More than 200 plant species belong to the genus Valeriana, but the one most commonly used as an herb is Valeriana officinalis. The root is used for medicinal purposes.
Galen recommended valerian for insomnia in the second century AD. From the sixteenth century onward, this herb became popular as a sedative in Europe (and later, the United States). Scientific studies on valerian in humans began in the 1970s, leading to its approval as a sleep aid by Germany's Commission E in 1985. However, the scientific evidence showing that valerian really works remains incomplete.
What Is Valerian Used for Today?
Like other treatments used for insomnia, valerian has also been proposed as a treatment for anxiety , but there is no reliable evidence as yet that it is effective.
Finally, valerian is sometimes suggested as a treatment for a nervous stomach; however, as of yet, there is no supporting scientific evidence for this use.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Valerian?
However, there have been some positive results, both with valerian alone and valerian combined with other herbs.
Because of valerian's unpleasant odor, European manufacturers have created odorless valerian products. However, these are not yet widely available in the United States.
In clinical trials, use of valerian has not been associated with any significant side effects. A few people experience mild gastrointestinal distress, and there have been rare reports of people developing a paradoxical mild stimulant effect from valerian.
Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
Interactions You Should Know About
If you are taking sedative drugs such as benzodiazepines ; don't take valerian in addition to them, except under physician supervision.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 08/22/2013 -