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; Hippocrates wrote about its uses. Historically, valerian was used to treat nervousness, trembling, headaches, and heart palpitations.
- Today, valerian is used as a dietary supplement for insomnia, anxiety, and other conditions such as depression and menopause symptoms.
- The roots and rhizomes (underground stems) of valerian are used to make capsules, tablets, and liquid extracts, as well as teas.
How Much Do We Know?
- Knowledge about valerian is limited because there have been only a small number of high-quality studies in people.
What Have We Learned?
- The evidence on whether valerian is helpful for sleep problems is inconsistent.
- There’s not enough evidence to allow any conclusions about whether valerian can relieve anxiety, depression, or menopausal symptoms.
What Do We Know About Safety?
- Studies suggest that valerian is generally safe for use by most healthy adults for short periods of time.
- No information is available about the long-term safety of valerian or its safety in children younger than age 3, pregnant women, or nursing mothers.
- Few side effects have been reported in studies of valerian. Those that have occurred include headache, dizziness, itching, and digestive disturbances.
- 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
- Tell all your health care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
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- 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.
- Fernández-San-Martín MI, Masa-Font R, Palacios-Soler L, et al. Effectiveness of valerian on insomnia: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Sleep Medicine. 2010;11(6):505-511.
- Miyasaka LS, Atallah ÁN, Soares B. Valerian for anxiety disorders. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2006;(4):CD004515 [edited 2009]. Accessed at http://www.thecochranelibrary.com on April 29, 2015.
- NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Valerian: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Office of Dietary Supplements Web site. Accessed at http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Valerian-HealthProfessional/ on April 29, 2015.
- Sarris J, Byrne GJ. A systematic review of insomnia and complementary medicine. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2011;15(2):99-106.
- Taibi DM, Landis CA, Petry H, et al. A systematic review of valerian as a sleep aid: safe but not effective. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2007;11(3):209-230.
- Valerian. Natural Medicines Web site. Accessed at naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/ on April 28, 2015. [Database subscription].
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