Feeling anxious from time to time is normal. For example, most people get anxious before facing something they find difficult such as public speaking, or before an exam or job interview. However, if you feel anxious most of time and your feelings are not related to a particular situation or event, you may have generalized anxiety disorder. Treatment for anxiety may include prescription medicines and cognitive behavioral therapy. The herb valerian may also help you to relax, although evidence to prove that it is an effective anxiety treatment is limited. Get medical clearance before using it.
Valerian is used as an complementary treatment for numerous conditions including menstrual cramps and colic. It contains compounds known as valepotriates that may have a sedating effect. Valerian also contains a substance known as gamma-aminobutyric acid, which may also aid relaxation. As such, it is also used as an anti-anxiety treatment. The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center notes it may also heighten the effects of prescription sedatives.
Valerian may be taken as a tea or herbal tincture or in capsules or tablets. The University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC, suggests taking 150 mg two or three times daily to help reduce anxiety symptoms, but this is only a guideline. UMMC notes that valerian is also sometimes combined with other herbs including lemon balm and St. John's wort. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist before taking valerian to ensure you take a safe and effective amount.
Scientific evidence supporting the use of valerian as an anti-anxiety treatment is conflicting. Clinical trial findings published in the November 2002 issue of "Phytotherapy Research" show that valerian reduces anxiety symptoms. However, the authors R. Andreatini et al., acknowledge that since the number of patients included in the trial was small, more studies are needed to confirm valerian's effects. In addition, an analysis of data from clinical trial findings published in the October 2006 "Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews" concludes that there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate valerian's efficacy.
RxList states that short-term valerian use is safe for most people, although it may cause side effects including headache, uneasiness and insomnia. Long-term use may not be safe. Valerian may not be a suitable anti-anxiety remedy for everyone. Don't take a valerian supplement if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Taking it alongside certain other medicines, including sedatives, may not be safe.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Anxiety
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Valerian
- "Phytotherapy Research"; Effect of Valepotriates (Valerian Extract) in Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study; R. Andreatini et al.; November 2002
- "Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews"; Valerian for Anxiety Disorders; L.S. Miyasaka et al.; October 2006
- RxList: Valerian