Veterinarian Reviewed on June 6, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized
Valerian is a hardy flowering plant with sweet smelling flowers that can be found growing in Asia, Europe and North America. The roots of this plant have for thousands of years been dried to a fine green/brown powder that has an unpleasant smell that has been described as a “dirty sock odor”. However, despite it’s rather unpleasant smell, the dried root is used for medicinal purposes.
While no one knows for sure who or even what people discovered this flowers medicinal qualities, records show that it has been used as a sleep aid for over thousands of years and is still used for that purpose as well as many others today. Valerian may be sold as a supplement either in pill or tea form and is often mixed with other herbs in other health supplements as well.
What Is Valerian Used For?
Valerian is used to treat a number of problems such as a mild sleep aid, to reduce Stress and Anxiety, as a muscle relaxant and for irritable bowel syndrome IBD. It is believed that Valerian extract can sedate an agitated person making them calmer or stimulate a fatigued person making them feel more alert. It is also believed by many that it can help people dealing with mild Depression and lift their mood.
However, people suffering from severe depression should never attempt to treat themselves with Valerian or any other supplement but, should seek professional help. Valerian extract is often compared to a mild dose of Valium without the side effects, although Valerian does have its own side effects which are more noticeable to some people than others.
While no studies have yet been done involving whether Valerian extract may lower blood pressure in humans, studies with animals indicate that it may indeed be useful in helping to lower blood pressure and thus help to prevent strokes and heart attacks. It does, however seem that once studies involving humans are done, that reduced blood pressure may well be a benefit of this extract as it does reduce anxiety and stress which are major contributors of high blood pressure in many people.
Side Effects Of Valerian Extract
The side effects one may experience from taking Valerian extract includes:
• Day time drowsiness
• Allergic reactions including hives, facial swelling and difficulty in swallowing or breathing
In cases where people have over dosed themselves with Valerian they may suffer from night terrors and even mild depression.
Should I Consult A Physician Before Taking Valerian Extract?
It is always a good idea to consult your medical professional before taking any supplement especially if you have any medical problems for which you are taking prescribed medications. Although Valerian does not seem to create any harmful effects when taken with other medications it is always better to be safe than sorry.
In addition, there have not been enough studies done on Valerian Extract to know what its potential dangers might be to women who are pregnant or nursing so they should certainly check with their doctor before taking Valerian extract.
While more studies should be done, for now it does seem that when used properly Valerian extract may well help to reduce stress and serve as a mild sleep aid for many people without the more drastic side effects that most prescribed sleeping pills have.
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan