Valerian Root for Stress and Anxiety
Valerian Root to the Rescue
It’s one of those days again. Aunt Flow has made her presence known and I’m coiled up in pain over cramps that seem to be claiming vengeance on my uterus.
I call my mom. She says, “Take some valerian root.”
“Some what?” I reply.
She sighs, then says, “I’ll be there in a bit and I’ll give you some of my valerian pills.”
How Does Valerian Root Work?
The official name for valerian root is Valeriana officinallis, but that’s too long, so from now on, we’ll just call it valerian root.
Valerian plant has long been used as a mild sedative to treat the symptoms of stress-related ailments such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and muscle tension. Pretty much, it is used to calm any stress-related symptoms. Some have likened its sedative effects to those of Valium minus the addictive component.
The way it works is that it helps your brain release a natural substance called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter whose job is to reduce the neuronal excitability throughout your nervous system. In other words, it’s the neurotransmitters that help you chill. It reduces anxiety and increases your immune strength.
Now, this is the coolest part about the root. Most prescription drugs that act in the same way (helping your brain liberate GABA) have many side effects, including ADDICTION. Valerian root is NOT addictive. So, it’s all the good without all the bad.
Because valerian root has sedative effects, it should never be consumed or used with alcohol.
Uses of Valerian Root
Studies have shown that this plant not only helps you fall asleep faster, but it also increases the quality of your sleep. For me, taking 5 pills of valerian root helps me sleep like a baby. You can also take it in the form of tea, and it is especially effective when combined with hops, passion flower, lemon balm, or other sleep-inducing herbs. However, try the plants separately before mixing them, or even better, buy the tea bags that already have these plants combined. Give it about 30 mins to 1 hour to start feeling the effects.
I don’t know what it is about valerian root, but it makes you feel at peace and reduces anxiety dramatically. It must be said that this plant does not cure anxiety, but it does reduce its symptoms. There have been times when I have been so nervous, so anxious, that my hands shake almost uncontrollably. However, after three or four valerian pills, I can drastically feel my anxious emotions decrease.
Just as with anxiety, valerian can help alleviate many depression symptoms. However, if you’re already taking antidepressants, check with your doctor to see if you can take it, since it could enhance or inhibit the medication’s effect.
Valerian’s effects are more noticeable against menstrual pains (cramps, back pains, sore breasts) when taken a week before your expected period. But if you forgot or if you don’t keep a calendar (which you definitely should), take either some valerian pills or tea right on the day you start feeling cramps or at the first symptom of PMS.
This plant can help alleviate some menopause symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, hot flashes and muscle tension, which is usually closely related to stress and anxiety.
As we’ve stated above, valerian does wonders to relax the body muscles, and therefore, to alleviate the many pains that may come from being too tense.
High Blood Pressure
The reasons for high blood pressure can be many, but if yours is caused mainly due to anxiety or stress, then valerian root can help you control it. Although valerian root can be taken in many ways, the best way to take it for high blood pressure control is in its tea form. You must drink this tea at least three times a day to keep you calm.
Valerian Root and Animals
This plant can also be used to calm our canine friends. Always check with a qualified veterinarian before offering anything new to your dog, especially herbal. If your dog is hyperactive or uber nervous, valerian root may help. However, don’t try it on cats unless you want them to be super active—it has the exact opposite effect on cats than it does on humans and dogs. It stimulates the cat’s nervous system and it makes it feel as if it were in heat. This effect causes a sensation of euphoria, pleasure and well-being.
No valerian root for cats!
Cats don't get the relaxation effects from valerian. For them, it does quite the opposite. They salivate and act like they're in heat.
How to Take Valerian Root
This is the easiest, fastest way to take valerian, and you can buy these pills in any grocery store or pharmacy. They will most likely be located in the vitamin section. Always follow indications. Read the label and only take the recommended amount. If the bottle specifies to take 5 pills a day, you can divide the number of pills throughout the day to fit the times you feel more anxious or stressed, or take them all at night an hour before going to bed. Never take the full amount during the day unless you want to feel NyQuil drowsy.
Extract (Powder or Liquid)
Take 1-2 grams per day, distributed in three doses. In the case of the liquid extract, take 20-40 drops per dose no more than three times a day.
This is, by far, the most natural option. Grab a few valerian leaves, place them in hot water and let it rest for at least five minutes. Or just buy the tea bags. Once again, do not take more than three teas per day.
Who shouldn't take it:
- Pregnant or nursing women. This also applies to pregnant or nursing pets.
- Anyone taking any kind of sedatives, benzodiazepines, antihistamines, anti-epileptic drugs, and barbiturates. If you’re taking any kind of drugs, check with your doctor or check the possible interactions before consuming the root.
- People about to undergo surgery. You should stop taking it at least two weeks before the surgical procedure.
- People with breathing problems.
- People with epilepsy or schizophrenia.
Valerian really has no side effects, unless you take more than the recommended dose, which could then give you stomach problems, headaches, confusion or mental sluggishness.
Although most people will experience sedative effects with valerian, about 5% of the population will experience the opposite effect, which means they will feel hyper or overly stimulated.
Have you taken Valerian Root and experienced any undesirable side effects?
Sources and Additional Information
- The Mechanism of Action for Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) In the Treatment of Insomnia
Valerian has a mechanism of action similar to benzodiazepines; however, instead of binding to the gamma subunit like a benzodiazepine, it appears to bind to the beta subunit on the GABA-A receptor instead.
- Valerian for Sleep and Weaning Off Anxiety Medications | Psychology Today
Which herb may be the best for sleep, and also help avoid withdrawal from anti-anxiety drugs?
- Valerian Root: Non-Addictive Alternative for Insomnia and Anxiety | ENCOGNITIVE.COM
Questions & Answers
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