Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Be aware that the U. S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and dietary supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products containing or claiming to contain valerian. Decisions to use herbs or supplements should be carefully considered. Individuals using prescription drugs should discuss taking herbs or supplements with their pharmacists or health care providers before starting.
Scientists have studied valerian for the following health problems:
Several studies suggest that taking valerian by mouth may reduce the time it takes for people to fall asleep and may improve sleep quality, especially in those who routinely suffer from insomnia or sleep difficulties. One study conducted in children with intellectual difficulties reports that valerian may be useful in the long-term treatment of sleep disruption. Valerian does not appear to cause a "hangover" effect the morning after use. Preliminary findings suggest that effects may be better with repeat use, rather than single-dose use. One study suggests a positive effect in insomniacs who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepine. Another study showed that valerian extract may be comparable to the effects of the prescription benzodiazepine drug oxazepam (Serax) for insomnia. Further research is necessary to confirm these results.
A few low-quality studies suggest that valerian does not possess significant sedative properties. A small double-blind, randomized, crossover, placebo-controlled study was performed in healthy elderly people to assess the effects of temazepam (Restoril), diphenhydramine (Benedryl) and valerian. The results confimed that valerian was not different from placebo (sugar pill) on any measure of drowsiness (psychomotor function) or sedation.
Although early evidence suggests that valerian may possess some anti-anxiety properties, there are no clear answers in this area. Some of these studies have been done using combination products containing more than one herb. More research is needed before valerian can be recommended as a treatment for anxiety and related disorders.
A multicenter clinical trial was performed to assess the effectiveness of valerian extract and St. John's wort in depression with comorbid anxiety. The studied determined that symptoms of depression and anxiety improved faster with valerian than with St. John's wort alone. Valerian alone has not been proven to aid in depression or anxiety. More research is necessary before this therapy can be recommended.
Valerian has been studied along with other herbs to help with sleep disturbances and hot flashes present during peri- and postmenopause. Further research is needed to make a recommendation.
Valerian may be beneficial to health by reducing the physical reactions during stressful situations. A clinical trial studied the effects of valerian or kava on psychological stress induced in a laboratory. The study found that valerian or kava may reduce the physical reactions of stress and may therefore be beneficial to health. More studies are needed before any conclusions can be made.
Valerian has been suggested for many other uses, based on tradition or on scientific theories. However, these uses have not been thoroughly studied in humans, and there is limited scientific evidence about safety or effectiveness. Some of these suggested uses are for conditions that are potentially very serious and even life-threatening. You should consult a health care provider before using valerian for any unproven use.
|Absence of menstrual period
Congestive heart failure
High blood pressure
Irritable bowel syndrome
Menstrual period stimulant
Urinary tract disorders
Vaginal yeast infections
Withdrawal from tranquilizers
Pregnancy And Breast-Feeding
Interactions with drugs, supplements and other herbs have not been thoroughly studied. The interactions listed below have been reported in scientific publications. If you are taking prescription drugs, speak with your health care provider or pharmacist before using herbs or dietary supplements.
Interactions With Drugs
In theory, valerian may increase the side effects, including the amount of drowsiness, caused by sedative drugs. Examples include benzodiazepines, such as lorazepam (Ativan); barbiturates, such as phenobarbital; narcotics, such as codeine; antidepressants, such as fluoxetine (Prozac); antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl); alcohol; and possibly some antiseizure or antidiarrheal drugs. Caution is advised while driving or operating machinery. The alcohol content in some valerian extracts may lead to vomiting if used with the drug disulfiram (Antabuse) or metronidazole (Flagyl).
Interactions With Herbs And Dietary Supplements
The doses listed below are based on scientific research, publications or traditional use. Because most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly studied or monitored, safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients even within the same brand. Combination products often contain small amounts of each ingredient and may not be effective. Appropriate dosing should be discussed with a health care provider before starting therapy; always read the recommendations on a product's label. The dosing for unproven uses should be approached cautiously, because scientific information is limited in these areas.
Valerian has only been studied for four to six weeks of use. It should not be used for longer without the supervision of a health care provider.
For Mild Insomnia Adults (Aged 18 Or Older)
Children (Younger Than 18): The dosing and safety of valerian have not been studied thoroughly in children, and valerian is therefore not recommended.
For Sedation Or Stress Reduction
Valerian has been suggested for several conditions but has been most studied as a treatment for insomnia. Valerian may reduce the length of time it takes to fall asleep and may improve sleep quality with fewer adverse effects than commonly used prescription drugs. Valerian is not recommended in pregnant or breast-feeding women or in children. Alcoholic extracts should always be avoided in pregnant women. Remember that alcohol in some liquid preparations or tinctures may cause nausea or vomiting if taken with the drugs disulfiram or metronidazole. Valerian has been studied for only four to six weeks, and safety has not been established for longer-term use. Consult your health care provider immediately if you experience side effects.
The information in this monograph was prepared by the professional staff at Natural Standard, based on thorough systematic review of scientific evidence. The material was reviewed by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School with final editing approved by Natural Standard.
Selected Scientific Studies: Valerian
Some of the more recent studies are listed below:
Last updated June 20, 2005