Valerian is a pink flowering bush with pale pink flowers and a floral scent that is even used in perfumes. The roots of this plant have been used as medicine since ancient Greece . Modern studies have been able to confirm that valerian root benefits people with anxiety, insomnia, ADHD, menstrual symptoms, and menopause. It can also help you combat everyday stress, balance hormones, and improve your quality of sleep.
1. Reduces Anxiety
While the idea that the drug Valium was inspired by valerian is a myth, valerian can help manage everything from stress at work to chronic anxiety. In the second World War, the British army took valerian root to cope with stress during air raids.
In a 4-week study on people with anxiety, 100 mg of valerian root a day was found to improve anxiety symptoms compared to a placebo. Scientists used electroencephalography (EEG) to measure brain waves and found that valerian produced distinct neurophysiological effects. After a month of taking valerian root, people’s brains showed more activity in the frontal lobe, corresponding with alpha brain waves. The brain creates alpha waves only when it’s in a relaxed, creative, and focused state — not an anxious or stressed state.
2. Helps with Insomnia
Valerian root is often used in herbal blends that promote sleep, such as chamomile, hops, lemon balm, and passion flower. Valerian has muscle relaxant effects that can help release tension in your body. Meanwhile, its anti-anxiety benefits help your mind release tension and ease into sleep. According to a meta-analysis of clinical trials on valerian root for sleep, valerian seems to effectively improve symptoms of insomnia. Researchers noted that one benefit of taking valerian root for sleep is its safety profile, which is a stark difference from pharmaceutical sleep aids.
3. May Improve Menopause Symptoms
Another benefit of valerian root is that it acts as a phytoestrogen — an estrogen-like plant compound that substitutes estrogen when it’s deficient and reduces it when levels are too high. As a phytoestrogen, valerian can combat symptoms of menopause by helping to balance estrogen levels. In fact, phytoestrogens have been linked to a lower risk of breast cancer.
In one 8-week study, valerian root taken 3 times daily in 255 mg doses was found to reduce the occurrence of hot flashes in menopausal women.
4. Lessens PMS and Relieves Period Cramps
According to research, valerian may be an herb useful in women’s health. Valerian root works to relieve painful period cramps by relaxing uterine muscle tissue and preventing contractions. In a study on 100 menstruating women, 3 months of valerian root supplementation significantly reduced premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms compared to a placebo.
5. Combats ADHD
In a study on 169 children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a combination of valerian root and lemon balm was shown to improve concentration and reduce restlessness. In another trial that involved valerian root alone, 30 children with ADHD experienced an improvement in symptoms after just 2 weeks of supplementation.
Research studies on the cognitive effects of valerian on healthy adults are lacking, so it’s unclear whether valerian works to improve ADHD by enhancing focus or by promoting calmness. However, the evidence available suggests valerian could help people with ADHD.
How Valerian Root Can Benefit Your Health
Valerian root is an ancient natural medicine making a modern comeback thanks to its ability to help with sleep and anxiety. This herb also has lesser-known benefits, such as improving ADHD and premenstrual symptoms. Valerian is a mild sedative with a great safety profile, making it a useful herb to keep on hand. You can find valerian root in capsule form or as a tincture.
Before taking any herbal products or supplements, please consult a physician. These natural compounds and supplements can have unexpected side effects, particularly if you have pre-existing medical conditions, are taking other medications or supplements, or are pregnant.
- “Valerian extract alters functional brain connectivity: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial” by Daeyoung Roh, Jae Hoon Jung, Kyung Hee Yoon, Chang Hyun Lee, Lee Young Kang, Sang-Kyu Lee, Kitack Shin and Do Hoon Kim, 10 January 2019, Phytotherapy Research.
- “Skeletal muscle relaxant effect of a standardized extract of Valeriana officinalis L. after acute administration in mice” by Dorian Caudal, Isabelle Guinobert, Aude Lafoux, Valérie Bardot, César Cotte, Isabelle Ripoche, Pierre Chalard and Corinne Huchet, 12 October 2017, Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine.
- “Use of valerian in anxiety and sleep disorders: what is the best evidence?” by Ana Nunes and Marlene Sousa, 31 December 2011, Acta Medica Portuguesa.
- “The Effects of Valerian Root on Hot Flashes in Menopausal Women” by Parvaneh Mirabi and Faraz Mojab, Winter 2013, Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research.
- “Relaxing effects of Valeriana officinalis extracts on isolated human non-pregnant uterine muscle” by Francesco Occhiuto, Annalisa Pino, Dora Rita Palumbo, Stefania Samperi, Rita De Pasquale, Emanuele Sturlese and Clara Circosta, 8 January 2010, Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology.
- “Hyperactivity, concentration difficulties and impulsiveness improve during seven weeks’ treatment with valerian root and lemon balm extracts in primary school children” by Jürgen Gromball, Frank Beschorner, Christian Wantzen, Ute Paulsen and Martin Burkart, 15 May 2014, Phytomedicine.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health. This article does not promote or intend to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.