Herbs & Botanicals
Valerian (jie cao)
What is valerian?
Valerian is a tall perennial herb found in damp, elevated areas and grasslands.
It consists of a long stem (3-5 feet in length) with pointed dark green
leaves. It blooms in the summertime, with small, fragrant flowers (white,
light purple or pink) that can reach four inches in diameter.
Most of the medicinal properties of valerian are contained in the plants
root. It is usually available as a powder or extract; some manufacturers
also sell valerian teas.
Why do we need valerian? What is it used for?
Valerian has a variety of medicinal uses. In human studies, valerian
has been shown to reduce night-time sleep disturbances, ease anxiety,
and improve the overall quality of sleep. It may also ease menstrual cramps,
stomach cramps, and some types of headaches. Preliminary clinical trials
have also shown that valerian is as effective as benzodiazepines in treating
sleep disorders without any adverse side-effects.
How much valerian should I take?
Although a standard recommended daily allowance has yet to be determined,
most herbalists recommend that patients take valerian three times a day
to reduce sleeplessness. To reduce insomnia, it is recommended that patients
take a dose of valerian 30-45 minutes before bedtime. Among the recommended
2-3 grams of dried root in tea (take several times daily);
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon of valerian tincture (can take up to several times
1/4 teaspoon extract;
150-300mg valerian extract, dried or liquid
What forms of valerian are available?
Valerian is usually available as a powder, extract or tincture. Some
manufacturers also sell valerian teas. It is usually sold as a stand-alone
product, but is also found in compounds with other herbal supplements.
What can happen if I take too much valerian?
Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should
Valerian is considered safe and mild. The German Commission E has listed
no side-effects for valerian, while the American Herbal Products Association
has given valerian a class I (safe when used appropriately) rating.
Some people have experienced a "paradoxical reaction" to reaction:
instead of feeling calm or sleepy, they may feel nervous and anxious after
taking the product. In these cases, it is recommended that you stop taking
valerian and speak with your health care provider.
Because valerian is a sedative-type herb, it may increase the effects
of anti-anxiety medications or painkillers. It may also react with antiepileptic
drugs, and may enhance the effects of other herbs (including kava kava,
passionflower, hops, poppy and skullcap).
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