Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis L)

Indications and Efficacy

Valerian is a flowering plant found in the northern hemisphere. It was primarily used in Persian culture and has been written about in the literature since the 16th century. It has numerous uses, including perfumes, sedation, as an anxiolytic, for pain relief, as an anticonvulsant, for insomnia, and migraines. Valerian contains aleuronic acid which is a modulator of GABAA receptors and isoval- trate, an agonist for adenosine A1 receptor sites.

Valerian is found in many vitamin or health food stores where the extract of the root is sold in the form of capsules. It is generally touted as a treatment for insomnia.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Valerian root appeared to be a potentially effective treatment in a double-blind trial of 31 adults with OCD. The study found that a significantly higher proportion of the valerian root-treated group experienced symptom reduction compared to the placebo group following 8-weeks of treatment. The study found that those taking valerian root separated significantly from placebo after 4 weeks of treatment.

Initiation and Ongoing Treatment

The study for OCD gradually increased doses over a few weeks and gave valerian throughout the day. Due to the sedating properties of valerian root, it may be wiser to take the total amount approximately 30 minutes before bed. The dose used in the OCD study was 750mg. For insomnia, valerian root is usually used anywhere from 400mg to 900mg each day.

Full treatment effect may not be realized until at least week 4 of treatment.

Risks and Side Effects

Side effects are generally mild in severity. The most common side effects reported with valerian root treatment include somnolence, insomnia, nausea, dry mouth, constipation, headache, and irritability. Patients should be advised to visit an emergency room for symptoms suggestive of anaphylactoid reactions.

Contraindications/Special Considerations

Pregnancy/breast-feeding A limited amount of information is available regarding the use of valerian root in pregnancy or breast-feeding women. As such, treatment with valerian root is not recommended in this population.

Surgery. Valerian root has been known to depress the central nervous system. As such, individuals scheduled for surgical intervention should stop taking valerian root at least 3 weeks prior to surgery.

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