Valerian is a perennial herb widely used in Europe since the 18th century, and its medicinal site is usually extracted from the root of Valerian worm, is an herbal supplement, and is used to treat sleep disorders, believed to have sleep aid, sedative, anxiolytic, anticonvulsant and antidepressant effects.
What are the benefits of using valerian in empirical medicine? Are there any side effects and contraindications? See text analysis for details
What is Valerian?
Valerian is the largest genus in the honeysuckle family, with about 200 species, several of which have medicinal uses, the most common being the medicinal Valeriana officinalis, found in North America, Europe and Asia, the name “valerian” is derived from the Latin “valere”, meaning “good health”.
The rhizome contains a variety of compounds, including essential oils and sesquiterpenes, epoxycyclic ether esters (valeric acid, divaleric acid), amino acids (arginine, GABA, glutamine, tyrosine), and alkaloids.
What are the proven benefits of valerian?
1. Good for sleep problems
Sleep problems are so common that more than 7000 million adults in the United States and Europe are affected.
Sleep plays a vital role in maintaining brain function and system physiology, and chronic sleep problems can have a significant impact on our health.
Lack of sleep can affect resilience, quality of life, mood, cognition, memory, and daily performance. It can also lead to metabolic disorders, including high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
A systematic literature review and meta-analysis (18 randomized controlled trials) found that valerian extract improved dichotomous measures of sleep (improvement in sleep quality, yes/no) compared with placebo, but there was no difference in sleep quality and latency time measured by visual analogue scales. Note 1
*Conclusion: Oral Valerian extract may be helpful for subjective improvement of sleep problems, but limited by the small sample size, more large-scale standardized sleep quality measurements are still needed for further verification
2. Beneficial for anxiety disorders
Generalized anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental disorders, occurring 2 to 3 times more often in women than men, and affecting up to 20 percent of adults each year.
Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent/excessive and unrealistic worries about everyday things, generating fear, worry, and a feeling of overwhelm, which can be multifaceted, such as financial, family, health, and future, and is often accompanied by many nonspecific psychological and physical symptoms.
A randomized placebo-controlled pilot study (4-week, 36 outpatients with generalized anxiety disorder (DSM III-R)) noted a potential anxiolytic effect of oral valepotriates (Valerian extract) compared with placebo. Note 2
*Conclusion: Valerian extract may provide positive help for generalized anxiety disorder, but limited by small sample sizes, more large trials are needed to support this
3. Beneficial hot flashes
Hot flashes, defined as transient sensations of heat, sweating, flushing, anxiety, and chills lasting 1 to 5 minutes, constitute one of the most common symptoms of menopause in women.
Hot flashes are based on abnormal hypothalamic thermoregulatory control, leading to abnormal vasodilation, and the mainstay of treatment includes hormone replacement therapy, selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, and lifestyle changes.
A three-blind randomized trial (3-month trial of 60 postmenopausal women aged 45 to 55 years) found that oral Valerian capsules (530 mg twice daily) significantly reduced the severity and mean frequency of hot flashes compared with placebo. Note 3
*Conclusion: Valerian may be able to provide positive help to the hot flashes of menopause in women, but due to the small sample size, more large trials are needed to support it
Are there any side effects of valerian?
Regarding safety, valerian is listed on the FDA GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) list and approved for use as a food
It is safe for most healthy adults to use in moderation in the short term (4 to 8 weeks).
Side effects or adverse reactions that have been reported include headache, stomach upset, mental retardation, excitement, restlessness, diarrhea, palpitations, nausea, fever, metallic taste in the mouth, dry mouth, vivid dreams, and even drowsiness
1. Do not use if you are pregnant, lactating or under 3 years old (due to unknown safety)
2. Discontinue use two weeks before scheduled surgery, as valerian will slow down the central nervous system and may affect the effectiveness of anesthesia
3. Avoid using valerian with other herbs or health ingredients that may cause drowsiness, including: 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), California poppy, catnip, chamomile, gotu kola (triptulum), Jamaican dogwood, kava, Melatonin, St. John’s wort, skullcap, yerba mansa… wait
4. Do not drive or operate dangerous machines after taking valerian.
5. Discontinuation after long-term use may cause withdrawal symptoms (heart problems or delirium). To avoid this, it is best to slowly reduce the dose one to two weeks before it is completely stopped.
6. Do not drink alcohol at the same time, it may cause drowsiness
7. Do not combine with sedative or sleep aids, may cause drowsiness, related drug names are: alprazolam, clonazepam , diazepam, lorazepam, midazolam, temazepam, triazolam, pentobarbital, Phenobarbital, Secobarbital, Thiopental, Fentanyl, Morphine, Propofol etc.
8. Do not use it with drugs that need to be metabolized by liver cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4), which may affect the effect of drugs and increase side effects, related drug names are: lovastatin, ketoconazole, itraconazole, fexofenadine, triazolam, Antihistamine etc.
9. If you develop any of the following signs of allergic reactions after ingestion, seek medical attention immediately, such as: hives, difficulty breathing, swelling (face, lips, tongue or throat).
10. Consult a healthcare professional before using Valerian if you are using medication for any of the following conditions, such as: any type of infection (including HIV, malaria or tuberculosis), anxiety or depression, asthma or allergies, cancer, erectile dysfunction, gastroesophageal reflux, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, migraine, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune diseases, mental disorders, epilepsy.
11. Overdose of valerian may be addictive and hepatotoxic (related symptoms include: nausea, epigastric pain, itching, fatigue, loss of appetite, dark urine, muddy stools, yellow skin or eyes, if the above conditions, please seek medical attention immediately)