Valerian root extract is a concentrated preparation containing certain active chemical components from the perennial herb valerian (valeriana officinalus).
Found in the highest concentration in the roots, these chemical components are known for their sedative and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties.
How long has valerian been used as a medicinal?
Valerian’s history of use dates back to ancient Greece and Rome. It was prescribed for a variety of uses including as a pain reliever, decongestant and poison antidote.
It was called fu or “phu” because of the distinct, earthy odor given off by the dried root. Later, when it became known as valerian, herbalists considered it a cure-all and called it all-heal which it is still sometimes known as.
Today, valerian is recommended mainly for nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, migraine and stomach cramps.
What types of valerian root products are available?
Valerian root products are sold as nutritional or dietary supplements and are widely available in drug stores and health food stores.
The products are available as teas, tinctures, capsules, tablets and extracts. The herb is also available in bulk form either fresh or dried.
Valerian products are also available in standardized and unstandardized forms. Standardization means that one or more of certain active components of the herb are included in a specified amount, sometimes shown as a percentage.
This assures consistency from one batch to the next.
Valerian is made up of over 150 chemical components. However, even though known compounds have been identified, it is believed that it is a combination of components, rather than just one of them, that accounts for valerian’s medicinal activity.
Because of the marked difference of these chemical components, a standardized form of any valerian product is probably best.
Valerian is sometimes combined with other herbal sedatives including passionflower, chamomile, hops and bacopa.
What are the advantages of valerian root in extract form?
How well an herbal product achieves its desired result, depends directly on the strength of its active ingredients.
Teas, capsules and tablets are very popular in the United States but extracts have several desirable advantages over them:
Capsules and tablets contain pulverized herbs which may lose some of their potency in the pulverization process.
Also, during storage of the pulverized herb, exposure to oxygen hastens the loss of its potency.
Capsules and tablets may contain fillers or binding agents such as in the case of a formed tablet. Extracts contain no such additional ingredients so they are more potent.
An extract of valerian root has the longest shelf life of all the types of preparations. This is, of course, a plus in maintaining its freshness and potency.
Extracts are absorbed faster by the body which means more constructive metabolism. Their healing ability can begin working within a few minutes.
Is valerian root extract safe?
Valerian is among the United States Food and Drug Administration’s list of herbs generally regarded as safe.
Germany’s Commission E has approved valerian as a sleep aid and mild sedative. It is widely used and approved as a sleep aid in several other countries including the United Kingdom.
A few negative side effects have been reported including headache and stomachache.
As with any supplement, check with your physician before using it if you are taking any medications.