Valerian [Valeriana officinalis]
Valerian grows in Europe. Its root has been used in herbal preparations
for digestive problems, nausea, liver problems, and even urinary tract
disorders. With limited scientific evidence, Valerian may benefit people
suffered from insomnia, anxiety, and pain. The volatile oils in its root may
contribute to these health benefits by weakly binding to GABA-A receptor
to produce sedative effects. [1, 2] The active ingredients of valerian root
are valepotriates and sesquiterpenes. Both have sedative effects.
[15,18] Probably, 300-500 mg of a concentrated valerian root herbal
extract (standardized to at least 0.5% volatile oils) in capsules can
produce the sedative effects and help insomnia. 
Health Benefits of Valerian
Studies show that valerian may benefit people suffered from insomnia.
The beneficial effects of valerian on sleeping disturbance or difficulties
have been studied with various methods including multiple dosages and
different preparations. Research has focused on subjective evaluations
of sleep patterns, particularly sleep latency, and study populations have
primarily consisted of self-described poor sleepers. Valerian has been
found to benefit subjects with subjective experiences of sleep when
taken nightly over one- to two-week periods, and it appears to be a safe
sedative/hypnotic choice in patients with mild to moderate insomnia. [8-
Valerian produced a significant decrease in subjectively evaluated sleep
latency scores and a significant improvement in sleep quality: the latter
was most notable among people who considered themselves poor or
irregular sleepers, smokers, and people who thought they normally had
long sleep latencies. Night awakenings, dream recall and somnolence the
next morning were relatively unaffected by valerian.  Researchers
observed a significant shortening in sleep latency after sleep-disturbed
model rats took valerian extract at doses of 1000 and 3000 mg/kg. 
Valerian extract had no significant effects on total times of wakefulness,
non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep, or REM sleep, even at a dose
of 3000 mg/kg in sleep-disturbed model rats. 
Researchers from Berlin did not noticed any effect of valerian extract
supplementation on sleep onset time, REM sleep or time awake after
sleep onset in a study of 14 elderly poor sleepers on three nights, at one-
week intervals. 
Valerian extract at doses of 1000 and 3000 mg/kg showed a significant
increase in the delta activity during non-REM sleep in a study of sleep-
disturbed rats. 
In conclusion, valerian extract may be useful as an herbal medicine
having not only sleep-inducing effects but also sleep quality-
enhancement effects. 
The only change for intake of valerian supplement was a significant
increase in reports of feeling more sleepy than normal the next morning.
The effect of an aqueous extract of valerian root on sleep was studied in
two groups of healthy, young subjects. One group (N = 10) slept at
home, the other (N = 8) in the sleep laboratory. 
Dose-Proportionality The beneficial effect of valerian was found to be
Japanese researchers examined the effects of valerain inhalation on the
sleep-wake states in rats. They observed a significant prolonged total
sleep time with valerian inhalation. Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA)
transaminase assay indicates that valerian inhalation decreases the
activity of the enzyme and enhances GABA activity. Thus, the present
study suggests the potential benefits of valerian inhalation on sleep
Other potential health benefits of valerian
Valerian may also benefit patients with mild anxiety and restlessness,
but the data supporting this health claim are limited.  One recent
study has shown valerian may benefit children suffered from
restlessness in Germany. Researchers supplemented 918 children
suffered from restlessness and nervous dyskoimesis with a combination
of lemon balm and valerian in an open multi-center study. They found a
significant reduction in their core symptoms. 
Valerian preparations yield isovaleric acid, a substance analogous to
valproic acid and likely to possess anticonvulsant properties, as
isovaleramide does. Thus, some researchers believe valerian may benefit
people suffered from epilepsy. 
Side Effects or Interaction of Valerian
In a study of 102 subjects treated by valerian root extract, German
reserachers concluded that neither single nor repeated evening
administrations of 600 mg of VRE have a relevant negative impact on
reaction time, alertness and concentration the morning after intake. 
In addition, acute administration of valerian does not have mood-altering
or psychomotor/cognitive effects in young healthy volunteers. 
However, valepotriate is generally considered to be cytotoxic. In a
double blind study, researchers supplemented subjects with
sesquiterpene preparation, they found no side effect but a significant
improvement in sleep. 
Though valerian does not impair one's ability to drive or operate
machinery nor impair reaction time, alertness or concentration, it's still
better to avoid dangerous activities that require high alertness. [4,7]
Excessive intake of valerian root causes side effects including fatigue,
abdominal pain and mild tremor of hands and feet. 
A man experienced severe cardiac symptoms after withdrawal of valerian
Huge Variation in Quality from Product to Product
Thirty-one commercial valerian preparations available in Australia,
including teas, tablets, capsules and liquids, were analysed for
valepotriates, valerenic acid and valerenic acid derivatives. Researchers
found powder capsules, on average, contained the highest concentration
of valerenic acids (2.46 mg/g) and liquids the lowest concentration (0.47
mg/ml). The mean concentration of valerenic acid in the five products
standardized against valerenic acid (3.56 mg/g) was significantly higher
than in the 26 non-standardized products (0.89 mg/g). Valepotriates
were found at low levels (< 1.0 mg/g) in some teas but were not
detected in any of the finished products. 
Dose and Effectiveness
UK researchers found that valerian at 300-600 doses is ineffective as an
acute dose for sleep problems in a placebo-controlled three way
crossover clinical trial of 16 sleep-disturbed subjects. 
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