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The Use of Valerian Root to Relieve Stress

By Kelly Spivey ; Updated August 14, 2017

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but it can also be harmful to your health. It is important to effectively manage stress and keep the body strong and resilient to reduce the negative side effects associated with stress. According to a 20-year study published by Kaiser Permanente, 70 to 85 percent of doctor’s visits were related to unmanaged stress. Excessive and uncontrolled stress can lead to ulcers, high blood pressure, autoimmune disorders and even heart disease.

Use of Herbal Therapy

Americans have turned to herbal medicine for a variety of reasons. Many feel there are fewer side effects than commonly prescribed medications, plus the cost is often more affordable. Another reason for the popularity of herbal medicine is to gain control of personal health and well-being.

Though herbal therapy has been practiced for thousands of years, it is a relatively new area of research in the United States. Most medical doctors didn’t study herbal medicine in medical school and many are still unfamiliar with the use of herbs as complementary or alternative medicine. For these reasons, it is up to the consumer to use caution when self-prescribing herbs or other supplements, and always inform your healthcare provider of any herb use. Herbs commonly used for stress and anxiety include valerian, chamomile, passion flower, lavender and the hormone melatonin.

Valerian Uses

According to the “Practical Guide to Natural Medicines,” valerian has been used for 1000 years as a sedative and calmative agent. Its modern day uses include as a treatment for anxiety, promoting sleep, controlling panic attacks, as well as relieving headaches, menstrual cramps and digestive cramping. Valerian also helps relax the body. In Japan, it is a popular over-the-counter sedative.

Is Valerian Safe?

Valerian has been used extensively in Europe. The European health authorities list no contraindications for use. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also identifies valerian on its list of foods “Generally Recognized as Safe,” or GRAS. When used in recommended doses, studies have shown no significant side effects. Due to its sedative effects, it is not wise to use valerian while operating heavy machinery or to combine it with alcohol. Though valerian is not physiologically addictive, Andrew Weil cautions that it can be psychologically addictive.

Is Valerian Effective?

Valerian is one of the few herbal supplements that meet the rigorous U.S. standards, leading to its being given a rating of 1 on a scale of 1 to 5. This means that years of extensive, valid research indicate that valerian is very effective when used as intended. Valerian helps calm the mind and relax the body; clinical trials have demonstrated that valerian not only improves the quality of sleep but also reduces the time needed to achieve sleep.


Valerian can be taken orally in capsule form, or in liquid form as a tincture, liquid extract, or infused in a tea. Valerian is commonly used three times per day. It is important to consult a healthcare professional for specific dosage recommendations. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, valerian should not be taken for more than four to six weeks at a time.

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