Valerian is a perennial plant with a long history of use. In fact, it's been used for insomnia, anxiety and restlessness since the 2nd century AD, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Because it can increase the sedative effects of alcohol, you should not take the two together. In addition, it's important to consult your doctor before taking valerian root.
Valerian has been used for anxiety, insomnia and restlessness, because its active chemicals exert depressant effects on your central nervous system. According to a review published in the April issue of "American Family Physician," valerian contains several active chemicals. This includes several amino acids, including glutamine, tyrosine, arginine and gamma aminobutyric acid, or GABA. It also contains a chemical known as valeric acid. According to the review, studies indicate GABA is one of the primary chemicals responsible for valerian's sedative effects.
METHOD OF ACTION
Valerian contains GABA, an inhibitory chemical. GABA is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter, a brain chemical that sends messages from one neuron to another. GABA exerts inhibitory effects on your central nervous system, according to the "American Family Physician" study. These inhibitory effects cause you to feel relaxed. Alcohol also has a depressant effect on your central nervous system. Due to the additive effect, you should not mix valerian with alcohol or other sedatives.
Valerian is available as a tea, dried powder extract, liquid and tincture. For insomnia, valerian is typically taken 1 to 2 hours before bed, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. For anxiety, a typical dosage is 200 mg, three to four times daily, according to the UMMC. Tea is commonly made by steeping 1 tsp of dried root in 1 cup of hot water for 5 to 10 minutes.
Though valerian root is generally recognized as safe, it can affect your nervous system, so you should not mix it with other drugs or medications. You should not take valerian while operating heavy machinery. It's best not to use valerian for longer than 1 month without your doctor's approval, says the UMMC. Other than alcohol, valerian has the capacity to interact with medications including antihistamines, some anti-fungal drugs and medications used to lower cholesterol, known as statins. Due to these interactions, it's important to consult your doctor first before taking valerian root.