If you're one of the millions of Americans who struggle to get enough sleep regularly, we're willing to bet that you're interested in finding some natural ways to get more ZZZs. Melatonin is a popular option, but a lesser-known herbal supplement called valerian root is definitely worth a closer look. Here's what you should know about valerian root, its benefits and the best ways to give it a try.
What is Valerian Root?
Valerian is a perennial plant that grows wild in grasslands throughout North America, Asia and Europe. It produces white, purple or pink flowers during summer months and features a unique aroma. When it comes to valerian-based herbal tonics, the rhizome root of the plant is most often used.1 Medicinal use of valerian root dates all the way back to ancient Greek and Roman times.
Valerian Root Wellness Benefits
Despite the fact that valerian root has been used for centuries, research detailing exactly how it works in the body is somewhat limited. However, there are a few ways in which we know valerian root can be helpful.
#1 Valerian Root Supports Quality Sleep
Valerian root is one of the most commonly used herbal supplements to promote sleep in both the United States and Europe—and with good reason. Evidence suggests that valerian root might improve sleep quality without producing unwanted side effects like dizziness or drowsiness in the morning.2 People often prefer its gentle relaxation effects for this reason. Studies on valerian root for sleep have revealed promising results, with participants perceiving a significant improvement in their sleep quality after taking valerian root before bed.
#2 Valerian Root Can Help You Fall Asleep Faster
Valerian root contains a number of compounds, including valerenic acid, isovaleric acid and antioxidants like hesperidin and linarin that may promote sleep. The antioxidants specifically appear to have relaxing and sleep-enhancing properties. Most studies show that taking valerian root before bed can reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep by 15 to 20 minutes.3
#3 Valerian Root Promotes Relaxation & Calmness
Valerian root creates a calming effect on the brain and nervous system by interacting with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Valerenic acid inhibits the breakdown of GABA in the brain, which promotes feelings of calmness and tranquility.4 Valerenic acid may also inhibit excessive activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain that processes fear and emotional responses to stress, which is why valerian root is often used to reduce occasional feelings of anxiousness.
Best Ways to Try Valerian Root
No matter which type of valerian root product you choose, the amount of valerian root per serving should be listed clearly on the label. Use it as directed and if you aren't sure how much you should take, talk with your doctor. Studies have reported that most people begin to notice improvements in sleep and relaxation after two weeks of continued, consistent use, and there are several formats from which you can choose.
#1 Sip Some Valerian Root Tea
If a mug of hot tea is already part of your relaxation routine at the end of a long day, try swapping your cup of chamomile for brewed valerian root. Sip it down 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime for optimal results. You can steep a cup earlier in the evening to drink alongside dinner as well.
#2 Pair Valerian Root with GABA & Melatonin
As mentioned earlier, valerian root and GABA work synergistically to promote healthy sleep, and melatonin helps to regulate your body's circadian rhythm. That's why we combined these three sleep powerhouses in our Comprehensive Sleep Formula. The tri-layer tabs have an active matrix core with multiple layers that enable timed delivery of sleep-supporting ingredients throughout the night, giving your body the right support at the right time to help you fall asleep and rest soundly.
#3 Try Liquid Valerian Root
You can also drink valerian root extract in a glass of water before bedtime to gain its relaxation benefits. The exact dosage depends on the specific product you choose, so read the label carefully and use it as directed. Most will recommend squeezing a dropper into a glass of water and drinking it within an hour of your intended bedtime.
If you've enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy The Science of Better Sleep: 3 Sleep-Supporting Ingredients to Know, and The Best Nutrients to Knock Out Stress. Also, be sure to sign up for Swanson Health Emails to get expert wellness advice and our best promotions in your inbox.
About Lindsey Toth, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health Products
Lindsey is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian and nutritionist with a soft spot for pie. She empowers people to take charge of their health by finding the balance between the pleasure and nourishment in food.
Her philosophy is that you should take care of your body because it’s the only permanent home you have. It’s what inspired her to pursue a career in nutrition and, ultimately, led her to Swanson Health.
1Valerian Root Dosage for Anxiety and Sleep. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/valerian-root
2Bent S, et. al. The American Journal of Medicine. 2015 April 13. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2006.02.026. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394901/
3Valerian. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-870/valerian
4How Valerian Root Helps You Relax and Sleep Better. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/valerian-root
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.