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Relaxing at Night: How Valerian Root Can Reduce Stress and Aid Sleep

Relaxing at Night: How Valerian Root Can Reduce Stress and Aid Sleep

Stress and worries can keep many of us laying away at night — unable to relax long enough to fall asleep. If you’ve been looking for advice on how to reduce stress and increase relaxation at night, you’ll most likely have come across valerian root. In recent years, experts have lauded valerian for its soothing and sedative properties, and positioned it as one of the best natural sleep supplements.i To help give you a more in-depth breakdown of how the valerian root can aid sleep, we’ve put together this guide.


What is valerian root?

Valerian (valeriana officinalis) is a nutrient-rich herb native to Asia and Europe. It’s made up of powerful compounds, like isovaleric acid, valerenic acid, and a range of antioxidants, which have demonstrated enormous promise in promoting sleep and reducing temporary bouts of anxiety.ii As such, the root of this plant (valerian root) has long been used in traditional medicine to encourage relaxation and sleep.


How can valerian root reduce stress and support sleep?


Stress reduction

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric) is an important chemical messenger that helps to control nerve impulses in your brain. However, research suggests that inadequate GABA levels may be associated with stress, anxiety and poor sleep.iv Studies have shown that valerenic acid inhibits the breakdown of GABA — in a similar way to anti-anxiety medications.iii

Beyond this, valerian also contains the antioxidants hesperidin and linarin — compounds that have been found to have sedative properties.v An increasing amount of research indicates these antioxidants may control volatile activity in the amygdala – the ‘reptilian’ part of the brain that’s responsible for strong emotional reactions to stress and fear.vi


Sleep support

There’s also evidence to indicate that valerian root may support sleep quantity and quality, along with decreasing sleep latency.vii One clinical trial examined the long-term effects of valerian. After a 28 day course of 600mg valerian root each day, participants with insomnia saw significant improvements in their symptoms compared to those who took the placebo.viii A later study discovered that adults with insomnia achieved a deep sleep 36% faster after a single dose of valerian.ix Notably, the overall time participants spent in deep sleep also improved over the two weeks of taking valerian.

It’s worth mentioning, however, that even though both of these trials were carefully controlled, they had a small number of study participants. With this in mind, more research may be needed in this field to be certain of its benefits.


Valerian root compared to prescription sleep medication

Most recently, researchers have compared the effect of 600mg dose of valerian root to 10mg of a certain prescription sleep medication.x The study showed that the two agents were equally effective at increasing sleep quality in people with insomnia — although  valerian root did not lead to the ‘hangover effect’ caused by sleep medications.


How much valerian can you take for sleep?

Valerian root is available in a range of forms, including teas, tinctures, capsules or tablets. To achieve the best results for relaxation and managing sleep troubles, however, we’d suggest a valerian root extract supplement to ensure a high enough dosage. Although there’s no standard dose for valerian root, it’s generally advised to take 300mg to 600mg between half an hour and two hours before your bedtime.xi Generally, you’ll need to take valerian root for upwards of two weeks to see the desired effect.


Are there any contraindications of valerian root?

Although valerian root is a natural supplement, there are still certain contraindications you should still be aware of before taking it:

  • Never combine valerian root with any other sedative medication (benzodiazepines), sleep aids, antidepressants, or alcohol

  • Pregnant or nursing women and children younger than 3 years of age should avoid taking valerian root

  • Valerian root can make you drowsy, so don’t drive or operate heavy machinery after consumption

  • Always consult your GP before changing medication


Looking for some other natural sleep aids like valerian root? Sour cherry juice, Theanine and Lemon Balm, and magnesium also contain notable properties that encourage both calm and quality rest. If you want to learn more about how to improve your sleep hygiene, feel free to explore our sleep hub.



References:

  1. , , et al. Valerian for Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The American Journal of Medicine. 119(12), 1005-1012.

  2. , , et al. GABAA receptors as in vivo substrate for the anxiolytic action of valerenic acid, a major constituent of valerian root extracts. Neuropharmacology. 56(1), 174-181.

  3. , , et al. Cortical Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid and Glutamate in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Their Relationships to Self-Reported Sleep Quality. Sleep. 37(5), 893-900.

  4. , , et al. Cortical Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid and Glutamate in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Their Relationships to Self-Reported Sleep Quality. Sleep. 37(5), 893-900.

  5. , , et al. Sedative and sleep-enhancing properties of linarin, a flavonoid-isolated from Valeriana officinalis. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior. 77(2), 399-404.

  6. , , et al. Valerenic Acid Protects Against Physical and Psychological Stress by Reducing the Turnover of Serotonin and Norepinephrine in Hippocampus-Amygdala Region. Journal of Medicinal Food. 18(12), 1333-1339.

  7. , , et al. Valerian/lemon balm use for sleep disorders during menopause. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 19(4), 193-196. , , et al. Valerian for Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The American Journal of Medicine. 119(12), 1005-1012.

  8. , , Treatment of insomnia: effectiveness and tolerance of a valerian extract [in German]. Psychopharmakotherapie. 3: 109-115.

  9. , , et al. Critical Evaluation of the Effect of Valerian Extract on Sleep Structure and Sleep Quality. Pharmacopsychiatry. 33(2), 47-53.

  10. , , et al. Efficacy and tolerability of valerian extract LI 156 compared with oxazepam in the treatment of non-organic insomnia: a randomized, double-blind, comparative clinical study. Eur J Med Res. 25:480–6.

  11. Ema.europa.eu. European Union herbal monograph on Valeriana officinalis L., radixt. Academic Press. Available online: https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/documents/herbal-monograph/final-european-union-herbal-monograph-valeriana-officinalis-l-radix_en.pdf

   

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Our Author - Olivia Salter

Olivia

Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.

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