Valerian for Insomnia: Learn the Benefits and Risks of Use

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Valerian is a natural supplement that is often used to treat insomnia, a condition characterized by the inability to fall or remain asleep. Insomnia causes people to feel tired upon wakening due to difficulty falling asleep, waking frequently throughout the night or waking too early. Although there are many conventional medications that can be used to treat insomnia, many prefer to take a natural approach using valerian. Valerian for insomnia is said to produce benefits; however, certain risks are involved with the use of this natural supplement.

Valerian to Treat Insomnia

Valerian is a natural herb sold over-the-counter as a supplement, which is derived from European and Asian countries and has been used for thousands of years to naturally treat many common ailments. It’s often found in many mild sedatives or sleep aids used to treat nervous tension and insomnia. While many boast about the positive results achieved using valerian for insomnia, clinical studies provided no conclusive evidence the herb actually helps treat the condition.

Despite the variety of active compounds found within valerian, it remains unclear how exactly it may work to treat insomnia. One compound found within the herb is gamma amino butyric acid (GABA), which is a chemical in the brain that produces a calming effect. This is believed to be associated with the insomnia benefits produced from the herb. Valerian can be acquired in a number of forms, including tinctures, capsules and teas, all of which are said to benefit insomnia.

Due to the fact, many believe valerian is beneficial because it produces a calming effect, it may relieve anxiety attributed to causing insomnia. It’s also believed the herb is beneficial for treating attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), which may also aid those suffering from ADHD induced insomnia.

Risks of Valerian Use

During clinical studies, certain side effects were noted with the use of valerian, which included headaches and dizziness. Another side effect included gastrointestinal disturbances. During clinical studies, no evidence was produced that the participates had an increase in alertness, concentration or reaction time. In fact, one study concluded participates actually had an increase in sleepiness. For those that claim valerian is beneficial for insomnia, dependency of the herb has been reported.

Precautions for Valerian Use

It’s advised, pregnant and breastfeeding women do not use valerian because the risks to the fetus or nursing infant remain unknown. Valerian should not be used for children under 3 years old because the risks and side effects of the herb have not been evaluated for this age group. Valerian may react poorly with alcohol and other sedative drugs; therefore, caution should be used. Current knowledge produces no evidence valerian reacts with laboratory tests; however, testing of the herb in this area has been extremely limited. It’s advised the herb is used with caution.


“An Overview of Insomnia” WebMD

“Valerian” Office of Dietary Supplements

“Valerian for Anxiety or Sleep” WebMD