No More Counting Sheep: Can Valerian Actually Improve Your Sleep?

Are you tired of being tired? Yet to find a sleep aid that actually works? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 3 people say they don't get enough sleep, and 6% of people suffer from insomnia. I have certainly experienced this the hard way and I know just how disruptive and worrying it is when you cannot sleep. So if you're looking for a natural remedy to help you sleep, then valerian root just may be the answer.Early moning alarm call

What is Valerian?

Valerian is a perennial flowering plant that produces pink and white flowers in the summertime. Dating back to ancient Greece and Rome, it was Hippocrates who first claimed this plant could alleviate insomnia. It's the root of the plant that contains relaxant properties and, according to Wikipedia, Pastor Marpeck of Austria gave tea made from the root of valerian to sick individuals to help them stay calm.

Today, you can find valerian root supplements in stores in the form of capsules, you can buy valerian tea, or you can buy it raw and make your own sleepy time tincture. To learn how to make this tincture yourself, watch this short video:

How Does Valerian Help You?

Valerian aids in tranquilizing the nervous system and, as reported by WebMd, people use it to ease conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, and migraines. WebMd states that it is common to mix valerian with hops, lemonbalm, and other herbs like chamomile, in order to further calm the nervous system. You can purchase supplements that contain this mixture of ingredients at your local vitamin and supplement store.

Besides insomnia, valerian is ingested for other maladies as well. People have reported positive results in treating ADHD, depression, chronic fatigue, epilepsy, and faint tremors. Valerian can also be used for joint problems, and to alleviate pain from menstrual cramps. Many women who are going through menopause take valerian to ease hot flashes and anxiety. I never knew before that you can take valerian to help treat such a wide range of symptoms and ailments!

Is Valerian Effective?

Of the many varieties of valerian, it is only a narrow part of the root of Valeriana officinalis that has been widely studied. According to Brent Bauer, M.D., a doctor who contributes to, the results of these studies say that valerian reduces the amount of time it takes for people to fall asleep. This is because the extract improves sleep latency. This is an important benefit, since getting enough sleep from beginning to end is the chief goal for most of us.

Some of the most common complaints regarding sleep aids is that they simply do not work. Many of us are not getting enough quality sleep, and sometimes prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids actually disrupt the sleep cycle, making us feel tired and groggy the following day. I definitely found this, and it was one of the main reasons why I started trying to find natural solutions to the problem.

Valerian is a naturally occurring substance, so it does not disrupt normal sleep cycles, and it does not give you a sleep aid “hangover” the next day. In fact, some doctors, such as Dr. Whitaker, a wellness doctor at, suggest to take valerian with melatonin for the most beneficial sleep experience. This helps to relax your mind and body in preparation for a soothing night of sleep.

Are There Any Side Effects?

For the most part, valerian is a natural herb and is considered safe. If you decide to take it in conjunction with other sleep aids, antidepressants, etc. then the effects may be increased. Take valerian in a small dosage at first if you need to take other medications. Increase the dosage as your body gets used to it.

Some people have reported side effects such as headache, dizziness, and stomach pains. Because valerian needs to be further tested, it is not recommended for pregnant women, women who are breast-feeding, or for children under 3 years old.

Are There Any Drug Interactions?

It is vital you check with your doctor before taking any type of supplement to see if it has any negative interactions with your current medications. Valerian also has potential interactions with dietary supplements, such as St. John’s Wort, so practice caution if you want to consume both.

In addition, valerian can intensify the sedative response from other substances. These include depressants, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and narcotic medications. Just take one substance at a time at first so you don’t overdo the effects.

What’s My Conclusion?

If you’re suffering from insomnia – or you are one of the 33% of Americans that aren’t getting enough sleep – valerian is worth a try as part of a healthy sleep routine. Throughout history, it’s been widely recognized for its sedative properties. Valerian can be valuable in helping you fall – and stay – asleep, as well as in treating anxiety, depression, ADHD, and many other conditions. Because it doesn’t have the side effects of prescription and OTC sleeping pills, valerian is a popular alternative that has been proven to work. It’s now sold worldwide in the form of supplement capsules. I take it regularly and I do think it has made a difference to the quality of my sleep, so I will continue to take it. It could work for you, too.

If you decide to try valerian as a sleep aid, please do let me know if it works for you!

About the Author Paula Bess

My name is Paula Bess and I am the voice behind the articles you will find here, as well as a strong advocate for sleep, if you haven't guessed that by now.

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