Valerian - History and Health Benefits
Most people associate "valerian" with sleep support, and for good reason - it is one of the most popular herbal sleep aids in the world!
Why is sleep so important anyway?
Like many other related processes in the body, sleep also determines health. Maintaining healthy sleep is part of a holistic view of the health of your entire body.
Since ancient times, valerian has been used to promote calm, sleep and recovery.
Where does he comes from? Does it actually work? Are there any risks when taking valerian?
These and other questions are discussed below.
What is valerian root?
Valerian is a perennial flowering plant found in North America, Europe and Asia. The root of this plant has been widely used in ancient cultures for many centuries to promote peaceful sleep.
Although the valerian plant has health benefits, it is considered a weed in some areas. Gardeners often plant red valerian (Centranthus ruber), but this is not the same species as the valerian known for its sleep-inducing properties.
Although there are over 250 species of valerian, Valeriana officinalis is most commonly used to support sleep.
There are several components that give valerian its popularity in herbalism, such as: B:
Alkaloids such as valerine and valerianine
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid)
Iridoids like Valtrat
Sesquiterpenes such as valerenic acid
Flavonoids such as linarin and hesperidin
History of Valerian
Valerian was used in ancient Rome and Greece when their empires were at the height of their power.
The first person to mention valerian was Hippocrates. Galen, considered the greatest physician of the Roman Empire, also used valerian according to his written records. Pilgrim Marpeck, an Anabaptist reformer, is said to have recommended valerian to promote women's health.
Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes, a book by the 16th century English botanist John Gerard, mentioned valerian as an essential ingredient in food for the health of the poor in northern England and southern Scotland.
Nicholas Culpeper, a prominent astrological botanist in the 1600s, described valerian as a "warming agent" and recommended the whole plant to his customers.
More recently, valerian was recommended to civilians in England during the frequent air raids of World War II.
How valerian works
It is not just a single chemical compound that occurs in valerian and gives it its effects. Many of its individual chemical compounds have been proven to promote feelings of calm and relaxation.
These chemical compounds work together. The exact way in which valerian affects the brain is still being researched. It may influence nerve cells to release a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
Valeric acid can support the normal release of GABA in the body. GABA slows down nerve activity rather than exciting it, which may be one reason for its calming properties.
Hesperidin and linarin, the antioxidants found in valerian root, may be part of the process by which the brain's amygdala responds to fear and strong stress responses.
Benefits of Valerian for Health
1. Supporting sleep
Valerian contributes to restful sleep and is part of a lifestyle focused on overall health.
And the best part? Valerian has been proven to have no side effects when used for relaxation and calming purposes.
Other ways to promote restful sleep include:
- Avoid artificial blue light, especially in the evening
- Make your bedroom an oasis
- Avoid caffeine at least 6-8 hours before bedtime
- Do sports regularly
- Limit alcohol consumption before bedtime
- Go to bed at the same time every night
2. Emotional support
A healthy response to stress is a way to manage emotions in a positive way.
Valerian can promote a normal response to the daily stresses of life.
Further support for a healthy response to stress:
- Surround yourself with a supportive community of friends and family
- Write a diary, draw or express yourself artistically
- Prayer and spiritual well-being
- Mild to moderate exercise
- Good hydration
- A healthy, nutrient-rich diet
- Minimize screen time and social media interaction
- Practice good self-care
- Breathing exercises
3. Endocrine system support
Limited research suggests that the valerian plant may help maintain the balance of female hormones.
4. Brain support
Valerian may also support mental focus and general cognition.
Plus, a healthy sleep routine is a way to keep your brain sharp!
Sleep and the immune system
Our body is made up of many interconnected systems. These systems work in a coordinated manner to ensure our optimal performance.
Something we think is a small thing can throw the entire operation into disarray. Today, occasional insomnia and daily stress can be a seemingly "small" problem that can disrupt the functioning of the entire body.
The immune system releases cytokines, a specific type of protein, during sleep. These cytokines play a role in both restful sleep and stress management.
Sleep and circadian rhythms can work together to impact your immune system. There is even a bidirectional connection between the two, i.e. sleep affects the immune system and the immune system affects sleep.
Two positive aspects of this situation are:
- Many factors that affect sleep are easy - and inexpensive - to fix.
- The immune system renews itself every 100 days.
When this bidirectional relationship is disrupted, it may be possible to adjust your diet and lifestyle to support both!
Side effects of valerian root
Taking valerian as a dietary supplement does not cause any side effects , according to several clinical studies.
Although it supports feelings of calm, there is no evidence that it causes mental sluggishness or problems with alertness. Still, it's usually best not to drive, drink alcohol, or operate heavy machinery until you know how valerian affects you.
It is possible that valerian may interact with certain medications. So if you are taking any of the following medications, talk to your doctor before using valerian:
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Sedatives (benzodiazepines and central nervous system depressants)
- Medications that are changed by the liver (including allergy medications, antifungals, cancer medications, and statins)
If you have a serious medical problem or a diagnosed medical condition, you should consult your doctor before taking valerian or any other dietary supplement.
Dosage and method of taking valerian
Always take the dose of valerian indicated on the label of the product you purchase unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Valerian clinical trials typically use between 400 and 900 milligrams per dose. Study participants typically took their dose 30 to 120 minutes before bedtime and sometimes divided doses into several doses throughout the day.
Valerian is also available in the form of dried roots. You can steep dried valerian roots in hot water and make a tea from them.
Valerian root can be a part of a healthy sleep routine, along with a supportive lifestyle and nutrition plan. Optimizing sleep and the immune system are important measures to promote overall health.