Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is most commonly used for sleep disorders, especially the inability to sleep (insomnia). It is frequently combined with hops, lemon balm, or other herbs that also cause drowsiness. Some people who are trying to withdraw from the use of “sleeping pills” use valerian to help them sleep after they have tapered the dose of the sleeping pill. There is some scientific evidence that valerian works for sleep disorders, although not all studies are positive.
Valerian seems to act like a sedative on the brain and nervous system.works as an antispasmodic, relieving menstrual cramps by relaxing smooth muscles. It is quite effective for cramps, particularly when taken in fairly large doses, especially when blended with cramp bark (50-50). This time-honored herb is of additional benefit as it is an excellent nervine and helps allay emotional stress and nervousness which sometimes occur before the menstrual cycle.
How to take Valerian
Valerian is usually taken an hour before bedtime. It takes about two to three weeks to work and shouldn’t be used for more than three months at a time. Side effects of valerian may include mild indigestion, headache, palpitations, and dizziness. Although valerian tea and liquid extracts are available, most people don’t like the smell of valerian and prefer taking the capsule form.
Valerian shouldn’t be taken with many medications, especially those that depress the central nervous system, such as sedatives and antihistamines. Valerian shouldn’t be taken with alcohol, before or after surgery, or by people with liver disease. It should not be used before driving or operating machinery.
Valerian is also used for conditions connected to anxiety and psychological stress including nervous asthma, hysterical states, excitability, fear of illness (hypochondria), headaches, migraine, and stomach upset.
Dosage: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the tincture; it may be taken in 1/2 teaspoon doses every 2-3 hours until cramping subsides.
What is the history behind it?
For thousands of years, the Chinese, Greeks, Romans, and Indians have used valerian as a mild sedative. The origin of the word “pew” is said to come from the foul odor of the valerian root, which a first century AD Roman physician, Dioscorides, called phu. In the mid-1800s in the United States, the Shakers began growing valerian and other herbs to market to doctors and pharmacists in America and Europe. Valerian is sometimes used to flavor foods and drinks such as root beer.
Valerian side effects & risks
- Lactating mothers and pregnant women should not take Valerian root in tea or supplement form.
- Those suffering from liver disease should not take this herb.
- Valerian root should not be consumed in tandem or alongside antianxiety medication.
- Valerian root should not be consumed along with sedatives or anesthesia.
- Valerian root should never be had with alcohol or drugs.
- Infants and young children should not be given this herb.
- If prescribed other medications, a doctor should be consulted to the use and intake of Valerian root by a patient.
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Valerian might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking valerian along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking valerian, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver.
Some medications changed by the liver include:
- lovastatin (Mevacor)
- ketoconazole (Nizoral)
- itraconazole (Sporanox)
- fexofenadine (Allegra)
- triazolam (Halcion)
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