Valerian is an herb widely used in home remedies and natural cures. In the United States, it is sold as a dietary supplement. It is commonly used in sleep aids and sedatives, and studies have shown that it is effective for the natural treatment of sleep disorders. Before using valerian for the first time, it is helpful to know a little about its preparations, its common uses for natural cures and to learn of any important precautions that may be associated with its use.
Valerian is a member of the Valerianaceae family of herbs. Its actual scientific name is Valeriana officinalis. It is sometimes discussed using other names, such as:
- Capon’s Tail
- Varlerianae radix
Native to Asia and Europe, the valerian plant has been naturalized into North America, as well. It can grow up to four feet in height and, when it blossoms, the flowers are in the shape of trumpets. It has an odor that is found to be unpleasant by many.
Typical Valerian Preparations
Dietary supplements of valerian are usually made from the underground stems, roots and the stolons of the plant. Dried roots can be prepared as a tincture or as a tea. The extracts and dried plant materials are often prepared as tablets and capsules, too, and it is sometimes sold in liquid form. In varying forms, this herb is commonly found in drugstores, in health food stores and on the Internet.
Common Uses of Valerian
Valerian was commonly used in ancient Rome and Greece as a medicinal herb. In the 16th century, it was often prescribed for heart palpitations, nervousness, trembling and for the treatment of headaches. Later it was used to treat distress of the stomach, attention deficit disorder (ADD), epileptic seizures and more.
Perhaps one of the most common uses for valerian, today, is for treating insomnia as various clinical studies have supported its use as a sleep aid. It is often preferred over synthetic drugs offered for insomnia, because it offers the added benefit of rest without the hangover effect that is common with other commercial and prescription sleep aids.
Valerian is used as an herbal remedy in the treatment of the following, also:
- Asthma attacks
- Muscle weakness
- Multiple sclerosis
- Uterine cramps
Because it is a powerful medicinal herb, women who are nursing or pregnant shouldn’t take valerian. It is not recommended for use with young children either. Those who are taking prescription drugs for anxiety or insomnia should not combine those drugs with this herb. There are some side effects that can be experienced with its use, including drowsiness, vivid dreams, dizziness, upset stomach, headaches and dry mouth. In rare cases, this herb has been associated with liver damage, although it is not known whether the actual herb or other contaminants caused this.
Overall, valerian is a useful herb for a variety of disorders. From ancient civilizations, until now, this powerful herb has been trusted for human consumption, because it is generally considered to be a safe treatment. Medicinal herbs should always be thoroughly investigated and it is strongly advised that a qualified professional be consulted with in order to assure their proper use and to receive the full benefit of their healing virtues. Those under a doctor’s care for chronic illness should never take herbs without first consulting with their physician to be sure of the herbs interaction with other treatments that may be prescribed. Used correctly and in tandem with proper diet, rest and exercise, valerian is highly recommended by those who prefer for holistic health strategies for living.