Common Names: valerian, all-heal, garden heliotrope
Latin Names: Valeriana officinalis
- Valerian is a plant native to Europe and Asia; it also grows in North America.
- Valerian has been used medicinally since the times of early Greece and Rome. Historically, valerian was used to treat insomnia, migraine, fatigue, and stomach cramps.
- Today, valerian is promoted for insomnia, anxiety, depression, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopause symptoms, and headaches.
- The roots and rhizomes (underground stems) of valerian are used for medicinal purposes.
How Much Do We Know?
- Knowledge about valerian is limited because a relatively small amount of research has looked at valerian’s effects on various conditions.
What Have We Learned?
- The evidence on whether valerian is helpful for sleep problems is inconsistent. In its 2017 clinical practice guidelines, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommended against using valerian for chronic insomnia in adults.
- Two small studies suggest that valerian might be helpful for menopausal symptoms, but there is not enough evidence to know for certain.
- There’s not enough evidence to allow any conclusions about whether valerian is helpful for anxiety, depression, premenstrual syndrome, menstrual cramps, stress, or other conditions.
What Do We Know About Safety?
- Research suggests that valerian is generally safe for short-term use by most adults. It has been used with apparent safety in studies lasting up to 28 days. The safety of long-term use of valerian is unknown.
- Little is known about whether it’s safe to use valerian during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
- Side effects of valerian include headache, stomach upset, mental dullness, excitability, uneasiness, heart disturbances, and even insomnia in some people. A few people feel drowsy in the morning after taking valerian, especially at higher doses. Some people experience dry mouth or vivid dreams.
- Because it is possible (though not proven) that valerian might have a sleep-inducing effect, it should not be taken along with alcohol or sedatives.
Keep in Mind
- Take charge of your health—talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Together, you can make shared, well-informed decisions.
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- Abad VC, Guilleminault C. Insomnia in elderly patients: recommendations for pharmacological management. Drugs Aging. 2018;35(9):791-817.
- Awang DVC. Valerian. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Informa Healthcare; 2010:766-777.
- Jenabi E, Shobeiri F, Hazavehei SMM, et al. The effect of valerian on the severity and frequency of hot flashes: a triple-blind randomized clinical trial. Women Health. 2018;58(3):297-304.
- Leach MJ, Page AT. Herbal medicine for insomnia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2015;24:1-12.
- Mirabi P, Mojab F. The effects of valerian root on hot flashes in menopausal women. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research. 2013;12(1):217-222.
- Pattanittum P, Kunyanone N, Brown J, et al. Dietary supplements for dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2016;(3):CD002124. Accessed at www.cochranelibrary.com on May 1, 2020.
- Sateia MJ, Buysse DJ, Krystal AD, et al. Clinical practice guideline for the pharmacological treatment of chronic insomnia in adults: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine Clinical Practice Guideline. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2017;13(2):307-349.
- Valerian. Natural Medicines website. Accessed at naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com on May 1, 2020. [Database subscription].
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