Valerian root is often prescribed to help with anxiety and insomnia. But is Valerian addictive, is Valerian addiction real, what are the side effects and are there any risks with using this drug?
In this guide to Valerian and Valerian addiction we’ll put those topics under the microscope and provide an honest assessment of this supplement.
What is Valerian Root?
Valeriana Officinalis, or “Valerian”, is a perennial plant that produces pink or white blossoms. It is an attractive plant that is native to parts of Europe and Asia, but it’s the root that makes it so sought after. Said to contain a wealth of medicinal properties (the effects of Valerian are discussed below) this root produces a pungent oil, from which the medicinal forms of Valerian are made.
Valerian supplements are made by many supplement companies and are also produced in pharmacies as generic tables, extracts and tinctures. It is abundant, it is cheap and it is widely tolerated, which is just a few of the reasons that Valerian has become so popular.
Is Valerian Addictive?
Valerian does not seem to be addictive in the same way that heroin and meth is. In other words, it will not produce withdrawal symptoms following long-term use and abrupt cessation. However, as with all drugs that produce an effect, it may be psychologically addictive. As discussed in our guides to marijuana and video games, if you do something long enough and you enjoy doing it, then your body will get used to it and it will begin to crave it. Once you take it away then those cravings remains. That, in essence, is what addiction is all about and it is possible with Valerian.
The same can be said for many things though and Valerian addiction is not considered to be a major issue or a major concern. It will rarely, if ever, be taken into consideration when a medical professional is deciding whether to prescribe or advise for the use of this drug.
Forms of Valeriana Officinalis
There are several forms of Valerian on the market. These all provide different methods of ingestion and they are all widely available. The one you choose should depend on whether you enjoy the taste or not and unless you’re somewhat of a masochist then you will not enjoy the taste. The different forms of Valerian are listed below:
Valerian tea may be a relaxing way yo enjoy this drug, but it’s also a rare one and if you have ever smelled or tasted Valerian root, then you will know why. The heat of the tea provides an additional soothing, relaxing vibe, but most of that is offset by the strong and unpleasant taste. Valerian tea often uses extracts and combines additional flowers and herbs, as well as dried fruit in order to try and add a touch of sweetness and make the drink palatable.
It doesn’t work.
Valerian Root Extract
This is the best way to take Valerian. You can find the Valerian root extract in capsules, thus avoiding letting the pungent taste hit your tongue. The capsules will still reek of that earthy scent and you may still get a taste of it as it goes down, but it’s slight and it’s brief.
Just make sure that you note the potency of the Valerian in the capsules and the addition of other ingredients. Hops are often added as they have been linked to sedative effects, but they are not as effective, especially in those doses, and they are more of a filler than anything else. You just need the Valerian extract, on its own, and in a potency that works.
There are claims that Valerian tincture provides a cleaner way to consume this substance and that it is ingested quicker and easier by the body. This may be true to an extent, but when the extracts are so cheap, with doses costing a few cents, it’s not worth it. What’s more, the difference it makes in regards to onset is likely to be a matter of minutes and what you gain in time is likely to be lost by the horrible taste that you have to endure as you drop the Valerian tincture onto or under your tongue.
Valerian as a Sleep Aid
Valerian is often prescribed as a sleep aid. It’s on the packaging of most forms of this supplement and the claims made by herbalists and nutritionists are plentiful. However, there are very few clinical studies that suggest Valerian is actually effective as a sleep aid. More studies really need to be done with varying dose and in varying groups of people before anyone can say for sure whether or not Valerian works as a sleep aid.
As a sleep aid, Valerian is often prescribed in doses ranging from 400mg to 600mg and should not be taken more than once. The best time to take Valerian root is on an evening, an hour before going to bed. If it works for you as it does for many Valerian users then you should start to feel sleepy and calm as soon as you go to bed and may be asleep within an hour.
The problem with using Valerian as a sleep aid is that it rarely works for anyone who suffers from serious insomnia. In such cases, drugs like Valerian just do not seem to be strong enough, especially when used on their own. As a sleep aid, Valerian is therefore best for those who simply struggle to wind down on a nighttime and want a gentle push in the right direction. If Valerian doesn’t work in those cases, then melatonin might.
Valerian Root Reviews
If you look at Valerian reviews you’ll see that it works for some and it doesn’t work for others. There really is a huge divide and when you factor in the placebo effect then that divide looks even bigger. You also have to factor in the many weak concoctions of Valerian out there and the fact that many users will probably start slow. Still, this is not a drug that will work all of the time and for everyone.
Valerian and Anxiety
Valerian is most commonly prescribed for anxiety. There are more positive studies out there to suggest that Valerian is effective for anxiety, but as with Valerian and insomnia, more work needs to be done before we know for sure. When used for anxiety, Valerian is often taken in smaller doses than when used as a sleep aid.
Anything up to 600mg can be taken throughout the day, but because of the drowsiness and sedation, a dose of just 100mg or 200mg should be taken first, preferably in the evening. You can gauge how effective it is from this dose and calculate future doses from there.
The anti-anxiety effects stem from its sedative properties. It is said to promote a feeling of calm and it has worked to do just that in countless users. That’s why Valerian root has been used by humans for over 2,000 years and why it continues to be prescribed to this day. You can’t ignore the many users who take it and report feeling nothing, but at the same time there are countless users who claim that Valerian has worked to reduce their anxiety.
Negative Effects of Valerian
Valerian may make you groggy and sleepy. This goes without saying really as these are two of the effects that people take Valerian to achieve. In the case of excessive use, such as in Valerian addiction, a tolerance will also be acquired, which means that more will need to be taken to get the positive effects.
There are other issues with consuming Valerian as well, both with short term use and in cases of Valerian addiction or excessive use. These have been listed below.
Valerian Side Effects
The most common side effect of Valerian is nausea and stomach upset. These can arise from the effects of the drug, but they commonly stem from this method of consumption. Valerian has a very pungent taste and if it is taken as a tea or a powder then it can leave a strong, earthy taste in the user’s mouth, which may trigger nausea alongside the sedative effects of the drug.
Valerian has been compared to unwashed socks. We can attest for the illegitimacy of that statement.
Other Valerian side effects include:
- Dry Mouth
- Strange Dreams
- Loss of Thought
- Lack of Focus
Valerian should not be taken alongside sedative drugs such as benzodiazepines, opiates and alcohol. It can increase the sedative effects and make the user very drowsy. The major Valerian contraindications are drugs relating to buprenorphine. So if you are taking this opiate then you should avoid Valerian.
A Valerian overdose is very uncommon but it may still occur if taken in large doses. As a result, you should never exceed the stated doses, which we have mentioned above under Valerian for Sleep and Valerian for Anxiety.
Valerian is generally recognized as safe for consumption and is regarded as such by the FDA. However, the ways that it interacts with certain people are not entirely understood, certainly not as much as in healthy individuals. As a result it should not be taking by pregnant or nursing women; children under the age of 3; or anyone addicted to drugs like alcohol, valium, codeine and other sedatives.