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How Much Valerian Root for Anxiety?

by
author image Charlotte Waterworth
Based in London, Charlotte Waterworth has been writing about health since 2000. Her work has appeared in trade magazines, including "Independent Community Pharmacist," "Pharmafocus," "Current Drug Discovery" and "Hospital Healthcare Europe." She is a member of the European Medical Writers Association. She holds an honors Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and a doctoral degree in gene therapy, both from Cardiff University.
How Much Valerian Root for Anxiety?
Herbs such as valerian may have a calming effect. Photo Credit marilyna/iStock/Getty Images

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.

Properties

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.

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Dosage

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.

Effectiveness

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.

Safety Considerations

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.

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