Valerian is a perennial flowering plant that is used as a sleep aid and as an anti-anxiety herb. It is native to Europe and Asia, but now grows in North America as well. The herb is smoked or taken in capsule form to promote restful sleep. It can be taken alone or in combination with other herbs to treat insomnia, a condition that affects about one-third of adults.
The herb is thought to work by affecting the neurotransmitters GABA and serotonin, which affect mood. It has been shown to help people with anxiety, hot flashes associated with menopause, and other health conditions. It is also sometimes used to relieve muscle spasms. It is a popular addition to herbal smoking blends. It is often combined with skullcap, chamomile, mugwort, catnip, and damiana to create a relaxing herb.
Taking valerian root is generally considered safe, and it doesn’t interact with most medications. However, it is important to consult your doctor before starting a new supplement, especially if you take other prescription drugs or dietary supplements. Some people who should avoid the herb include women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as it hasn’t been studied for the effects on unborn babies and infants. The herb may also increase the sedative effect of some antidepressants and can interfere with some pain medications, including barbiturates and benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax). The herb can also cause drowsiness, so it’s important to not drive or operate machinery after taking it.