Valerian Supplement Review

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  Evaluated for:
Effectiveness Rating Effectiveness Rating
Insomnia (specifically related to difficulty falling asleep)
+1 (Slight Evidence)


  • Valerian has been used to treat insomnia for a long time, and has long been approved in Europe and Canada.
  • Valerian significantly improves sleep quality compared with placebo.
  • Valerian’s active ingredients pass through the blood-brain barrier, showing that valerian reaches its desired target.
  • Valerian activates key GABA-A receptors in the brain, which regulate sleep in a similar manner to other prescription medications for insomnia.
  • Valerian is a good alternative for common prescription medications, which may vary in effectiveness and cause unwelcome side effects.
  • The most commonly reported side effects are similar to those seen with placebo.


  • Individuals who took valerian did report improvements in their sleep, but no studies have successfully measured the actual amount of improvement.
  • Some people may experience fatigue or a sensation of hangover the following morning.
  • The use of valerian for longer than 6 weeks has not been studied, and safety data are unknown past this point. It is best to consider other insomnia treatments for long-term use.
  • Even traditional medications for insomnia have limited usefulness. People who suffer from chronic insomnia will most likely require a more comprehensive treatment approach.
  • Clinical trials with valerian have yielded mixed results. Even prescription medications do not result in remarkable improvement for most people with insomnia.

Valerian should be used only by those with difficulty falling asleep and not by those who have difficulty staying asleep. Any medication that has an effect on the central nervous system, including all medicines used for sleep, depression and anxiety, has the potential to interact with valerian. Long-term use for more than 6 weeks has not been studied. Talk with your health care provider about these concerns if you decide to use valerian.

DOSAGE:Dosing recommendations for insomnia are inconsistent, ranging from 400 to 900 mg of extract, taken 30 to 60 minutes before bed. We recommend using the dose suggested on the label.

CONCLUSION:We conclude that while valerian appears promising for the treatment of insomnia, there is not enough evidence for us to support its use for this condition. Patients who took valerian did see improvement in their sleep within a 6-week period. For long term use it is best to consider other treatments. These may include stress management and techniques for improving sleep hygiene, such as regular bedtimes, avoiding naps, moderating alcohol intake, and eliminating caffeine. If you do elect to try it, remember to include it in your list of medications when you visit your doctor and other health care providers.

“Valerian.” LLC, 2013. 20 October 2013.
“Valerian.” Natural Standard –The Authority on Integrative Medicine. Natural Standard, 2013.
“Valerian.” Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Therapeutic Research Faculty, 2013. 8 November 2013.
Bent, S. et al. Valerian for Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The American Journal of Medicine (2006) 119, 1005-1012
Salter, S., Brownie, S. et al. Treating primary insomnia. Australian Family Physician (2010) 39(6):433-437
Fernandez-San-Martin, I. et al. Effectiveness of Valerian on insomnia: A meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Sleep Medicine (2010) 11, 505-511
Oxman, A. et al. A Televised, Web-Based Randomised Trial of an Herbal Remedy (Valerian) for Insomnia. PLoS ONE (2007) 2(10): e1040

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