Valerian Root Tea and Supplements

Best Valerian SupplementsValerian Root (Valeriana officinalis) has been used for centuries for chilling out and sleeping better. Even Hippocrates penned its use for calming nervous tension throughout Ancient Greece.

New research has been exploring the benefits of its active components including tannins, alkaloids and powerful valerenic acid [1] — most of valerian’s actions impact the nervous system, which is why you will most often see it in sleep and stress formulas.

Ironic that “valerian” sounds very similar to “Valium”, huh?


4 Most Common Beneficial Uses for Valerian Tea and Supplements

#1 Valerian Root for Anxiety 

When the mind is constantly working in overdrive, it is difficult to remain focused, think clearly, maintain energy or sleep well. Valerian root may be a natural herbal solution for anxiety sufferers. Its active constituent, valerenic acid, has been studied as an “anxiolytic” – a fancy term for a herbal constituent that can reduce anxiety.

Neuroscience research suggests that anxiety may arise from an imbalance in neurotransmitters, along with an inability of brain circuits to control and level-out the neurotransmitters [2]. There are two common neurotransmitters associated with anxiety: glutamate and GABA. Glutamate is known as an “excitatory” neurotransmitter and GABA is known as its “calming” counterpart. If there is too much glutamate and not enough GABA, anxiety can occur.

  • Valerenic acid found in valerian root supplements has been shown to modulate and boost GABA-receptors, therefore helping to calm the mind and potentially reduce anxiety [3] [4] [5].

#2 Valerian Root for Sleep Disorders

The side effects of prescribed sleep medications are often worse than a lack of sleep itself – day-after drowsiness, low mood, dizziness and difficulty concentrating sounds pretty similar to sleep deprivation itself. Valerian root may be a potent and effective alternative to sleeping pills for sleep disorders, without all of the nasty side effects. Valerian root acts as a dreamy-time herb due to its sedative and hypnotic actions, acting on the brain and nervous system to promote deep sleep.

  • Recent meta-analyses concluded that valerian root supplements can improve sleep quality, especially compared to placebo [6][7].
  • One double-blind study showed that 89% of subjects had improved sleep when taking a valerian root preparation – those are pretty good odds [8].
  • A 2013 parallel double-blind randomized controlled trial demonstrated that a combination of valerian root with hops and passionflower (other herbs that are also used for their sedating and hypnotic effects), was a safe alternative to taking a benzodiazepine for primary insomnia [9]. However, it is important to note that Valerian root on its own may not produce the same effect as in a poly-herbal blend, and that replacing prescribed medications with herbal supplements can be dangerous – speak to your doctor before trying valerian.

#3 Valerian Root for Stress

You would be hard pushed to find someone who did not say that they weren’t stressed – who isn’t busy? Keep in mind that stress comes in a variety of forms – mental worries, emotional turmoil, as well as deadlines, pressure at work, recovering from illness and even physical exercise are all forms of stress. Valerian root may be a beneficial herb to get you through stressful times due to its sedative and anxiolytic actions mentioned above, particularly for people who have experienced recent trauma or ongoing, long-term stress.

  • One interesting Italian study demonstrated that individuals who went into pharmacies to purchase a herbal remedy for stress that contained Valerian root had a reduced perception of stress more-so than with herbal remedies that did not contain valerian root [10].
  • An animal study revealed that valerian root extracts modulated serotonin and noradrenalin when under physical and psychological stress in addition to reducing cortisol levels [11]. This could be particularly interesting regarding recovery post-exercise and reducing cortisol levels during exercise to reduce loss of muscle mass.

#4 Valerian Root for Pre-Menstrual Syndrome and Menstrual Cramps

Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a common condition with physical symptoms such as bloating and cramping, and emotional manifestations, such as increased irritability or mood swings. Valerian root’s anxiolytic and sedative actions may obviously improve the emotional PMS symptoms [12], but what about the physical effects?

Valerian root has been shown to have “antispasmodic” actions. This means that it can stop smooth muscles from going into spasm. Spasms can occur in women with painful periods and is connected to the sensation of PMS cramps — there is a lot of muscle movement happening during menstruation due to hormonal signals.

  • A study in 2011 demonstrated that there was a statistically significant reduction in period pain after taking valerian root for two menstrual cycles. [13] – it can take 2 – 3 cycles to experience effects of herbs on hormonal cycles.

Valerian Root TeaHow To Take Valerian Root

Tea, extracts, tablets and capsules are all easy and effective ways of getting chilled out with valerian. Extracts are generally the most potent and easier to adjust the dosage, but tea is also quite pleasant.

Dosage: Generally speaking, 300mg – 500mg of valerian is considered a therapeutic dose for adults, but up to 2g is considered safe for most people. Speak to your herbalist and doctor about the best dosage for your condition.

Take valerian about 1 hour before bedtime to help with sleep onset. The greatest impact will occur after 2 – 3 weeks of regular use.

For daytime stress or muscle relief, take first thing in the morning. Be aware that it may cause drowsiness, especially in moderate doses. Speak to a herbalist or naturopath for personalised advice on appropriate and safe dosage.

Is Valerian Root Safe?

Clinically, valerian root seems to be well tolerated. However, there are some reports that valerian root may cause diarrhoea in some individuals [7]. Long-term administration of valerian root may cause headaches, excitability and uneasiness [15] – kind of the opposite effects it has in the short-term.

One cross-over study has demonstrated that valerian root does not interfere with the major metabolic pathways in the liver, meaning that it is generally considered safe to take, even with other supplements and most drugs[1]. However, due to its sedative, hypnotic and anxiolytic effects, use caution when supplementing with valerian root if you are taking any medications for sleep or mood, such as benzodiazepines [14]. Speak to a naturopath or herbalist for personalised advice, and always tell your doctor about supplements you are taking.

Do NOT take during pregnancy or breastfeeding.


Top 5 Valerian Root Supplements

#5 Nature’s Answer Alcohol-Free Valerian Root (2 fl oz)

Valerian ExtractNature’s Answer have produced a liquid tincture that is alcohol-free but still contains the potent constituents from valerian root. This extract uses vegetable glycerol instead of alcohol to pull the valerenic acid, alkaloids and tannins out of the root and into the liquid. The benefit of a liquid herbal extract is mostly in the absorption – it will likely work faster than a capsule or tablet. Each extract is different, so always follow the instructions on the label. This Nature’s Answer liquid supplement suggests 1mL (~28 drops) up to three times a day – we recommend diluting it in some juice because valerian is notoriously nasty tasting, even in sweet glycerol!


#4 Gaia Herbs Valerian Root Liquid Phyto-Capsules (225mg, 60 capsules)

Gaia Valerian SupplementGaia Herbs have encapsulated a liquid herbal extract of valerian root to provide a bioavailable, easy-to-take supplement. Each capsule contains 225mg of valerian root with almost 1g of valerenic acid, so knock back two for a therapeutic dose for sleep onset, or stick to one for mild anxiety relief (but as always, you should speak to a herbalist for your personalised dosage guidelines)!

Gaia Herbs use vegetarian cellulose capsules and a plant-based extraction technique, so these are vegetarian and vegan friendly. The valerian root they use is certified organic, and Gaia Herbs offer a “meet your herbs” tracking ID so you can trace the origins of the herb in your supplement and validate its potency. Neat!


#3 Yuve Beauty Sleep (125mg, 100 tablets)

Valerian SupplementYuve have created a lush sleep formula by combining a high potency 4:1 valerian extract with passion flower extract and magnesium. While valerian and passion flower exert their sleep magic, magnesium helps to soothe the nervous system and balance neurotransmitters to keep you in a restful sleep.

This blend is also indicated for anxiety – magnesium is required for a balanced GABA:glutamine ration, and passion flower can help valerian to soothe the nerves.

Yuve creates vegan, soy-free, non-GMO, natural supplements with no added nasties. This is a great choice if you’re looking for a gentle but effective supplement to see if valerian is right for you.


#2 Solaray Organic Valerian Root (515mg, 100 capsules)

Valerian CapsulesIf you’re looking for the big guns, here they are! Each vegetable cellulose capsule contains 515mg of organic valerian root with a big 0.8% guaranteed valeneric acid. One capsule is enough for most people to assist with anxiety and sleep, and two will give you close to the upper end of an adult dose.

Solaray use organic valerian with no added excipients – no fillers, binders or additives to worry about. This is a great valerian choice if you want a clean, high-potency formula. But if you’re just starting out with valerian, the high dosage in this supplement may be too much as an introduction.


#1 Nature’s Sunshine Valerian Root Time Release Capsules (520mg, 60 capsules)

Valerian Extract SupplementNature’s Sunshine has packaged a potent valerian extract within a time-release capsule. Each capsule contains 520mg of valerian root with an standardised 8mg of valerenic acids – more than enough for an adult therapeutic dose. The idea behind the time release capsules is that the valerian is absorbed slowly into your body as you snooze, helping the sedative effects of valerian to maintain deep sleep states.

This is a great choice if you suffer from insomnia that wakes you during the night, or if you wake too early in the morning feeling unrested. Anecdotal reviews suggest that the time-release formula works for at least 6 hours. It’s also possible that the time-release formula would help with daytime anxiety and PMS symptoms for a longer stretch than other supplements. Worth a shot?

View Nature’s Sunshine Valerian Root on Amazon Here


Further Reading:

  • [1] Donovan, J.L., DeVane, C.L., Chavin, K.D., Wang, J.S., Gibson, B.B., Gefroh, H.A. & Markowitz, J.S. (2004). Multiple Night-time Doses of Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) had Minimal Effects on CYP3A4 Activity and No Effect on CYPSD6 Activity in Healthy Volunteers. Drug Metabolism and Disposition, 32(12). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1124/dmd.104.001164
  • [2] Nuss, P. (2015). Anxiety disorders and GABA neurotransmission: a disturbance of modulation. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment11, 165–175. http://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S58841
  • [3] Felgentreff, F., Becker, A., Meier, B. & Brattström, A. (2012). Valerian extract characterised by high valerenic acid and low acetoxy valerenic acid contents demonstrates anxiolytic activity. Phytomedicine, 19(13), pp: 1216-1222. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2012.08.003
  • [4] Weeks, B.S. (2009). Formulations of dietary supplements and herbal extracts for relaxation and anxiolytic action: Relarian. Medical Science Monitor: International Medical Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research, 15(11). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19865069
  • [5] Benke, D., Barberis, A., Kopp, S., Altmann, K.H., Schubiger, M., Vogt, K.E., Rudolph, U. & Möhler, H. (2009). GABA A receptors as in vivo substrate for the anxiolytic action of valerenic acid, a major constituent of valerian root extracts. Neuropharmacology, 56(1), pp: 174-81. DOI: http://doi.10.1016/j.neuropharm.2008.06.013
  • [6] Fernandez-San-Martin, M.I., Masa-Font, R., Palacios-Soler, L., Sancho-Gomez P., Calbo-Caldentey, C. & Flores-Mateo, G. (2010). Effectiveness of Valerian on insomnia: a meta-analysis of randomised placebo-controlled trials. Sleep Medicine, 11(6), pp: 505-511. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2009.12.009
  • [7] Leach, M.J. & Page, A.T. (2015). Herbal medicine for insomnia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine, 24, pp: 1-12. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2014.12.003
  • [8] Lindahl, O. & Lindwall, L. (1989). Double blind study of valerian preparation. Pharmacology, biochemisty and behaviour, 32(4), pp: 1065-6. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2678162
  • [9] Maroo, N., Hazra, A., & Das, T. (2013). Efficacy and safety of a polyherbal sedative-hypnotic formulation NSF-3 in primary insomnia in comparison to zolpidem: A randomized controlled trial. Indian Journal of Pharmacology45(1), 34–39. http://doi.org/10.4103/0253-7613.106432
  • [10] Gasparini, M., Aurilia, C., Lubian, D. & Marco, T. (2016). Research paper: Herbal remedies and the self-treatment of stress: An Italian Survey. European Journal Of Integrative Medicine8465-470. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.eujim.2016.01.001
  • [11] Jung, H. Y., Yoo, D. Y., Kim, W., Nam, S. M., Kim, J. W., Choi, J. H., … Hwang, I. K. (2014). Valeriana officinalis root extract suppresses physical stress by electric shock and psychological stress by nociceptive stimulation-evoked responses by decreasing the ratio of monoamine neurotransmitters to their metabolites. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine14, 476. http://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-14-476
  • [12] Behboodi Moghadam, Z., Rezaei, E., Shirood Gholami, R., Kheirkhah, M. & Haghani, H. (2016). The effect of Valerian root extract on the severity of pre menstrual syndrome symptoms. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 6(3), pp: 309-315. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtcme.2015.09.001
  • [13] Mirabi. P., Dolatian, M., Mojab, F. & Majd, H.A. (2011). Effects of valerian on the severity and systemic manifestations of dysmenorrhoea. International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 115(3), pp: 285-8. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijgo.2011.06.022
  • [14] Gammon, O.S., Al-Smadi, A., Turjman, C., Mukattash, T. & Kdour, M. (2016). Valerian: An underestimated anxiolytic in the community pharmacy? Journal of Herbal Medicine, 6(4), pp: 193-197. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hermed.2016.09.001
  • [15] Caron, M. F., & Riedlinger, J. E. (1999). Valerian: A Practical Review for Clinicians. Nutrition In Clinical Care2(4), 250-257. http://doi.org/10.1046/j.1523-5408.1999.00114.x
About James Lyons

James Lyons (BHSc Nutritional Medicine) is a clinical nutritionist, medical writer, and educator. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and is passionate about improving public access to reliable and accurate health information.

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