Insomnia is a common sleep complaint that affects approximately one-third of the adult population. Symptoms of insomnia are having a hard time falling asleep, struggling to maintain sleep, waking up frequently during the night, waking up too early, unable to go back to sleep and sleep is of poor quality.
One of the herbal remedies widely used for insomnia is valerian. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a perennial plant native to Europe and Asia and naturalized in North America. Preparations of valerian marketed as dietary supplements are made from its roots, rhizomes (underground stems), and stolons (horizontal stems). Valerian has been used as a medicinal herb since at least the time of ancient Greece and Rome. Its therapeutic uses were described by Hippocrates, and, in the 2nd century, Galen prescribed valerian for insomnia. Valerian is an accepted over the counter treatment for insomnia in some European countries.
A systematic review of 16 randomized, placebo-controlled trials of valerian for insomnia suggests that valerian could improve sleep quality without producing side effects.
However, in another review of studies of valerian for insomnia, it was concluded that while supporting that valerian is a safe herb associated with only rare adverse events, the clinical efficacy of valerian as a sleep aid for insomnia is not supported.
In a study that monitored 128 individuals with insomnia who received valerian or placebo for 28 days, valerian resulted in improvement in sleep quality, less difficulty falling asleep, and fewer nighttime awakenings.
A carefully designed randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study assessed the short-term (single dose) and long-term (14 days with multiple dosages) effects of a valerian extract on both objective and subjective sleep parameters in sixteen patients with insomnia. The study concluded that multiple-dose treatment with valerian demonstrated positive effects on sleep structure and sleep perception of insomnia patients, and can therefore be recommended for the treatment of patients with mild psychophysiological insomnia.
Studies of valerian for insomnia have included a broad range of doses (400-900mg) taken 30-60 minutes before bedtime as an aqueous solution or in tablet form. While no consensus exists on precise dosing, a 600mg dose one hour before bedtime has been most widely studied.
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