Valerian is one of the best-known herbal remedies for insomnia. But are the stories true? Can valerian help with sleep? Our latest blog post explains.
Valerian is a common hedgerow plant found throughout Europe and Asia. Its pale pink flowers are a favourite with pollinators and have a distinctive, sweet scent.
Nicknamed, “nature’s valium” for its sedative effects, the root of the valerian plant has been used in herbal medicine for thousands of years. Its benefits were described by Hippocrates and the famous Roman physician, Galen, prescribed it for insomnia.
Valerian was even used during World War II to help English citizens cope with the stress of air raids.
These days, valerian remains one of the best-known herbal remedies for insomnia and sleep disturbances. It’s often used as a component in herbal supplements for better sleep.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the role of valerian further and answer the question; can valerian help with sleep?
Valerian for Sleep
Valerian has various benefits for our health, including soothing anxiety, easing PMS, and reducing the hot flushes associated with menopause.
But it is valerian’s ability to help us sleep better that is its best-known attribute. So, let’s look at this in more detail.
Valerian and Sleep Regulation
Typically, the part of the valerian part that is used in herbal medicine is its root and rhizome (the part of the stem that grows underground).
Scientific analysis of these parts of the plant suggests that they contain compounds that help with sleep regulation.
For example, valerian contains valerenic acid and valerenol. In our bodies, these two compounds act like GABA, a neurotransmitter that plays a vital role in regulating our moods and helping us fall asleep.
Lower levels of GABA are associated with sleep issues like insomnia, as well as a higher risk of anxiety, depression, and chronic stress.
In contrast, supplementing with GABA can make us feel more relaxed and help us fall asleep more easily.
Because valerenic acid and valerenol mimic GABA in our bodies, they likely explain why taking valerian root is associated with better sleep.
Falling Asleep Easily
Anyone who has spent hours tossing and turning, waiting for sleep to come, knows how miserable it can be. One of the ways that valerian helps with sleep is by making it easier for us to fall asleep quickly at the beginning of the night.
This is particularly true for anyone who is struggling with anxiety or stress. Because valerian root soothes our minds and helps us feel more relaxed, it is easier for us to escape our racing thoughts and get to sleep easily.
A 2020 meta-analysis of the research around valerian and sleep found that valerian was an effective sleep aid for both healthy people and for those suffering from health issues, especially when taken regularly.
The meta-study also concluded that valerian can reduce anxiety and that it is safe for use on humans.
Interestingly, the effects of valerian may be increased when it is combined with other calming herbs.
Of course, sleep problems don’t only strike when we’re first trying to fall asleep. Many of us also find our sleep is disrupted and we wake feeling less rested than we should.
In turn, lack of sleep affects our mood, our appetite, our immune systems, and our cells’ ability to repair and grow.
Fortunately, research also shows that taking valerian root can help with the quality of our sleep. People who take it regularly report that they experience a better and more restful night’s sleep.
How to Take Valerian for Sleep
If you’re struggling with sleep issues and want to see if valerian will help, one of the easiest ways to incorporate this herb into your daily routine is as a herbal tea.
Herbal tea is, in itself, a calming and comforting treat before bedtime. We love the ritual of making tea and how it helps us feel relaxed in the evenings.
Valerian root tea is an excellent choice before bed, especially if paired with other calming herbs. We like to combine it with chamomile, another herb that is well-known for promoting a peaceful mind and a good night’s sleep.
Our Chamomile & Valerian Tea gives you an easy way to enjoy both these herbs in one calming cup.