Taking Valerian Root for Sleep: Is It Worth It?

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"Insomnia affects approximately one-third of the adult population," a 2006 study published in The American Journal of Medicine finds. In fact, approximately 40% of adults with insomnia have used over-the-counter medication to help induce sleep, though there is only limited evidence to support the efficacy of many of those commonly used medications.

However, there is an all-natural alternative that yields favorable results, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, "Valerian has been used to ease insomnia, anxiety, and nervous restlessness since the second-century A.D."

"As well as inducing sleep," Pole continues, "valerian encourages high-quality sleep, ensuring that we get good levels of REM sleep, encouraging full-body relaxation and restoration, helping us to feel vital and energized on waking." Below, find more information about this all-natural sleep supplement.

Valerian hasn't solely been used as a sleep aid.

"Valerian is native to Europe and Asia, and is a food source to many species of the butterfly," says Pole. "It has a particularly distinctive smell, but despite its scent, valerian was traditionally used to sweeten the smell of clothes and as a base for perfume."

Valerian root encourages GABA in your brain.

GABA is a naturally occurring chemical compound produced in your brain that helps to relax your body. Sebastian Pole, herbalist and co-founder of Pukka Herbs notes: "Scientific research is now also showing us that certain constituents within [valerian root] bind to specific receptors that inhibit activity in the central nervous system, creating a calming, sedentary effect."

"After 60 minutes of administration," a clinical trial's abstract reads, "GABA significantly increases alpha waves and decreases beta waves compared to water or L-theanine. These findings denote that GABA not only induces relaxation but also reduces anxiety."

It's most effective after a few weeks of use.

One study found valerian was no more effective than placebo for 14 days—however, by 28 days, valerian greatly improved sleep for those who were taking it. So researchers have come to believe you should take valerian root for a few weeks before it begins to work.

Valerian root has fewer side-effects than other sleep medications.

Studies show valerian "reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and improves the quality of sleep." And, unlike many prescription sleeping pills, valerian has far fewer side effects (like drowsiness or strange dreams).

[Ed. note: Please speak with a doctor before trying any new supplements or making major dietary adjustments.]

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