What is valerian?
Valerian is a traditional herbal remedy registered with the medicines regulator MHRA.
Valerian (V. officinalis) is a herbaceous perennial that grows up to 1.5m tall. It is scented with small pink or white flowers. However, it is the root of this plant that's used in herbal remedies.
Valerian is used for:
- The temporary relief of sleep disturbance including disturbance caused by the symptoms of mild anxiety.
- The temporary relief of symptoms associated with stress, such as mild anxiety.
- Mild digestive complaints such as bloating and flatulence.
Unlike licensing for mainstream medicines, registration doesn't mean a herbal remedy has been tested and proven to actually work.
It does mean the MHRA is satisfied the product is made to good quality standards with appropriate labelling and a product information leaflet. It also means the herb has been used in traditional remedies for more than 30 years.
A number of studies suggest that valerian does help with insomnia. It seems to give people better quality sleep. It may also help them fall asleep faster.
Some studies have shown that valerian may improve anxiety but others have not. More research is needed.
Valerian dose and instructions for use
There is no standard dose of valerian. Always follow the instruction on the pack. Seek medical advice before starting any herbal remedy in case it could cause problems with any existing treatments or medical conditions.
Valerian food sources
There are no natural food sources of valerian. However, some manufacturers use valerian as a flavouring in foods and drinks.
Valerian supplement information
Like any supplement, keep valerian in a cool, dry place, away from humidity and direct sunlight.
- Side effects. Valerian usually causes no side effects. It might cause headache, upset stomach, uneasiness, rapid heartbeat or other symptoms. Some people feel a ' hangover' effect after taking valerian.
- Risks. Because valerian may act as a sedative, avoid driving or using machinery for several hours after you use it. Taking valerian regularly may cause “rebound” insomnia. It may also result in withdrawal symptoms after you stop using it. Valerian may interact with alcohol. Check with your GP before taking valerian if you have liver problems.
Given the lack of evidence about its safety, valerian is not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.