Valerian, a dietary supplement and key ingredient in Valerin, sold retail by Wonder Labs, is an herb known mostly for its properties as a mild sedative and sleep aid used by many people dealing with nervous tension and insomnia issues. Valerian belongs to the Valerianaceae family and is a perennial plant native to Europe and Asia and known for an odor that many find unpleasant, per National Institutes of Health (NIH). Its distinctive smell aside, there is much else to like about this herb that has been found useful for a fairly wide range of health considerations. There is no consensus among scientists as to which active constituents of valerian are responsible for its healthful qualities, although it is believed that its beneficial activity is most likely a mix of interactions involving various ingredient compounds, per NIH. Valerian has been used as a medicinal herb dating back to at least the 2nd century, used in the 16th century to treat nervousness, trembling, headaches, and heart palpitations – and during World War II was even administered in England to help relieve the stress from air raids.
Valerian's History as an Herbal Sleep AidResearchers have found that valerian can not only enhance the quality of sleep while providing a longer sleep, it can do so without leaving the user in the morning feeling like he or she is still in a daze, not wanting to get out of bed, as is the case with some synthetic medications, per herbal-supplement-resource.com.
Valerian's Other UsesThis versatile herb, which also has been referred to as valerian root, tobacco root, garden heliotrope, and setewale capon's tail, among other references, has also shown promise in treating other health-related conditions. Potential users of the herb for medicinal purposes should always discuss its use with a physician or other healthcare professional before using it.
- Sleep aid. Valerian's sedative properties are apparently linked to its capacity to stimulate the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), which has a role in helping to regulate brain activity, per curejoy.com.
- Menstrual cramps. Valerian root in powder form used over an extended period of weeks has been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes in women who are menopausal. Valerian also appears to help relieve uterine cramps and pain thanks to the herb's antispasmodic effect.
- Anxiety. Valerian has been referred to as nature's valium for its ability to alleviate symptoms for people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), per curejoy.com. One cited pilot study of 36 volunteers with GAD suggested that the herb had an anxiolytic effect—that is, it reduced anxiety, which was attributed to the presence of compounds known as valepotriates.
- Stress. Per curejoy.com, study involving participants who were asked to perform a stress-inducing task found that use of valerian for a week produced a significant decrease in systolic blood pressure and heart rate when exposed to the same stressor.
- Improve Memory and Cognition. Valerian's effectiveness in this regard was discovered during a study that involved patients coming out of surgery.
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Valerian root has shown some success as an herbal remedy for both adults and children dealing with ADHD, as well as other childhood nervous disorders, per herbal-supplement-resource.com.
- Chronic digestive disorders. Valerian has been used for an assortment of such conditions, including stomach cramps, colic, diarrhea, and bloating.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder. Per herbal-supplement-resource.com, a study found that valerian given daily over eight weeks to patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder – which involves persistent, uncontrollable obsessions and compulsive behaviors – produced meaningful improvements compared to the results of those given a placebo.
- Restless leg syndrome. Chalk it up to valerian's sedative and muscle-relaxant properties.