Botanical name(s):

Valeriana officinalis, Centranthus ruber. Family: Valerianaceae

Other name(s):

all-heal, amantilla, carpon's tail, heliotrope, setewale, setwall, vandal root

General description

Valerian is a perennial plant. It has pink flowers. It grows in North America and Europe. The medicinal part is made from the fresh underground roots that have a strong smell.

Valerian root has two types of compounds. They both have sedative effects. These compounds include sesquiterpenes (valerenic acid) and iridoids triesters (valepotriates). Valerian may have a sedative effect. It may have a stimulant effect for extreme fatigue. Valerian root may lower blood pressure and relax muscles. But this hasn't been proven.

Medically valid uses

Valerian root has no proven positive effect on any health condition.

Some studies suggest that valerian may help treat insomnia. But other studies haven’t confirmed this. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine does not advise using valerian for chronic insomnia in adults.

There isn’t enough evidence to know if valerian is effective for any other health issues. 

Unproven claims

There may be benefits that haven't yet been proven through research.

Valerian may act as a sedative. This calms the nervous system and reduces stress and nervousness. It may be used as a hypnotic. This induces a deep state of sleep. It may act as an antispasmodic. This means it reduces muscle spasms or cramps in the muscles. It may be used as a hypotensive agent. This lowers blood pressure. It’s used as a carminative (to relieve excessive gas). This is an herbal remedy. It has a lot of volatile oils. It stimulates the digestive system to work well.

Valerian may be used to reduce tension, anxiety, stress, overexcitability, and hysterical feelings. It’s used to treat insomnia, menstrual pain, intestinal colic, rheumatic pain, and migraine pain.

Dosing format

Valerian comes in the form of tea, tinctures, capsules, and liquid extracts. It's sensitive to light. You should store it in a light-resistant container. Keep it in a dark area.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Valerian has a very strong smell that many people don’t like. Cats are attracted to valerian because it has a compound similar to catnip.

Don’t use valerian to treat babies or children younger than 3. People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk with their healthcare providers before taking any herbal medicines.

You shouldn’t use valerian with other sedatives.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brittany Poulson MDA RDN CD CDE
Online Medical Reviewer: Tara Novick BSN MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023