Valerian root is one of the most popular natural sleep aids available. It is an herb native to Asia and Europe and has been around since ancient times. Some of the uses of valerian include for anxiety, sleep, hot flashes and more. In this article, we discuss the potential side effects of valerian root.
Valerian root has been used to help treat insomnia, reduce stress and anxiety, decrease the intensity and duration of hot flashes, as well as reduce the symptoms of depression. This ancient herb contains the antioxidants hesperidin and linarin which have powerful sleep-inducing and relaxation properties.
Valerian root interacts with GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), a chemical messenger that helps regulate nerve impulses in your brain and nervous system. Low levels of GABA are linked to chronic stress and low quality sleep.
In all of the clinical studies involving valerian, there have been very few reported serious side effects. Interestingly enough, the most common reported side effects actually involved people who took a placebo or ineffective pill. The most common side effects associated with valerian include:
One of the most common reported side effects is vivid dreams. For example, one study that examined the side effects of valerian found that 16% of participants experienced vivid dreams during treatment.
The 24 participants who were apart of the study received 600 mg of valerian root once daily for 6 weeks.
Researchers believe that valerian can cause vivid dreams because of the essential oils and compounds called iridoid glycosides it contains. These compounds can stimulate opioid receptors and serotonin production in your brain. These sedative properties may promote deeper sleep that can lead to vivid dreams.
Supplementing with valerian may cause mild to moderate dry mouth. Although this side effect has not be extensively studied it has been reported by some users.
Some individuals have reported an increase in bowel movement after using valerian root. For this reason, valerian has been used in Europe for hundreds of years to treat constipation.
In one 28-day study that included 391 people who supplemented with valerian root, 18% of participants reported an increase in diarrhea compared to only 8% in the placebo group.
Although typically harmless, heart palpitations feel like a rapid and uncontrollable heartbeat. A very rare side effect of valerian root includes heart palpitations, however, these reports are anecdotal and not based on research.
As with really any ancient herb, headaches have been reported as a possible side effect of valerian root. Many of these reports, however, are the result of long-term or high-dosage use. The recommended dosage amount of valerian is between 200 mg to 900 mg.
There are no studies to suggest that valerian root can lead to excessive weight loss or weight gain. If anything, it may help maintain a healthy body weight due to its sleep-enhancing properties.
Liver damage (although rare) can occur but is usually the result of overuse of valerian supplements or "wild-crafted" dried valerian root. To avoid possible injury it is always best to buy from reputable companies.
Valerian root may interact with the following substances:
Valerian root should not be taken in excessive amounts for longer than 8 weeks. Young children or pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid valerian or contact their doctor first before use.
Valerian root is one of the most popular natural sleep aids available. It is an herb native to Asia and Europe and has been around since ancient times. There have been very few reported serious side effects of valerian root. Interestingly enough, the most common reported side effects actually involved people who took a placebo or ineffective pill.
Valerian root should not be taken in excessive amounts for longer than 8 weeks. Young children and pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid or contact their doctor before using valerian root.