Valerian: A Natural Sleep And Relaxation Aid

Valerian is a natural remedy for anxiety, insomnia, and stress-related disorders. It also has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which benefit cardiovascular health and other chronic diseases.

Key Takeaways

Valerian Benefits

1. Boosting Sleep Quality

Valerian's sleep-enhancing effects come from multiple compounds like valerenic acid, which boosts GABA levels to promote relaxation. It also influences serotonin and adenosine receptors and reduces the stress hormone cortisol, promoting sleep quality.

2. Improving Concentration and Focus

Valerenic acid in valerian may improve cognitive function after heart surgery by reducing oxidative stress in the hippocampus.

3. Relaxing the Muscles

By inhibiting muscle spasms and cramps.

4. Promoting Heart Health

By lowering blood pressure and heart rate.

5. Promoting Hormone Balance in Women

By modulating estrogen levels in all stages of life, including post-menopause. 

What is Valerian?

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), is a perennial plant from the Caprifoliaceae family and is now cultivated in many parts of the world.

Valerian's therapeutic properties have been used for centuries to calm and relax the body, due to its ability to interact with GABA receptors in the brain.

Valerenic acid, valerianine, and isovaleric acid are some of Valerian's active compounds contributing to these effects.

Additionally, it has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which support cardiovascular health and help manage chronic diseases. That makes it an effective natural remedy for anxiety disorders, insomnia, and other stress-related issues. [1]

Valerian And Sleep

Its Compounds And How They Function

The mechanisms of action underlying valerian's effects are complex and multifaceted. Its sedative effects are attributed to a variety of compounds found in its roots and rhizomes, each with distinct mechanisms of action.

  • In addition to increasing GABA levels, valerian activates adenosine and serotonin receptors, which regulate sleep and mood [2] [3].
  • One of the most well-studied compounds found in valerian is valerenic acid. This compound works by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, which reduces brain cell activity and promotes relaxation. [5] Lower GABA levels are associated with anxiety and poor sleep quality. [6]
  • Furthermore, valerenic acid exhibits anti-inflammatory effects by reducing the activity of NF-kappaB, a transcription factor involved in the immune response. [7] [8]
  • Hesperidin and linarin [9] are two antioxidant flavonoids in valerian that have sleep-enhancing effects. Hesperidin also has anti-seizure effects by blocking calcium channels. [10]
  • Valerian reduces the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to interfere with sleep and contribute to anxiety and depression. [11]
  • Valerian also inhibits the production of prostaglandins, which are responsible for painful contractions. It relaxes blood vessels, leading to decreased blood pressure. [12]
  • Isovaleric acid, another compound found in valerian, helps to prevent involuntary muscle contractions by acting similarly to valproic acid, a medication used to treat epilepsy. [13]

What Does The Research Say?

Valerian has been studied extensively for its effects on sleep, with several studies showing positive results.

A meta-analysis of 16 studies found that valerian improved the quality and speed of falling asleep, as well as the overall depth of sleep. [14]

In another study, 27 elderly patients with mental health problems reported a significant improvement in sleep quality after using a valerian preparation containing sesquiterpenes. [15]

Furthermore, a one-month study of 16 individuals with insomnia found that a single dose of valerian improved the duration and time to achieve deep sleep.

These findings suggest valerian can be an effective natural remedy for sleep problems. [16]

Other Amazing Benefits

Valerian has many other benefits besides improving sleep quality and reducing anxiety. They include: 

1. Improving concentration and focus 

Heart surgery can impair cognitive function in the short term, and Valerenic acid may protect memory by lowering oxidative stress in the hippocampus- the brain region responsible for memory formation.

In a clinical trial involving 61 patients who underwent heart surgery, valerian supplementation reduced the incidence of cognitive decline one month after the operation compared to placebo. [19]

2. Promoting heart health 

By lowering blood pressure and heart rate. The research found that Valerian strengthened blood vessels and improved their elasticity. [17]

3. Relaxing the muscles 

By inhibiting muscle spasms and cramps. A 3-day study of 100 female students found that valerian was effective in relieving menstrual cramp pain compared to placebo. [18]

4. Promoting hormone balance in women

By modulating estrogen levels in all stages of life, including post-menopause. A 3-month study of 60 postmenopausal women found that valerian significantly improved the severity and frequency of hot flashes. [20]

Safety And Side Effects

Valerian is a safe and effective herbal remedy that can help with various health issues. However, it may also have side effects and interactions with other medications or supplements. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a doctor before using it, especially if you have any medical conditions or allergies.

Final Thoughts

Valerian is a natural remedy with several health benefits that can help you get a good night's sleep and alleviate anxiety and stress. Its sedative and anxiolytic effects on the nervous system can work wonders for your sleep quality and mental well-being.

However, it's essential to remember that valerian may interact with some medications or cause side effects in some people. Make sure to consult your doctor before incorporating it into your health routine.

Additional Readings

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[1]The potential of Valeriana as a traditional Chinese medicine: traditional clinical applications, bioactivities, and phytochemistry - PMC (

[2]Lignans isolated from valerian: identification and characterization of a new olivil derivative with partial agonistic activity at A(1) adenosine receptors - PubMed (

[3]Valerian extract and valerenic acid are partial agonists of the 5-HT5a receptor in vitro - PubMed (

[5]The anxiolytic effects of a Valerian extract is based on valerenic acid - PubMed (

[6]GABA mechanisms and sleep - PubMed (

[7]NF-kappaB modulators from Valeriana officinalis - PubMed (

[8]NF-kappaB modulators from Valeriana officinalis - PubMed (

[9]Sedative and sleep-enhancing properties of linarin, a flavonoid-isolated from Valeriana officinalis - PubMed (

[10]6-methylapigenin and hesperidin: new valeriana flavonoids with activity on the CNS - PubMed (

[11]Valeriana officinalis extract and its main component, valerenic acid, ameliorate D-galactose-induced reductions in memory, cell proliferation, and neuroblast differentiation by reducing corticosterone levels and lipid peroxidation - PubMed (

[12]Relaxing effects of Valeriana officinalis extracts on isolated human non-pregnant uterine muscle - PubMed (

[13]Valerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis - PubMed (

[14]Could valerian have been the first anticonvulsant? - PubMed (

[15]Double blind study of a valerian preparation - PubMed (

[16]Critical evaluation of the effect of valerian extract on sleep structure and sleep quality - PubMed (

[17]Chemical Components and Cardiovascular Activities of Valeriana spp. - PMC (

[18]Effects of valerian on the severity and systemic manifestations of dysmenorrhea - PubMed (

[19]Can Valeriana officinalis root extract prevent early postoperative cognitive dysfunction after CABG surgery? A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial - PubMed (

[20]The effect of Valerian on the severity and frequency of hot flashes: A triple-blind randomized clinical trial - PubMed (

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