Herbs for Natural Sleep – Valerian Root

Mild to moderate insomnia is a very common problem. Many people are willing to try natural remedies to help them to fall asleep easier and enjoy a restful night’s sleep. Valerian root is one herb that can be used as a natural sleep aid.

Valerian root is a flowering perennial herb that is native to Europe and Asia. The herb’s medicinal properties were recognized in ancient Greece and Rome where it was used to aid in digestion and as a treatment for nervous system disorders. Later, it was considered to be a possible remedy for epilepsy. Roman philosopher and physician Galen prescribed valerian root as a remedy for insomnia.


Valerian root has a natural sedative affect. It is frequently used as an herbal remedy for insomnia. It can also be used to relieve related symptoms including stress, restlessness, and several different anxiety disorders. The exact reason that valerian root can be used as a sleep aid is not fully known. It has been shown to relax the central nervous system and studies suggest that it has an effect on the brain’s neurotransmitter GABA.

In addition to insomnia, valerian root has also been used to treat menstrual cramps and help relieve migraine headaches. Low doses of valerian root have also been shown to help to ease symptoms of anxiety throughout the day.


Valerian can be grown in a home herb garden. Valerian root is available as an herbal tea at many grocery stores and health food specialty stores. Some teas may also be prepared as a combination of valerian and chamomile, another substance known to naturally relax the body and help with mild insomnia. Valerian root tea may also be prepared using an essential oil.

Valerian can be found in pill or capsule form and is available in most drug stores. Some pills are made to be time released and will continue to work for six to eight hours. As it is a natural treatment, dosage guidelines do not exist for valerian root. Most herbalists recommend a dosage of 300 to 600 milligrams to help with mild to moderate insomnia. For best results, valerian root supplements should be taken approximately 30 minutes to one hour before sleep.

Side Effects

One of the most common side effects of taking valerian root as a sleep aid is extremely vivid dreams. These can be harmless or can manifest themselves as night terrors. People who are already prone to night terrors may want to avoid valerian root. Valerian root has not been shown to be safe for pregnant or nursing women.

Few serious side effects have been reported for using valerian root. When taken in large doses, it may cause an upset stomach. Some people do not like the taste or smell of valerian root, but this can often be remedied by taking the supplement in a different form. Valerian root may cause mild dizziness because of its sedating properties. Unlike other sleep aids, valerian root has not been shown to cause fatigue and drowsiness the next day.

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