Valerian root, or Valeriana officinalis, is an over-the-counter, herbal supplement that can be helpful for the treatment of insomnia, or difficulty sleeping. The use of this soothing herb for the treatment of insomnia dates back to the 2nd century.
The root of this plant is used to make an extract, which is then made into a tincture (liquid), capsule (pill) or herbal tea, all of which are forms that can be taken orally. Valerian root is a perennial plant native to Europe, Asia and naturalized in North America and is known for its savory or musky scent. Studies have shown that valerian root, taken within 1 to 3 hours of sleep, has been helpful for both the initiation and maintenance of sleep.
Valerian root is usually well tolerated and is less likely to cause morning drowsiness that is often associated with prescription medications used for the treatment of insomnia. Numerous pharmacological effects of Valeriana officinalis are mediated via modulation of the GABA system. GABA is a neurotransmitter in the brain which helps to decrease anxiety and relax, or slow down, brain activity in some areas of the brain.
Valerian root extract is classified as "generally regarded as safe" (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is approved as an effective, mild sedative by Germany's Commission E. However, as with any new supplement or medication, talk with your prescribing clinician before adding something new to your medication regimen.
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