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Valerian or Valeriana officinalis is an herb that is most famous for its smell. It grows in Europe, some parts of Asia, and North America and its root is used to make medicine (Houghton, 2017). Valerian is traditionally used in pharmacology as a sedative to treat insomnia or relieve over-excitement of the central nervous system (CNS) (Houghton, 2017). Even though the dugs made of the herb have several side effects and interactions with other substances, it is comparatively harmless if taken in controlled doses.
Uses for Psychiatric Symptoms and Supporting Evidence
It is beneficial to acknowledge both clinical and non-clinical neuropharmacology of valerian. For non-clinical use, valerian has the potential to be utilized as an anti-depressant. According to Saroya and Singh (2018), a hydro-alcoholic extract of Valeriana officinalis demonstrates antidepressant-like activity in ovalbumin-sensitized rats. Moreover, valerian root extracts having a high amount of valerenic acid and low amount of acetoxy valerenic acid have an anxiolytic effect (Saroya & Singh, 2018). Finally, there is evidence that valerian roots have the potential antioxidant activity that can be used to diminish complications associated with oxidative stress (Saroya & Singh, 2018). Even though there is a limited amount of evidence for the use of valerian to treat the conditions mentioned above, acknowledgment of the matter is beneficial for understanding the possible use of the herb.
Clinical application of the herb is also vast and mostly connected to valerian’s effects on the CNS. Valeriana officinalis is most frequently used as a sedative to treat insomnia (Houghton, 2017). Supporting evidence is vast, as the administration of the root extracts of the herb is associated with an increase in slow-wave sleep (Saroya & Singh, 2018). Additionally, valerian in a dose of 765 mg/day for eight weeks can ease the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder significantly (Saroya & Singh, 2018). Additionally, Jokar, Kargosha, Akarzadeh, Asadi, and Setoudeh (2016) mention that valerian extract can relieve sleep disorder and symptoms associated with menopause. In short, a large body of evidence supports the clinical use of valerian, since the herb is used traditionally in many countries.
Valerian must be administered cautiously with substances that cause sleepiness and drowsiness. This herb is used for treating sleeping disorders and using it with other sedatives may cause too much drowsiness. The list of substances to avoid includes alcohol, alprazolam, phenobarbital, fentanyl, and other medications in this group (Houghton, 2017). Moreover, valerian may slow the breaking down of some drugs by the liver, such as lovastatin and ketoconazole (Houghton, 2017). In short, valerian root extracts are relatively harmless and, comparatively, do not have many registered interactions with other drugs.
Potential Adverse Effects
The list of potential side effects is relatively small, and they are rare. The majority of side effects is associated with overdose and includes the following: heart disturbances, excitability, headache, morning drowsiness, sedation, and withdrawal syndrome, if used chronically. The study conducted by Jokar et al. (2016) did not register any adverse effects associated with the use of valerian. However, there is not enough evidence about the effect of the herb on children while breastfeeding. Therefore, careful use can prevent one from experiencing side effects.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Even though valerian can be used to treat many symptoms and conditions, I would recommend using the substance as a sedative. The recommended dose is 450-500 mg of Valeriana officinalis root extract before bedtime for six weeks as advised by Saroya and Singh (2018). I would prescribe using valerian to pregnant and breastfeeding women. All the recommendations are based on the principle of evidence-based patient-centered practice and can be revised with the emergence of new studies.
Houghton, P. (Ed.). (2017). Valerian: The genus Valeriana. London, UK: Routledge.
Jokar, A., Kargosha, A., Akarzadeh, M., Asadi, N., & Setoudeh, Z. (2016). Comparing the influence of relaxation training and consumption of valerian on insomnia of menopause women: A randomized clinical trial. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, 13(1), 40. Web.
Saroya, A., & Singh, J. (2018). Neuropharmacology of Valeriana genus. Pharmacotherapeutic Potential of Natural Products in Neurological Disorders, 179-186. Web.