Lexapro is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, that’s used to treat depression and anxiety. While SSRIs in general are considered safe, they can cause dangerous reactions when combined with some herbal remedies. Lexapro and valerian have a drug interaction that is classified as moderate, according to Drugs.com. Do not use this combination without consulting your doctor.
Lexapro is available by prescription only is the brand name for the drug escitalopram. It works by blocking the reabsorption, commonly referred to as reuptake, of serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter. Altering your brain’s balance of serotonin helps your brain cells deliver and receive chemical messages, which boosts your mood. Valerian root is most often used to treat stress, anxiety and insomnia. This herbal remedy is approved by Germany’s Commission E, that country’s regulatory body for herbs, to treat restlessness and insomnia that’s caused by anxiety.
Taking Lexapro and valerian together raises your risk for excessive sedation, drowsiness or dizziness. The combination may increase depression of your central nervous and respiratory systems. Consult your doctor before you take valerian along with Lexapro. If your doctor allows the combination, you need to avoid activities that require mental alertness and motor coordination until you know how this combination affects you.
Even if your doctor OKs using the combination, you need to be monitored. Notify your health care provider if you experience prolonged or excessive central nervous system effects that interfere with your regular, daily activities. The effects of Lexapro and valerian may be especially pronounced if you are elderly or debilitated, notes drugs.com.
Avoid alcohol if you are taking this combination. Alcohol can increase drowsiness when taken with valerian and can increase side effects of Lexapro. Also avoid monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MAOIs, and avoid taking Lexapro within 14 days of using an MAIO. Do not use at the same time as citalopram, another SSRI.Combining SSRIs raises risk for serotonin syndrome, a potentially fatal condition in which serotonin levels are raised too high. Also avoid other herbs and supplements with sedating properties including St. John’s wort, SAMe, kava, ginseng, L-tryptophan, goldenseal, melatonin and yerba mansa.
Valerian can have side effects including irregular heartbeat or other heart problems, headache, excitability, dilated pupils, restlessness and nausea. Antidepressants like Lexapro can raise risk for suicidal thinking and behavior. SSRI side effects can include headaches, nausea, restlessness, erectile dysfunction, insomnia or drowsiness and gastrointestinal problems.
- “The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide”; George T. Grossberg and Barry Fox; 2007
- Drugs.com: Drug Interactions Between Lexapro and Valerian
- Drugs.com: Valerian
- Drugs.com: Lexapro