Herbology is a branch of the alternative health care movement that offers gentle treatment for an abundance of ailments. Valerian has a long history of medicinal use; however, make sure to discuss any herbal substance with a pediatrician before giving it to your infant. Many herbs are inappropriate for use in infancy, and others must be used in appropriate amounts in order to avoid adverse effects.
Valerian root has been used medicinally for thousands of years to encourage digestion, promote sleep and reduce anxiety. This medicinal herb is considered by herbalists and naturopathic physicians to be effective in treating hyperactivity, restlessness and symptoms of ADHD, notes "Rosemary Gladstar's Family Herbal: A Guide to Living Life with Energy, Health, and Vitality."
Herbalist Susan Weed feels that because of valerian's strength, it may be prudent to try more gentle calming herbs when treating infants. Chamomile has similar properties to valerian and may be effective in soothing a restless or colicky infant. Use the smallest effective dose and the gentlest preparation with any herbal treatment for infants.
Several herbal companies have developed herbal blends for children that contain the soothing properties of valerian root. These glycerites and tinctures contain extracts of the vital elements from the plant and are designed to be diluted according to your child's weight. Valerian root may be used for babies who struggle with overstimulation, colic, restlessness and irritability, notes "The book of herbal wisdom: using plants as medicine." Do not use valerian root to promote sleep in your infant without first consulting with your physician.
According to midwife and author Anne Frye, mothers who opt to breastfeed can offer their baby valerian through their breast milk. Herbal preparations are passed into breast milk in baby-safe doses for very young infants. However, if you opt for this strategy, avoid co-sleeping with your infant due to the likelihood of experiencing deeper sleep than is indicated for safe co-sleeping. Valerian may cause an increase in activity in a small percentage of infants, warns Susan Weed.
The FDA has not approved valerian -- or any herb -- for use in infancy. For adequate information about herbs like valerian, contact a certified herbalist or a naturopathic doctor who understands herbology. When breastfeeding, never take an herb that is contraindicated for infants without the advice of your health care practitioner.