Maintaining positive sleep hygiene is one of the biggest foundations of good health. When sleep cycles become derailed, it affects other body processes, which trickles down into how you think, act, and behave.
Sleep is necessary to keep the central nervous system functioning properly, and when sleep disorders like insomnia disrupt natural patterns it leaves the brain exhausted and unable to perform its necessary functions. This can create a negative domino effect on people’s health. For starters, lack of quality sleep can lead to a weakened immunity system, high blood pressure, mood changes, and memory issues.
Though there are sleep medications that can be effective in inducing sleep, many people prefer exploring natural remedies to help get their zzzs and improve their sleep quality. Valerian root is a solution people have been turning to for centuries as a natural way to achieve quality sleep. Considering valerian root for sleep? Find out more about what it is, how it works, and its numerous health benefits. If you are looking to achieve restful sleep naturally through an herbal supplement or another type of natural remedy, this blog post is for you.
What Is Valerian Root?
Valerian root has become a much-talked about ingredient, but does valerian root help you sleep? Valerian root is an herb commonly sold as a dietary supplement to promote healthy sleep behavior by alleviating tension and insomnia. It is a perennial plant native to Europe and Asia with roots that are typically dried to prepare teas, tinctures, extracts, or capsules. However, the valerian root in GEM’s Sleep Essentials is locally sourced from the U.S.A and can significantly help improve poor sleep behaviors.
Valerian root has been used as a medicinal herb since ancient times, particularly in Greece and Rome. In the 16th century, it was used to treat headaches, trembling, nervousness, and heart palpitations. By the mid-19th century, it was largely used to alleviate stress and reduce the likelihood of sleep disorders. Today, valerian root sleep aid supplements are used as a natural remedy to instill a sense of calm and promote better sleep.
How Does Valerian Root Work?
There’s no single active compound that gives valerian root its sedative effects. Instead, there are two main categories attributed to its efficacy. The first is made up of valerenic acid and its derivatives, which have shown sedative properties in studies. The other main category is iridoids, which include valepotriates as active sedatives.
Another possible mechanism that may promote the effects of valerian root for sleep is the increased amount of gamma aminobutyric acid, or GABA. Valerenic acid inhibits the enzyme that destroys GABA and valerian extracts contain enough GABA to cause a sedative effect. This breakdown of GABA in the brain results in feelings of calmness and tranquility, similar to how anti-anxiety medication works.1
At GEM, we combine synergistic components to get the most benefits from the ingredients. We use valerian root plus GABA to provide mood support that has calming effects for those with anxiety, high stress levels, and problems sleeping. Additionally, when combining valerian root with hops and lemon balm, it promotes greater relaxation and may be able to elevate sleep benefits.
Research shows the combination of valerian and hops is considered an active compound that helps with sleep disorders such as insomnia. One study tested the effectiveness of the combination in patients with insomnia based on sleep parameters registered by a transportable home record system.
The treatment period lasted for four weeks with participants either taking a placebo, single valerian extract, or the valerian hops extract combination. The results showed the fixed combination of valerian and hops was significantly superior to the placebo in reducing sleep latency.2
How Does Valerian Root Promote Healthy Sleep Behavior?
Valerian root contains antioxidants, including hesperidin and linarin, which have sedative and sleep-enhancing properties for improved sleep. Additionally, many of the compounds found in valerian root may inhibit excessive activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear and other strong emotional responses to stress.
As such, it’s known as a natural relaxer to promote better sleep. According to research conducted at the Department of Pharmacy at King’s College in London, the major constituents of valerian root have shown a direct action on the amygdala and inhibits enzyme-induced breakdown of GABA, resulting in sedation.3
There has also been research that shows the effect of valerian root with maintaining levels of serotonin, which is the brain chemical that affects mood regulation. During one particular study, researchers investigated the effects of valerian root extracts on physical and psychological stress responses in eight-week-old mice.
The mice either received oral administration of valerian root extract or the same volume of distilled water daily for three weeks, prior to being subjected to stress tests over a period of three days. The stress conditions were assessed by a forced swimming test and serum corticosterone levels. The conclusion of the study suggested valerian root can suppress physical and psychological stress by modulating changes in serotonin and its metabolites in the hippocampus and amygdala.4
Furthermore, a study of 121 human participants with insomnia was conducted to determine the long-term effects of valerian root in relation to quality sleep. Participants either received 600 mg of dried valerian root or placebo for 28 days. Researchers implemented questionnaires, sleep pattern observations, and notated changes in sleep quality as markers of the effectiveness of the intervention.
After 28 days, the group receiving valerian root showed a decrease in insomnia symptoms and saw improved sleep compared with the placebo, with differences in improvement between the two increasing between the assessments performed on days 14 and 28.1
Additional Health Benefits of Valerian Root
Though largely used to improve sleep health, valerian root has also been used to treat other symptoms, such as menstrual cramps, stomach cramps, and symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and migraines. Taking it may be beneficial to a person’s overall sleep patterns, as the onset of menopause is frequently associated with disrupted sleep due to its uncomfortable symptoms.
In a double-blind clinical trial, researchers tested the effects of valerian root extract to reduce the intensity of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms in 100 female study participants. The group receiving valerian received two pills daily during the last seven days of their menstrual cycle.
Symptoms were recorded for a period of three cycles and recorded symptoms via a questionnaire including demographic information, as well as symptom type and severity variations. When compared against the placebo group, the results showed a significant difference in the intensity of emotional, behavioral, and physical PMS symptoms, which indicated the effectiveness of valerian root.5
Another study tested the effects of combining valerian root with lemon balm to enhance sleep patterns among a group of women 50-60 years-old. Subjects of the study were selected at random for administration of 530 mg of the valerian root/lemon balm combination or placebo twice a day for four weeks. A significant difference was observed with reduced levels of sleep disorders in 30% of the experimental group compared to 4% placebo.6
How Much Valerian Root for Sleep Is Safe?
For any type of supplement or sleep aid, it’s important to consider dosages. When taking at bedtime, how much valerian root for sleep is safe? The recommended dosage of valerian root for sleep is 300 to 600 mg, taken 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime.7
When choosing the valerian root dosage for sleep, remember consistency is key. It takes a couple weeks before you’ll start experiencing the full benefits. Research also shows it seems to work best after taking it regularly for two or more weeks. Rather than trying for one or two nights and then discontinuing use, it’s better to set up a set routine. However, after the first night, you’ll already be well on your way to better sleep.
Several studies have shown efficacy in reducing sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep at night), in addition to treatment insomnia.1 One double-blind study observed subjects who experienced lengthy sleep latency. Each wore a wrist activity meter to measure the effects of valerian root. Participants received either a 450- or 900-milligram dose of valerian root extract or placebo. The single-dose valerian root resulted in a significant decrease in measured and subjective sleep latency and increased sleep stability during the first quarter of the night.
Furthermore, in a systematic review of randomized trials testing the effectiveness of valerian in patients with insomnia, authors found two studies which showed improvement in sleep-related parameters when receiving repeated administration over a period of two to four weeks.1
The Essentials You Need for Better Sleep
Taking action to improve sleep habits is one of the key proponents of maintaining good health. Valerian root is one of many plant-based ingredients that can help you achieve these benefits. With GEM’s Sleep Essentials, you can improve sleep quality without the “hangover” feeling or next-day effects commonly associated with taking a melatonin supplement.
In addition to valerian root, the Sleep Essentials chewable contains GABA, golden chlorella, magnesium, prebiotics, L-theanine, rosemary, pumpkin seeds, cacao, cherries, and dates. Each ingredient is selected for its unique health benefits and the holistic way they work with each other. Rather than trying to get your daily nutrition from various sources in your everyday diet, you can get what you need in a single bite to sleep and feel better.
- National Institutes of Health - Office of Dietary Supplements. Valerian Fact Sheet. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Valerian-HealthProfessional/
- Max Zeller Söhne AG, Romanshorn, Switzerland. Koetter, U., et. al. A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled, prospective clinical study to demonstrate clinical efficacy of a fixed valerian hops extract combination (Ze 91019) in patients suffering from non-organic sleep disorder. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17486686/
- Department of Pharmacy, King’s College London. Houghton, P J. The scientific basis for the reputed activity of Valerian. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10411208/
- Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, College of Veterinary Medicine, and Research Institute for Veterinary Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea. Jung, Hyo Young, et. al. Valeriana officinalis root extract suppresses physical stress by electric shock and psychological stress by nociceptive stimulation-evoked responses by decreasing the ratio of monoamine neurotransmitters to their metabolites. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25495725/
- School of Nursing and Midwifery, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, et. al. Moghadam, Zahra Behboodi, et. all. The effect of Valerian root extract on the severity of premenstrual syndrome symptoms. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27419099/
- Nursing and Midwifery Faculty, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran. Taavoni, Simin, et. al. Valerian/lemon balm use for sleep disorders during menopause. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24199972/
- Healthline. Valerian Root Dosage: How Much Is Safe? https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/valerian-root#dosage-for-sleep