The EclecticPhysician

The Eclectic Physician
Medicinal Herb Monographs


Botanical Name 
Valeriana officinalis

The information on this page compiled by
Beth Burch N.D.
(click on the keywords)


The use of Valerian dates back to the Greek physicians and has been traditionally used for insomnia, intestinal cramps, and nervous excitement. King’s American Dispensatory recommends it for nervous headache, pain and sleeplessness. It continues to be used as a sedative, as a relaxant for intestinal spasms and to help with lowering blood pressure due to tension and anxiety. Recent research has shown it to be effective in treating insomnia with one study showing a combination of Valerian and Hops to be comparable to benzodiazepines without the side effects (1). Valerian is on the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list and is approved for food use by the FDA.

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  • Native to North America, Europe and parts of Asia, Valerian is cultivated throughout Europe, Britain, Japan and the US. A perennial, it grows up to 4 feet high from a tuberous strong smelling root with long dark brown rootlets. The leaves are pinnate, arising from a hollow stem. The pink to white flowers appear from June to September. The root and rootlets are the parts used.

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  • Valpotriates
  • Sesquiterpenes including valerenic acid
  • Volatile oils
  • Pyridine alkaloids
  • Caffeic acid derivatives

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  • Sedative
  • Antispasmodic

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Conditions used for

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  • Liquid extract- 1/2-1 teaspoon before bed or up to three times a day
  • Dry root- 500-1000 mg before bed
  • Extract standardized to valerenic acid- 150-300 mg of 0.8% before bed or up to three times a day.
  • Children’s dosage- Multiply adult dosage times the child’s weight, then divide by 150.

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Side Effects

  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Long term use may cause headache, restlessness and sleeplessness

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  • Allergy to Valerian

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Interactions with medications

  • Do not combine with alcohol
  • Do not use with sedative medications (6)

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Use in pregnancy & lactation

  • No known contraindications for use in pregnancy or lactation

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1. Schmitz M et al, Comparative study for assessing quality of life of patients with exogenous sleep disorders (temporary sleep onset and sleep interruption disorders)
treated with a hops-valarian preparation and a benzodiazepine drug, Wien Med Wochenschr 1998;148(13):291-8
2. Leathwood PD et al, Aqueous extract of valerian reduces latency to fall asleep in man, Planta Med 1985;51:144-48
3. Leathwood PD et al, Aqueous extract of valerian root improves sleep quality in man, Pharmacol Biochem Behav 1982;17:65-71
4. Lindahl O et al, Double blind study of a valerian preparation, Pharmacol Biochem Behav 1989;32:1065-6
5. Hazelhoff B et al, Antispasmodic effects of valeriana compounds, Arch Int Pharmacodyn 1982;257:274-87
6. Miller LG, Herbal medicinals: selected clinical considerations focusing on known or
potential drug-herb interactions, Arch Intern Med 1998;158(20):2200-11

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* The information presented in this web site is intended to inform and educate. It is not intended replace a qualified medical practitioner to diagnose or treat medical conditions.

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