Valerian root comes with big promises. It’s claimed to be a mild sedative, a tranquiliser, and an age-old remedy that could help you slip into sweet dreams. But can we really use valerian root for sleep?
We use valerian root in our Three Spirit Nightcap — a soothing elixir that blows away the cobwebs of the day. Each ingredient that passes through our hands is full of potent qualities, and as far as we’re concerned, valerian root benefits are pretty impressive. That’s why we want to know more about the potential of this intriguing ingredient.
Valerian root has been used as a herbal remedy throughout the ages. Even the Pied Piper got involved — in some versions of the story, he filled his pockets with valerian root to lure rats away from Hamelin. This fresh-scented plant with delicate pink flowers can be found growing in North America, Asia, and Europe, and it was used by the Ancient Greeks to cure insomnia. But modern medicine has come a long way since Hippocrates. Now that we have plenty of research and tests to draw on, we want to know — does valerian root help you sleep?
Catching forty winks
Before we break down the science of valerian root benefits, let’s get to grips with sleep issues.
A good night’s sleep. We all need it. But for some of us, a deep slumber is always just out of reach. When counting sheep won’t cut it, should we reach for valerian root for sleep?
Over a third of adults sleep for fewer than seven hours a night, with up to 30% of people suffering from chronic insomnia, according to research collated by the Sleep Foundation. Bad sleep can lead to accidents in the workplace and traffic collisions. It can also be linked to our mental health.
There are all sorts of factors behind a good night and improvements in sleep quality. Let’s take a look at the benefits of valerian root for sleep.
Does valerian root make you sleepy?
Valerian root has sedative and tranquilising effects. Various compounds within the herb work to make you feel sleepier. It could even help people with mild to moderate cases of insomnia, according to a report in American Family Physician, usually by helping people fall asleep quicker. In technical terms, valerian root reduces your sleep latency. It’s believed that people who suffer from poor sleep are more likely to see the positive effects of valerian.
One peer-reviewed publication in the American Journal of Medicine looked at a range of clinical trials on whether valerian can improve sleep. They found that valerian gave an 80% chance of improved sleep, compared to people who had been given a placebo. But they did highlight problems with the methodology in some of the tests, meaning that much more research is needed.
If you take valerian root for sleep, your night-time cycle could undergo a big shift. According to one report, the REM sleep at the beginning of your slumber will be reduced, but increased later in the night.
And there’s more. Valerian root benefits extend to the next day. This herb doesn’t leave people feeling tired the following morning, unlike some sleep medication. With no hangover to worry about, some scientists have suggested valerian root could be preferable to non-herbal medication. But as with all health conditions, always follow medical advice before making changes.
How long does it take for valerian to kick in?
The evidence suggests that a regular dose of valerian root has the best impact, rather than a one-off fix. One report says it can take around two weeks before the results of valerian start to take effect, so don’t expect to fall straight into the land of nod.
If you want to try using valerian root for sleep, scientists recommend taking it around 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime. Then simply crawl under the sheets, snuggle up, and let the herbs course through your body.
How does valerian root help you sleep?
We’re about to get scientific.
Valerian root is a complex herb. Different compounds work in various ways, with volatile oils and valepotriates thought by some scientists to cause the sedative effect. The tranquiliser effect (which also has the potential to help treat anxiety) might be created by the valepotriates in valerian root.
But most scientists are unclear about how exactly valerian root makes you sleepy. It could also be due to a neurotransmitter called gamma aminobutyric acid, or GABA, being released in the brain.
How to take valerian root
People across the world use valerian root for sleep in a whole host of ways. They sip teas, create tinctures, and take capsules. It’s often combined with other herbs that complement valerian root benefits.
We mix valerian root into our Nightcap elixir, letting it mingle with hops and lemon balm. This Three Spirit drink is created to be soothing, and we’ve chosen each ingredient to help slow things down. We’d never claim that our concoctions are medicinal or that they cure ailments, but it’s science and traditional plant use that have inspired our creations. Sweet dreams are made of this.
Want to explore more health benefits? Dive into the stories behind ingredients like turmeric and apple cider vinegar.