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Valerian is an herb. It is native to Europe and parts of Asia but also grows in North America. Medicine is made from the root.

Valerian is most commonly used for sleep disorders, especially the inability to sleep (insomnia). Valerian is also used orally for anxiety and psychological stress, but there is limited scientific research to support these uses.

In manufacturing, the extracts and oil made from valerian are used as flavoring in foods and beverages.

Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.
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  • Insomnia.  Most research shows that taking valerian whole root extract 300-600 mg daily modestly improves subjective sleep quality, although it might take up to 4 weeks to provide benefit. Valerian does not seem to improve sleep latency, sleep duration, or insomnia severity.
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Info

Valerian seems to act like a sedative on the brain and nervous system.

When taken by mouth: Valerian is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when used in medicinal amounts short-term. Valerian has been used with apparent safety in studies lasting up to one month. The safety of long-term use is unknown.

Valerian may cause headache, stomach upset, mental dullness, excitability, uneasiness, heart disturbances, and even insomnia in some people. A few people feel sluggish in the morning after taking valerian, especially at higher doses. Some people experience dry mouth or vivid dreams. It's best not to drive or operate dangerous machinery after taking valerian. The long-term safety of valerian is unknown. It might cause withdrawal symptoms when discontinued after long-term use. To avoid possible side effects when discontinuing valerian after long-term use, it's best to reduce the dose slowly over a week or two before stopping completely.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if valerian is safe to use when pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Children: Valerian is POSSIBLY SAFE for children when taken by mouth appropriately for 4-8 weeks.

Surgery: Valerian slows down the central nervous system. Anesthesia and other medications used during surgery also affect the central nervous system. The combined effects might be harmful. Stop taking valerian at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Alcohol

Interaction Rating=Major Do not take this combination.

Alcohol can cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Valerian might also cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Taking large amounts of valerian along with alcohol might cause too much sleepiness.

Alprazolam (Xanax)

Interaction Rating=Major Do not take this combination.

Valerian can decrease how quickly the liver breaks down alprazolam. Taking valerian with alprazolam might increase the effects and side effects of alprazolam such as drowsiness.

Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) substrates)

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

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), and many others.

Sedative medications (Benzodiazepines)

Interaction Rating=Major Do not take this combination.

Valerian might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Drugs that cause sleepiness and drowsiness are called sedatives. Taking valerian along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.
Some of these sedative medications include alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), midazolam (Versed), temazepam (Restoril), triazolam (Halcion), and others.

Sedative medications (CNS depressants)

Interaction Rating=Major Do not take this combination.

Valerian might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking valerian along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness. Taking valerian along with sedative medications used in surgery might cause prolonged sedation.
Some sedative medications include pentobarbital (Nembutal), phenobarbital (Luminal), secobarbital (Seconal), thiopental (Pentothal), fentanyl (Duragesic, Sublimaze), morphine, propofol (Diprivan), and others.

Herbs and supplements with sedative properties: Use of valerian with other herbs and supplements that act as sedatives might cause too much sleepiness in some people. This combination might also increase the side effects of valerian.

Some of the herbs and supplements with sedative effects include calamus, California poppy, catnip, hops, Jamaican dogwood, kava, L-tryptophan, melatonin, sage, SAMe, St. John's wort, sassafras, skullcap, and others.

Alcohol (Ethanol): When used with alcohol, valerian might cause too much sleepiness. However, some research has found that combining valerian with alcohol does not increase sleepiness.

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

ADULTS

BY MOUTH:

  • For insomnia:
    • 400-900 mg valerian extract before bedtime for as long as 6 weeks, or
    • 120 mg of valerian extract, with 80 mg of lemon balm extract before bedtime for up to 30 days, or
    • 374-500 mg of valerian extract plus 83.8-120 mg of hops extract before bedtime for 2-4 weeks, or
    • 300 mg of valerian extract, 80 mg of passionflower extract, and 30 mg of hops extract before bedtime for up to two weeks.
    • Take valerian 30 minutes to 2 hours before bedtime.

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