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Valerian Root: Natural Herb Good for the Nervous System

Valerian root is a natural sedative that promotes relaxation and encourages better sleep by soothing the nervous system.
Valerian Root for Better Sleep and Relaxed Body

Overview

Valerian Root (Valeriana officials) is a herb that has been used for centuries both for its calming and relaxing properties as well as its capacity to alleviate tension and stimulate the nervous system.

It is classified as nervine. Nervines produce a relaxing and calming effect on the whole body, without producing a “hung-over” feeling. They are especially helpful during times of stress for strengthening the nervous system and restoring balance.

Key Benefits

  • Supports restful sleep
  • Reduces anxiety and nervousness
  • Promotes a feeling of calm

History of Usage

The root of the word valerian is the Latin verb valere, which means to be strong or healthy. For hundreds of years, the root has been utilized medicinally. Hippocrates reported its use, and Galen, the greatest physician of the Roman Empire, prescribed it to treat insomnia

It was used to alleviate uneasiness, shaking, headaches, and heart palpitations in the sixteenth century. In the mid-nineteenth century, valerian was considered a stimulant that exacerbated many of the same symptoms it is believed to alleviate, and it was usually regarded as a low-value therapeutic herb. It was used in England during World War II to alleviate the tension caused by air raids.

Along with sleep difficulties, valerian has been used to treat gastrointestinal spasms and discomfort, epileptic seizures, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. However, there is little scientific evidence to support the use of valerian for these disorders.

We now know that valerian’s bioactive components aid sleep and relaxation, based on scientific research. Additionally, valerenic acid inhibits the breakdown of GABA levels in the brain. Taking natural valerian and hops herbal supplements is preferable to taking a synthesized, synthetic form of GABA.

Biochemistry

Valerian supplements are derived from the roots, rhizomes (subterranean stems), and stolons of the plant (horizontal stems). Teas and tinctures are made from dried roots, and capsules and extracts are made from dried plant ingredients.

Valerian is comparable to benzodiazepines in its action. However, unlike benzodiazepines, it appears to bind to the beta subunit of the GABA-A receptor. When the principal inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA, interacts to the GABA-A receptor, a hyperpolarized condition results.

There is no consensus among scientists regarding the active constituents of valerian, and its activity may be a result of interactions between several constituents rather than any single chemical or family of compounds. To standardize valerian extracts, volatile oils such as valerenic acids, less volatile sesquiterpenes, or valepotriates (esters of short-chain fatty acids) are occasionally used. As is the case with the majority of herbal remedies, numerous other components are contained.

Recent Trends

Approximately 10 to 20 percent of Americans have chronic sleep issues. Almost 2 million Americans use complementary and alternative medicines to support sleep. Clinical studies indicate that valerian is most effective when combined with hops.

According to a 2017 report on herbal supplement sales in the U.S. total sales of valerian were $17, 708, 369.

Precautions

  • Pregnant and breast-feeding women should consult with their health practitioner before use.
  • Do not take along with an anti-depressant, SSRI medication or sleep medication.
  • Although safe for most people, driving or operating heavy machinery should be avoided after taking valerian.
  • Stop taking 2 weeks before surgery, since valerian slows down the central nervous system.
  • Do not take if you’ve got a history of seizures.
Resources:

Dietmar Benke, Andrea Barberis, Sascha Kopp, Karl-Heinz Altmann, Monika
Schubiger, Kaspar E Vogt, Uwe Rudolph, Hanns Möhler. GABA A Receptors as in Vivo