Valerian Background and Benefits
Valeriana is a genus of flowering plant in the Caprifoliaceae family that contains hundreds of species. The most well-known member of this genus is known scientifically as Valeriana officinalis. It is commonly known as just valerian or garden valerian when distinguishing it from other members of Valeriana. Additional common names of Valeriana officinalis include garden heliotrope and all-heal, which is also a common name for plants in the Stachys genus of the Lamiaceae family. The common name Red valerian refers to Centranthus ruber, which isn’t closely related to valerian.
Valerian originates from Europe and western Asia, although it is also well-established in North America. Valerian is the principle food source for many species of butterflies, most notably the grey pug. The sweet scent of valerian flowers has made it a popular ingredient in perfumes since the 16th century.
The use of valerian in herbal medicine is well over 2,000 years old. The Greek physician Hippocrates described it the fifth century BC, and the Greek physician Galen recommended valerian extract as a remedy for insomnia in the second century AD. Valerian is still commonly used in modern herbal medicine.
Valeric acid is one of the most pharmaceutically active ingredients in valerian extract. This extract is typically made by extracting the volatile oils from the dried roots and placing it into capsules. The most significant research on valerian use as a dietary supplement involves its effect on GABA receptors, named after the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid.
Uses of Valerian
The most common use of valerian extract is for maintaining restful sleep patterns. Valerian extract is often combined with other herbs with a similar effect such as hops.
Valerian use as a sleep aid may include helping you to taper off of sleeping medication. It can be used continuously for a prolonged period, often more than a month.
Valerian may be able to relieve feelings of stress and frustration. This use of valerian typically involves dosages of 600 mg per day for a week.
Some people take valerian to relieve anxiety, especially in social situations.
Valerian may be used to support low moods. This use is often combined with St. John’s wort.
Signs You May Need Valerian
Sleeping disorders such as insomnia are the most common signs that you may need valerian. Valerian is particularly useful if you wish to discontinue the use of sleeping pills.
Low doses of valerian may also benefit feelings of anxiety, especially when those feelings are caused by social situations such as speaking in public. Additional indications that valerian may benefit you include a rapid heart rate and poor circulation.
Synonyms and Similar Forms of Valerian
Valeriana officinalis, garden valerian, garden heliotrope, all-heal