Wellness Hub

Valerian: an ancient solution for modern (sleep)problems

door Floris Biesemans op Feb 07, 2023

Valerian is an herb that has been used for thousands of years to relieve stress and sleep problems. Native to Europe and Asia, it is considered one of the most potent and versatile herbs in the world. The plant is mainly found in Eurasia, and is common in most areas in Belgium and the Netherlands. An extract can be obtained from the bare stem of the plant. Its constituents are often used in tranquilizers. The plant is known within phytotherapy (or herbal medicine), and was already used in ancient Greece. Valerian is often used in the form of supplements, teas and pills and is considered a natural solution to modern problems, such as anxiety and sleep disorders. In this blog, we will discuss the functions of valerian and look at the history and uses of this powerful herb.

The benefits of valerian

Valerian has several positive effects on sleep. Below are some of the most notable effects of valerian on sleep:
  1. Improves sleep quality: Valerian works by promoting the production of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a brain chemical responsible for promoting relaxation and sleep. As a result, valerian can improve sleep quality by helping the brain relax and fall asleep faster.
  2. Reduces sleep disturbances: Valerian also works by increasing the levels of serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that contribute to good mood and sleep. Because of this, the herb can also help reduce sleep disorders such as sleep anxiety and sleep problems.
  3. Calms the brain: Valerian has a calming and relaxing effect, reducing the anxiety and tension caused by stress. As a result, the herb can help calm the brain and promote people to fall asleep faster.

The effects of valerian

The effect of valerian varies from person to person and depends on several factors, including the dosage, the form in which it is taken and individual sensitivity to the supplement. Exactly how the herbal remedy works is not known. Nor does it work equally well on everyone. Its action on the body is largely due to the interaction between valerenic acid (1 of the active compounds in valerian) and GABA in the brain. GABA stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid, a substance that regulates impulses in the brain and nervous system. GABA deficiency can manifest as anxiety, stress and insomnia, and is caused by age, unhealthy diet, alcohol or stress, among other things.
It usually takes about half an hour to an hour for the effects of valerian to become apparent. Some people notice the effects earlier and some later. Most people report an improvement in sleep and an increased sense of relaxation after taking valerian.
The duration of action of valerian also varies and is usually between 4 and 8 hours. This means that the effects of valerian last about 4 to 8 hours after taking it.

The areas in which valerian is used

There are various variations of Valerian, including:

  • Valerian pills: One of the most well-liked valerian preparations is valerian tablets. They come in dosages ranging from 100 to 500 mg and contain valerian root extract.
  • Valerian supplements: Most valerian pills combine valerian root extract with additional herbs or relaxing ingredients that may promote sleep.
  • Valerian gummies: A sweet and convenient replacement for pills and supplements, valerian gummies are a popular choice. They are intended to improve sleep and lower anxiety and tension since they include valerian root extract.

It's crucial to remember that valerian can have a variety of strengths and effects. Because of this, it's crucial to conduct thorough research and buy from a reputable supplier.

We advise combining valerian with other components like if you want to use it to treat insomnia or achieve a calming effect.

For improved sleep:

  • melatonin
  • L-theanine
  • Vitamin B6

To reduce tension and stress:

  • L-theanine
  • GABA
  • Ashwagandha
  • Lemon balm

Valerian tea

Valerian is available in tea form, usually as loose tea leaves or tea bags. The tea contains the extract of valerian root and can be brewed by steeping the tea leaves or bags in hot water. Drinking valerian tea can help promote relaxation and improve sleep.
It is important to note that the concentration of valerian in tea varies and its use may not be as effective as other forms of valerian, such as gummies or supplements. Therefore, it is recommended to pay attention to the concentration of valerian in tea and the recommended dosage.

Are there any risks to taking valerian?

Valerian is considered largely safe for adults taking it according to recommended dosages. However, there are some risks associated with using valerian, including:
- Drug interactions: Valerian may have interactions with certain medications, including some antidepressants, anticonvulsants and sleep medications. Therefore, it is important to always consult a doctor before starting to use valerian.
- Side effects: Some people may experience side effects when using valerian, including fatigue, dizziness and headaches.
- Valerian pregnancy: Little is known about the effects of valerian on pregnant women and their unborn children. Therefore, it is recommended that valerian not be used during pregnancy unless recommended by a physician.

Want to read more? Read our blog Sleep problems - what is it and how to get rid of it?

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