Our daily lives bring us innumerable opportunities for stress which we’re required to deal with and then move on. But how many of us can actually put the day’s stresses behind us once our heads hit the pillow? This stress prevents us from getting a good night’s sleep, leaving us foggy-headed the next morning. And because we’re not sleeping properly, fatigue eventually rears its ugly head, setting us up for a whole host of related physical issues; elevated blood pressure, nervousness, anxiety and muscle spasms, to name just a few. Lucky for us that there’s a very valuable herbal remedy that not only addresses all of the above, but more. Valerian Root, or valeriana officinalis, is safe to use for short periods of time and in the right dosages, providing you’ve discussed this option with your primary health care provider. Valerian has been used for decades for its sedative effect, offering you a natural alternative to pharmaceutical sleep aids. Valerian root also contains essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, EFA’s, beta-carotene and B vitamins. Because it’s an herb, valerian also contains Quercetin; a bioflavonoid high in antioxidants, found in the yellow pigment of plants, and associated with cardiovascular health and known for its beneficial effects against hypertension, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis and diabetes. Imagine that? A natural sleep aid with all those benefits too!
Valerian (valeriana Officinalis) is a hardy perennial, originally native to Europe and parts of Asia. As early as the 4th and 5th centuries BC, Valerian was of great importance to followers of Hippocrates. The plant was named after the Roman District of Valeria but has also been associated with the Latin word valere meaning “healthy, valuable”. Valerian was originally used to reduce fever, as a diuretic and to bring on menstruation. It was also administered to cure afflictions of the spleen and the plague, back pain, coughs and eye complaints. It was used externally to combat ulcers and warts. As was typical in the day with all strong smelling plants, it was even bundled with other herbs and hung in a home’s doorway to protect the inhabitants from misfortune and evil. 1
Valerian was introduced to North America in 1620 by English colonists. It eventually became part of the physician’s repertoire of trusted remedies to treat nervous system conditions, muscle and bronchial spasms and “women’s complaints”. Valerian root was an official remedy in the US Pharmacopoeia from 1820 until 1936 and was featured in the National Formulary from 1888 to 1946. During the First World War, valerian root was an important treatment for “shell shock” in soldiers and during the Second World War, with civilians who suffered through repeated air raids. Until the rise of synthetic sedative drugs in the 1940’s, valerian root was included in standard medical text books in England and the United States. Today, valerian root is an approved over-the-counter medicine in Germany, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy. Valerian root is also recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a mild hypotensive (lowers blood pressure) herb. 2
The plant itself is pretty much a weed, growing three to five feet in height; its scent being particularly attractive to cats. Soil requirements are non-specific; it can grow in anything from a dry, stony soil to a moist, fertile ditch. The root and rhizomes are used for medicinal preparations.
Valerian is sold either on its own or combined with other ingredients in a capsule or tablet. It is also sold as a tea or liquid extract. It is not recommended that you prepare valerian yourself as you may easily consume too much. Valerian should not be taken with alcohol or if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you suffer from liver disease or are taking MAOIs. Valerian’s mechanism of action involves the same sort of receptor sites as benzodiazepine drugs (Valium, Dalmane, Halcyon and Restoril) so you should consult with your primary health care provider before adding it to your daily routine.
Valerian is used for the following reasons:
- Sedative purposes or to calm the nerves
- To improve circulation
- To reduce mucous from colds
Valerian is also good for relieving:
- General anxiety, anxiety related to stress
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Short bouts of insomnia
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Muscle or menstrual cramps & PMS
- Pain and spasms
Phytochemical and Nutrient Content of Valerian
Technically speaking, phytochemicals are “any of various biologically active, health-protecting compounds found in plants.” They are also referred to as “phytonutrients”. Since valerian is a plant, it is safe to conclude that it would be a source of phytochemicals. And, as luck would have it, there are three very valuable health-protecting phytochemicals in valerian root.
Valerian contains the following phytochemicals:
The carotenoids are a class of compounds related to vitamin A. The best known subclass of the carotenoids are the carotenes, of which beta carotene is the most widely known. Beta-carotene is a very powerful antioxidant that is beneficial for the cardiovascular system. In the body, it is transformed into vitamin A for the maintenance of healthy skin, good vision, a strong immune system, and healthy hair and nails.
In the class of chemicals called terpenes, limonene is found in the oil of citrus peels and in preserved lemons. Most of the research has been done on d-limonene which has shown to induce apoptosis, or the “death signal”, that kills a cancer cell or prevents it from dividing. D-limonene also increases the levels of enzymes in the liver that can detoxify carcinogens. Other medical uses for limonene include treating gallstones and neutralizing gastric acid in cases of heartburn. 3
Also known as bioquercetin, isoquercitrin is a naturally occurring form of quercetin found typically in apples, onions and other fruits and vegetables. Quercetin may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and is being investigated for a wide range of potential health benefits. 4 Quercetin is a flavonol, a member of the flavonoid family, which are chemical compounds that plants produce to protect themselves from bacteria and cell injury. Quercetin is found in fruits, veggies, leaves and grains and is identifiable in many plants as a yellow pigment and is useful in reducing allergic reactions and to boost immunity.Valerian contains the following nutrients:
- Essential Fatty Acids
- Vitamins B1, 2, 3
- Vitamin C
Valerian root contains GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an important active chemical compound vital for brain function and which helps to inhibit the stress-causing neurotransmitters that can lead to a lack of sleep or persistent anxiety.
Dr. Oz on Valerian Root Tea
Dr. Oz’s “Over 40 Essential #1” – Valerian Root
If you’re still having trouble sleeping, consider valerian root. Used for centuries around the world, Dr. Ashton recommends drinking valerian root tea a couple of hours before bedtime as valerian root is a natural herb that can promote relaxation and sleep, a safer alternative to habit-forming prescription sleep aids. She went on to say that if this works for you, you won’t need prescription medication.6
Valerian root tea has a calming effect that many people prefer to prescription painkillers or sedatives with far less side effects. Valerian tea can also be used in the treatment of various digestive disorders including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Valerian works as a muscle relaxant, loosening the bowels and letting your intestines expel any toxins that may have been stored inside. 7
It’s also possible to “steep” yourself in valerian as some preparations are created as bath powders. If you don’t like the taste of the tea, you can always inhale the steam (place tea in a large bowl, put your face over the bowl and place a towel over your head and the bowl to trap the steam) and get the same results and a soothing facial at the same time!
NUTTER’S CAN SUGGEST…
Each capsule contains:
Valerian 4:1 Extract (Valeriana officinalis) (root)………….. 300 mg
(Standardized to 0.8% Valerenic acids)
(Equivalent to 1200 mg dried root)
1. Valeriana Officinalis L. Valerian
2. Spectrology or Spectrum analysis of Valeriana Officinalis.
4. Institute of Microbiology, Czech Academy of Sciences
5. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health
6. Dr. Oz Over 40 Essentials
7. Valerian Root Tea
Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fourth Edition, Phyllis A. Balch, CNC
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.