Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a perennial flowering herb found all over the world; there are at least 250 documented varieties. It has been used as a natural sleep aid dating back thousands of years.
Valerian has more than two thousand different documented uses. When used properly as a sleep aid, valerian is considered one of the most gentle and effective ways to fall asleep. The root contains chemicals with strong muscle-relaxant and sedative properties called valepotriates. These plus alkaloids and other volatile oils work in combination to induce sleep, but what we don’t know is exactly how they work together to make that happen. The result of taking valerian is a general slowing down of the central nervous system, but modern science is unable to state why. It’s one of the many mysteries of the herbal world that we just accept.
As noted, there are thousands of uses for this wonderful root; more than we could possibly list in this piece. Most notably, valerian is used as a sleeping aid or for insomnia, but it’s also used as a muscle relaxer, to relieve headache (even migraine) pain, for restless leg syndrome, and menstrual pain relief. It is also used in certain circumstances for treating stomach disorders due to its antispasmodic properties.
Valerian Root Tea
Making a tea from this root is the easiest way to get its benefits. Use 1 teaspoon of dried root pieces in a tea ball or muslin bag. Steep for at least fifteen minutes as roots take somewhat longer than leaf-type teas to release their essence. Drink before bedtime for insomnia or other sleep disorders. A word of caution though. This tea smells really bad, but it is worth it. Also, like many other herbal products, this one does not have the instantaneous effects that many over-the-counter products might have. It may take up to a week before your body responds to the tea and you get relief.
Do not try to speed up the process by consuming higher amounts of the tea. That will only lead to a worsening of some symptoms and you’ll be up all night with a stomach ache or moderately severe headache. Consult your physician or a licensed herbalist for further information on how much is safe for you, personally.
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