THE HERBAL CORNER - "Valerian Root"
(Valeriana officinalis)


VALERIAN root has been used for more than 1000 years for its calming qualities, and recent research has confirmed its efficacy and safety as a mild tranquilizer and sleep aid.

For sufferers of insomnia, VALERIAN has been found to hasten the onset of sleep, improve sleep quality, and reduce nighttime awakenings. Unlike barbiturates or benzodiazepines, prescribed amounts of VALERIAN leave no morning grogginess and do not interfere with the vivid dreaming sleep known as REM sleep.

Why is VALERIAN sometimes referred to as "nature's Valium" but Valium is never called "chemists' VALERIAN"? VALERIAN was definitely here first, and it may just outlast Valium. The genus Valeriana includes more than two hundred species of plants growing in temperate areas of both the northern and southern hemispheres. Though many of these species have similar properties, the species that is most often used by Western herbalists is native to Europe and was transported to the New World by early settlers. A hardy and adaptable plant, it now grows in much of the northern United States and southern Canada. The medicinal parts are the rhizome and roots. VALERIAN is a top-ranking herb worldwide as an insomnia remedy. While it may not be threatening to overtake Valium anytime soon in the United States, it has many qualities that make it a better remedy for anxiety and sleeplessness.

Hippocrates and other early Greek physicians apparently used VALERIAN for a variety of ailments. Some of these ancient uses (particularly as a remedy to soothe digestive ailments) have survived into modern times, while others (as treatments for urinary tract disorders and epilepsy) have not. VALERIAN was not well recognized as a sedative and muscle relaxant until relatively recently. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, VALERIAN was indispensable as a treatment for various types of nervous conditions, not only insomnia but also anxiety, nervous headache, exhaustion, and hysteria. Doctors often recommended it to women who suffered from emotionally induced exhaustion of the nervous system.

VALERIAN is now the most prominent herbal remedy for insomnia as well as nervous conditions related to anxiety, tension, and stress. It works well as a nerve tonic for people who suffer from nervous exhaustion, panic attacks, and emotional disturbances. It serves as a pain-relieving agent for conditions such as tension-related headache, nerve pain, and menstrual cramps. VALERIAN can soothe the digestive system and relieve some types of indigestion, constipation, irritable bowel, and stomach cramps, especially those that may be due to excess nervous tension. VALERIAN may also help to prevent or treat: high blood pressure, cough (often in combination with other herbs such as licorice), altitude sickness, and addiction to antidepressants.

VALERIAN is available in tablets, capsules and caplets, liquid extracts, timed-release capsules, and bulk teas. It is sometimes combined with other relaxing herbs such as Kava and Chamomile. VALERIAN is a common ingredient in formulas for depression, anxiety, insomnia, and dysmenorrhea. Studies indicate that VALERIAN has low toxicity and it is certainly much safer than prescription sedatives. It should not be combined with other central nervous system depressants including alcohol and barbiturates. VALERIAN should be used with caution before doing tasks that require full alertness, such as driving. While VALERIAN is not addictive, headache and restlessness may occur from taking it regularly for an extended period of time. For unknown reasons, a small minority of people may find VALERIAN stimulating instead of calming. A few people experience stomach complaints from taking VALERIAN. VALERIAN should not be given to children under the age of 12.

Please note: the information contained herein has been compiled from various sources. The above statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. We make no claims, either expressed or implied, that any treatments mentioned in this newsletter will cure disease, replace prescription medication, or supersede sound medical advice.


The Olive Branch, On the Net since 1996