Pinterest

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Valerian: Natural Sleep Aid and Relaxant


Soon after I married, I began to take a huge interest in herbs and herbal medicines.  I don't know where this interest came from, but it was consuming.  I think I checked out every book from the library I could get on the subject and got herbal reference books for a few years after that.  

 All this study paid off because after our two boys were born and while still babies and toddlers, I began to look for a natural sleep aid.  I soon started using Valerian Root to help get through some restless nights.  My husband, highly skeptical but very desperate, began to use them as well.  We soon discovered that this highly unlikely herb had a permanent place in our medicine cabinet and we've been using it for over 15 years.


Valerian has been used for centuries to help soothe nervous tensions, anxiety and mild insomnia.

 

Even though we use it mostly as a sleep aid, Valerian is very effective as an overall tension reliever.  "It contains some unique substances such as valerenic acid and valeranon that have a central and muscle relaxant action that is particularly effective in treating stress and anxiety. It is one of the first herbs to consider if looking for a remedy to ease anxiety and panic attacks." (Source)


Valerian promotes an overall feeling of calmness and soothes and relaxes the muscular system.  

 

This is what causes you to be able to sleep as well.  It's not that it putting you to sleep, as much as it is relaxing you enough that your body is able to calm down and therefore you can go to sleep.

It relaxes the muscular system so well, that when I have a chiropractor's appointment, I always take 2 capsules (400 mg each) a half an hour to an hour before I go.  I always have a good adjustment when I do this.  If I don't take them, I usually don't adjust nearly as well and have more pain afterwards.

I have also used Valerian to help treat tension headaches that are going into a migraine headache.  I will take a few with a pain reliever and then continue to take them every few hours. They have really helped calm muscle spasms.  This makes them helpful for menstrual cramps as well.
  
 Valerian is great for cases of mild insomnia.  It helps you get a refreshing night's sleep but doesn't leave you with any side effects the next day.  

This is important as the whole point of sleeping is to feel refreshed the next day and Valerian can accomplish this without feeling over medicated.

I have found that if I'm am very stressed or having problems sleeping that Valerian can't handle, I will work on exercising, taking some chamomile tea, and overall relaxing more before bedtime.  It generally lasts me for four hours a night.  If I wake up after that, I will take another capsule which will get me through the rest of the early morning hours.


Valerian needs to be taken over the course of a few weeks in order for it to work for mild insomnia.

Like many herbal remedies, Valerian's benefits are gentle and accumulative.  This means you'll want to give it some time before you may notice a significant change.

 


More Benefits of Valerian:
  - It's very easy to find and buy.  I love the idea that I can just run to the drugstore and for a little over $3.00 a bottle, can bring a hundred capsules home.  You can also make your own capsules from purchased dried powder or your own plants.  Of course, if you make your own then you'll have to sacrifice your plant, but it does self sow pretty easily.

    - It's gentle and effective and non-habit forming.  You won't want to take it every day of your life for sure, but it is thought to be generally safe and even can have some health benefits.  We usually take a break from it after using it for a month or so but have never had any side effects from taking it long term.  This is one herb that is gentle enough to be considered a tonic.

Any Con's for Taking Valerian?
   - It is very odorous and this makes it not good for a tea but a capsule or maybe a tincture.  The Greeks named it "phu" because it smells, well, really bad.  Yes, this makes it hard to get past the lips, but once done, its benefits far outweigh any off odors.  I remember smelling a terrible odor in our bedroom one time.  We couldn't figure out where it was coming from and I actually thought something had died in that part of the room.  I finally discovered the source...an opened bottle of Valerian.  I didn't make that mistake again!  

Valerian is too valuable of an herb to let a little bit of an odor get in the way. :)    



You can certainly grow your own Valerian, just make sure it's Valerian Officinalis to get the medicinal qualities you are looking for.  The upper parts of the plants are healing as well.  The plant is also used externally to help with bruising and minor infections.

I have not grown any as the capsules are so easy to find.  But it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a plant in the herb bed. Just another note...cats love this plant, so if you live in an area with roaming cats, be aware as they'll pretty much ruin it.  I lost a beloved catmint plant this way.  You'll want to put it in a place where it can have some protection from the feline species.

So, the next time you're struggling with sleep make sure to check out Valerian...just make sure to plug your nose when you open your first bottle! 

Blessings!

Have you used Valerian before?  How do you like it and what do you use it for?


Resources:

http://www.herbalsafety.utep.edu/facts.asp?ID=38 
http://www.herbfacts.co.uk/pages/herb-file/valerian.php 
http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/v/valeri01.html

Linked to these amazing blog parties...Waste Not, Want Not Wednesdays
Seasonal Celebration Wildcrafting Wednesday
The Homeacre Hop Simple Lives Thursday
Natural Living Link-Up The Country Homemaker Hop
Homestead Barn Hop The Backyard Farming Connection Hop
Living Green Tuesdays Link-Up Natural Living Mondays
Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways 

32 comments:

  1. Great post and I agree -- valerian is definitely a very valuable herb!
    Strangely, although it does smell very weird, I don't think it really smells that BAD. It's more like damp earth to me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes...I think the smell grows on you, especially when you value it so much that you'll make a special trip to the store for it! :)

      Delete
  2. I must see if I can get this in Ireland.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope you can find it locally. If not, I'm sure it's easy to find online.

      Delete
  3. How neat! I've never tried it before, but if I ever need an herbal supplement for relaxation or sleep aid, I will give it a try. So strange that it has such a strong odor! Thanks for all the great info!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Quite fascinating, pleased to hear it is effective.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for participating in Wildcrafting Wednesday. Great post.
    Jennifer
    The Entwife's Journal

    ReplyDelete
  6. I grew it last summer but never did anything with it. I did notice it was one of the hardiest plants in that part of the garden.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's great it's so hardy...it would be a very valuable plant to have around. :)

      Delete
  7. A lovely herb to have and use - it's in my garden!
    Love leanne

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's awesome! Hope to find a place for it sometime...our yard is SO small. :)

      Delete
  8. We love Valerian! A few years back my husband was in a car accident. He began having anxiety disorder and panic attacks as a result. Since learning about this wonderful herb, he now takes it in tincture form instead of the Xanax that the doctor prescribed for him. It works extremely well and doesn't leave him with a "drugged" feeling the next morning. I also use it for insomnia and cramps.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. P.S. I like your blog. We have a bit in common. We're homeschoolers and I grew up along the shores of Lake Erie in Michigan. :-)

      Delete
    2. Amazing! What a testimony to the effectiveness of this herb! I've used it when I feel very stressed too and lemon balm for anxiety. Valerian makes me so relaxed I get sleepy!
      That's fun how you grew up in Michigan on Lake Erie...I really love being by water I have to admit! Thanks for visiting!!

      Delete
  9. Love Valerian too. My son (adopted) was born addicted to meth and the only issue he has is trouble sleeping. Apparently it is due to the effect of meth on the nervous system - it makes deep sleep difficult. Eventually they out grow it but in the mean time I found a bath product with Valerian in and it has lowered his sleepless nights to next to nothing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, what a story about your adopted son...so thankful that you have found something to help soothe him and help him to have a restful sleep...thanks for sharing!!

      Delete
  10. Great blog. I love Valerian. It has been indispensable in helping me to sleep as I suffer from multiple autoimmune issues that keep me painfully awake most nights. This has been so helpful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much and thanks for sharing your experiences with Valerian...it's so great to hear first hand experiences with herbs from people who have used them for a long time. Praying you have healing and relief from any autoimmune issues as well!

      Delete
  11. Good info! Thanks for sharing this on The HomeAcre Hop!!! Can't wait to see what you share this coming Thursday :) Here's the super easy link to the next hop!
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/the-homeacre-hop-8.html

    If you haven't checked out Wildcrafing Wednesday yet, please do! :) It's a hop I co-host for herbal remedies, natural living, real food recipes, and self sufficient living. Here's the link for tomorrow's hop:
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/02/wildcrafting-wednesday-10.html

    ReplyDelete
  12. "Yes, this makes it hard to get past the lips" - this line made me laugh. We take valerian in extract form, diluted in water and even with diluting it I make a pooey face when my husband leans in for a kiss because I can smell it on his breath. It is strong!

    To those who buy it as an extract in an eyedropper bottle: Mine costs $15 a bottle for about 2 oz and the directions say to use 40-50 drops! I'm pregnant so I felt nervous about that and only put in 5 drops in about 2 oz of water and fell asleep just fine - so you might want to start out much lower than the recommended dosage (if for no other reason than the cost savings of not using it up so fast!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the tips on the extract! I've only used the capsules so that's great info to hear! I can only imagine taking the extract with it's odor...but, it's so worth it!! Thanks for visiting! :)

      Delete
  13. The only way that I've ever used valerian is in tea. Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Extra has valerian and chamomile in it and brewed double strength has helped me through many sleepless nights. Pill form would be helpful for travelling or for the hottest nights of summer when a hot cup of tea isn't especially enticing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes that's true. I have a hard time of drinking anything before I go to bed because it makes me get up in the middle of the night so the pills work really well for me. Tincture would be good too. :)

      Delete
  14. At time my sleep do not properly when I go to bed for sleep at night. it so painful to me when my sleep broken morning and then my whole
    day spend so bad.then I start eating somulin every night when go to sleep, and now I am well.

    resource:www.somulin.com

    ReplyDelete
  15. wow very helpful blog this is very interesting blog i study your blog in details now i know this sleep aid


    Thanks for your blog (James patenson)

    ReplyDelete
  16. My mother has sleep problem and finding a best solution to solve the problem. I think this natural capsule can help her. I am going to tell her about it.Neck pain

    ReplyDelete