhanced, resulting in excessive sleepiness and loss of coordination. Always check with your doctor before taking valerian, particularly if you’re on any type of prescription medication.

The bottom line? Valerian appears to have some potential for improving sleep quality and could be an effective option for insomnia. Always consult your doctor before starting valerian.

Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2009-2022. Dr. Kristie Leong is a family practice physician and medical writer. Published with permission.

Related: Also see valerian tincture and valerian juice.