2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Nature’s Apothecary: Valerian for Calm and Better Sleep

Posted 12/05/2007

Using the herb valerian medicinally goes back to ancient Greece. By the 19th century, valerian was regularly found in pharmacies as a medication for both anxiety and insomnia, essentially the Valium of those days.

The real advantage of valerian over Valium is that valerian is much gentler, not at all addictive or even habit forming. I’ve always liked the ancient Greek name for valerian, reflecting the odor you’ll encounter when you open a fresh bottle: pfui (no kidding, that was its name).

You can use valerian just as it has been used for hundreds of years: during the daytime hours to quell mild-to-moderate anxiety (including panic attacks) and at bedtime as a sleep aid. In fact, throughout Europe today valerian has the blessing of conventional physicians and is prescribed regularly.

For reasons that aren’t clear, valerian seems to work better the longer you use it. One study showed that only a minimal sleep-inducing effect was noticed after a single dose, but overall sleep structure improved considerably after 2 to 4 weeks of nighttime use.

How valerian works
Among the various neurotransmitters in your brain, like serotonin and dopamine, is GABA (gamma amino butyric acid), a chemical that acts like the tranquilizers Valium or Xanax, but without the daytime drowsiness.

You can increase your GABA in one of two ways:
• You can purchase synthetic GABA as a capsule without a prescription in some health food stores (you can also order it from our apothecary by clicking here).
• You can take valerian, which acts by preventing the breakdown of the GABA already in your brain.

What you’ll discover is that a small amount of valerian taken during daytime hours will calm you, and will do so without the sleepiness caused by many prescription drugs. An additional benefit of valerian is that by increasing your dose at bedtime it acts as a mild sleeping pill that generally works as effectively as a prescription sleeping pill, while also improving the quality of your sleep.

What to buy
Valerian is available in both liquid and capsule form. As I personally dislike both the taste and the smell of valerian, I suggest you choose capsules. I’ve been using a product called Sedaplex in my practice for years. In addition to valerian, Sedaplex contains several anti-anxiety and sleep-inducing herbs (skullcap, hops, and passion flower) along with the mildly sedating amino acid L-Theanine. You can take three Sedaplex at bedtime for sleep, or one capsule two or three times a day for anxiety. If you’d like to try it, we’ve made it available here.

Other encapsulated products contain a range of 300 to 450 mg of valerian. The usual dose for anxiety is one capsule as needed, limiting yourself to no more than three capsules a day. If you find this a bit too sedating, you can either open the capsule and empty out half the powder or simply try to locate 200-mg capsules. For insomnia, various medical studies as well as reports from my patients show you need 800 to 900 mg, taken about one hour before bedtime with a small amount of food. If you prefer to try pure valerian, as opposed to the Sedaplex herb combo, we offer it here.

Side effects?
The most obvious, of course, when taken in high doses, is drowsiness. Try a test dose first at home and see how you respond. If you’re one of the rare people who experience drowsiness with a small dose then understand that any kind of drowsiness will translate into poor performance, so avoid operating a punch press, skydiving, or signing any life-altering contracts. I’m certain you’re smart enough not to take an extremely large dose of valerian, but were you do to so, you’d get groggy, headachy, nauseated, and tremulous.

Reasons not to take
The sedative effect of valerian will add to other sedating substances, including alcohol, prescription tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and other sedating herbs such as kava kava and passion flower.

Using valerian during pregnancy or breastfeeding has not been studied, so avoid it during those times.


Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

BIRTHDAY

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Upcoming Workshops

**Pain Relief with Myofascial Balls
Tuesday, October 29, 6-8pm
With Renee Zambo, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist

Course Fee: $65.00
(includes WholeHealth Chicago Myofascial Release Kit, $40 value)

Does that same spot in your neck, shoulders, back or hips seem to bother you every day? Do you have joint aches and pains in the hands and feet? Would you like to learn ways to alleviate that pain and tension?

Join WholeHealth Chicago’s Yoga and Movement Therapist Renee Zambo for an evening of muscle tension release with myofascial therapy balls.

Space is limited and registration is required.
Please register online.
Call the Center for additional information at (773) 296-6700
More>>

Recent Health Tips

  • Dandruff, Fungi, and Cancer of the Pancreas

    It’s an eye-catching title, I’ll admit. But the links are quite real and further research may guide medicine in new directions of cancer prevention and treatment. It all starts in your gut microbiome, the totality of microorganisms–bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi–present in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, mouth to anus. Until recently, researchers and clinical physicians alike paid virtually no attention to the microbiome and the Read More

  • New Hope For Sinus Sufferers

    When osteopath Dr. Rob Ivker moved to Colorado in the 1980s to set up his family practice, he had no idea that when he stepped off the plane he’d succumb to symptoms of chronic sinusitis that just wouldn’t go away: stuffy nose, thick mucus, pressure behind his cheekbones and above his eyebrows, dull aching headache, and thick goopy drainage in the back of his throat. Read More

  • Director of IV Therapies Katie McManigal, BSN, ANP

    Most people at some point in their lives have had an intravenous (IV) line. An adept nurse warned you about the tiny pinch of the needle as it was smoothly inserted and taped in place.  Then the  fluid dangling above your head slowly started making its way through a tube and into your body. IVs are all over the place in hospitals. They’re seen in Read More

October Sale – Save 20% off UltraMeal Rice

UltraMeal RICE is a tasty, non-dairy, nutritionally fortified, powdered meal replacement for those who want to support healthy body composition but may be sensitive to soy.

Click here to take advantage of this month’s promotion!