Valerian is a species of perennial flowering herb native to Europe and Asia, but now grows in the wild throughout the world. It’s recognizable by its unique and formidable aroma. People around the globe use valerian to treat anxiety and relieve insomnia, and have done for centuries.
Research suggests that valerian root tea, when used regularly, can help relieve insomnia and promote sound sleep. Valerian may also be capable of easing anxiety and treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. While valerian is safe for most people to use, there are some side effects and drug interactions you should be aware of if you plan to use valerian root tea to treat your own anxiety and insomnia.
Research Supports the Use of Valerian for Insomnia Treatment
Multiple studies (source: National Institutes of Health) have found that valerian root can improve insomnia. In one study, participants with a history of insomnia ingested either a supplement containing 600 mg of dried, powdered valerian root or a placebo each night for four weeks. At the end of the study period, the group taking the valerian root showed a significant improvement in insomnia symptoms. Symptoms were seen to have improved noticeably between week two and week four of the experiment in participants who took the placebo.
How to Use Valerian Root Tea for Insomnia and Anxiety
To use valerian root tea for sleep or to ease anxiety symptoms, prepare and drink it two hours to 30 minutes before you plan to sleep. You may find that a sweetener, like honey, improves the taste of valerian root tea.
There is no standard recommended dosage for valerian root tea. Use a tea bag or one to two teaspoons of the dried root in eight ounces of water. One cup of the tea per day is enough for most people. If you are using valerian root tea to treat symptoms of anxiety or ADHD, you may want to use a smaller dose up to three times a day.
As with other herbal teas, protect the phytochemical properties of the herb by steeping it in hot, but not boiling, water. Steep your tea for at least 10 minutes to guarantee your tea is properly infused with all of valerian’s beneficial agents.
Valerian tea may not relieve your sleeplessness as quickly as prescription sleep medications. You may need to drink the tea every night for several days to feel its maximum benefits. Some people must use the tea for as long as four weeks before feeling its sleep-enhancing effects.
Though scientists are not yet sure how valerian works to promote sound sleep, it’s believed that the herb’s sleep-enhancing properties have something to do with the phytochemicals, called valepotriates, it contains.
Valerian is safe to use for as many as 28 consecutive days. It can cause some side effects, including excitability, headache, uneasiness, and sluggishness the morning after use. You should avoid operating machinery or driving a car after you drink valerian root tea.
If you have been taking valerian daily for four weeks or longer, don’t suddenly stop using it. Taper off slowly over a period of one to two weeks to avoid side effects.
Precautions for the Use of Valerian Root Tea
Valerian root tea has a strong sedative effect, so you should avoid using it in conjunction with alcohol or sedative medications. Valerian root tea can interact with a range of medications. Don’t drink valerian root tea if you have taken alprazolam, benzodiazepines or medications that depress your central nervous system. If you’re taking any medications that are metabolized and changed in the liver, talk to your doctor about using valerian root tea; it could change the rate at which your liver metabolizes these medications.
It is not known whether valerian root tea is safe to use if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, so it’s best to avoid using it if you are. Nor should you use valerian tea in two weeks of having surgery. Valerian root tea’s sedative effect on the central nervous system could interact with anesthesia and other medications used during surgery.
If you suffer from insomnia or anxiety, valerian root tea can help improve your symptoms. Drink the tea two hours to 30 minutes before you go to bed. For anxiety or ADHD, you may want to try taking valerian in smaller doses two or three times throughout the day. Remember that valerian root is a sedative, so avoid using it with other sedatives or alcohol, and don’t drive or operate heavy machinery after taking it.
About the Author: Contributing blogger Leon McGhee is a practicing herbalist with two decades of experience. He recommends Buddha teas valerian root tea to anyone seeking a high-quality valerian tea.