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Can’t fall asleep? Are you tossing and turning all night? Do sleep medications make you groggy the next day? If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.
It is estimated that about one third of the adult population has problems initiating or maintaining restful sleep. Many times this leads to the use of over the counter sleep medications, alcohol, or in more severe cases, treatment with benzodiazepines. As one may guess, most of these “go to’s” are no end all cure and can even be harmful to ones overall health.
Valerian, Valeriana officinalis, is a pink or white flowering plant that blooms toward the end of summer. The flowering parts of the plant carry a pleasant aroma, contrary to the roots of the plant. Although not a favorite among most, Valerian Root essentail oil does carry a sweet balsamic aroma that is musk-like and long lasting.
What Do Sleep Studies Show?
A systematic review of Valerian Root and its efficacy for insomnia and sleep disorders revealed interesting results. Bent el al retrieved and screened all relevant publications in all languages on the topic, which came out to 16. Unfortunately, in most of the literature published, there was no single measure of sleep quality reported. Meaning, the results either reported that sleep quality improved or not without indicating how much sleep improved, if at all. Additionally, most studies had small population sizes (around 25 subjects or less) and all studies varied in study design, valerian root preparation and dosing, length of treatment, and outcomes.
Despite the large degrees of variation in the studies, the most commonly reported outcome of valerian root usage lead to improvement of sleep quality. How you may ask? It is still unclear as to how valerian root works and how effective it really is. But, there are several studies that have shown components of valerian inhibit the break down of gamma aminobutyric acid in the brain, inducing sedation and decreasing central nervous system activity in mice. That being said, many of the studies included in the review didn’t indicate what components were in Valerian Root supplements, so it is difficult to determine which components of valerian are actually helping sleep quality. Try our Sleep Tight Blend! It is a mix of Valerian Root, Lavender, Clary Sage, Ylang Ylang Extra, and Ylang Ylang Complete.
What Did Study Participants Report?
Most reports of the study were self reported by the participants themselves. Unfortunately there was no measure that indicated by how much sleep was improved. However many participants reported that it took less time to fall asleep after valerian root supplementation. In many cases it was deemed statistically significant in comparison to a placebo group, although two our of the 16 studies indicated that it wasn’t statistically significant.
Regardless, most people thought it helped them fall asleep quicker.
Six studies even evaluated the “hangover effect” experienced by participants the day after supplementation. Meaning, how groggy or sleepy participants were the next morning after taking valerian. There were no reports of a sleepy hangover the day after. This makes valerian an even more attractive option to try since you know you wont feel slow the next day.
How Safe is Valerian Root Supplementation?
As mentioned previously, each study varied in how valerian supplements were prepared, used, and dosed. Dosages ranged from 225mg to 1215mg per day and only 2 studies specifically stated that the herb was standardized to a specific amount of valerenic acid (which is believed to be the most active component). Additionally, most studies didn’t do a particularly great job of identifying, recording, or analyzing negative effects of valerian supplementation. Plus, the duration of the studies didn’t exceed 1 month and had too few of participants to properly identify negative effects.
Regardless, of the studies that made note of mentioning negative effects, there were none.
What Are Our Thoughts on the Matter?
As one could gather, there are a lot of issues with many studies that are published. But despite their flaws, there is no harm in taking valerian root for sleep, the worst that can happen is that it doesn’t really help all that much. More research does need to be conducted on the matter for a more straight forward answer, but in the meantime this will have to do.
So, if sleep is hard to come by, and you’re willing to try something new, give valerian root essential oil a try!
Barbone, M. Valerian Leaf, Flower, and Root. [Photograph]. Retrieved from: https://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-valerian-leaf-root-flower-image13295828
Bent, S, MD., Padula, A. MS., Moore, D. PhD., Patterson, M. MS., Mehling, M. (2006). Valerian For Sleep: A Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis. American Journal of Medicine. 119(12): 1005-1012.