I was recently in a tea shop in New York, coughing up a storm. The man behind the counter recommended a particular tea set for me. There were three teas within the set, but his main selling point was that one of those teas contained valerian root—the potential key to sleeping soundly through the night. His exact words were, “This tea though… You will like this tea. You’ll sleep like a baby because it has valerian root.” Valerie-what?
As it turns out, valerian root is an herb. Its most common use is helping with insomnia. This root is frequently combined with hops, lemon balm, or other herbs to induce drowsiness. Many people trying to ween themselves off pharmaceutical sleeping agents use valerian to help them return to regular sleep habits.
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In Barton’s placebo-controlled crossover trial of 227 patients, participants reported that 450 mg of valerian extract, consumed before bedtime, improved sleep quality and reduced the number of awakenings during the night. Participants consuming valerian also reported less trouble falling asleep and less drowsiness than the placebo group.
In another study, 128 volunteers were given 400 mg of aqueous valerian, a commercial preparation of 60 mg valerian and 30 mg hops, or a placebo. Participants took each one of the three preparations three times in random order on nine nonconsecutive nights and answered a questionnaire the next morning. Compared to the placebo, the valerian extract group experienced a decrease in the amount of time it took to fall asleep, an increase in sleep quality, and a decrease in the number of nighttime awakenings.
Early research does suggest that the compounds in valerian root work together to produce sedative effects. In a comparison study, 50 mg of valerian consumed three times a day showed a similarly significant reduction in the symptoms of anxiety as diazepam, an anxiety-reducing medication.
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. The inability to attain restful sleep marks a heavy toll on a lot of people. Most of the drugs prescribed for insomnia involve some risk of overdose, tolerance, habituation, and addiction. As a result, many are now turning to alternative therapies to help treat and manage insomnia due to its decreased drawbacks compared to conventional drugs. However, its effects still need to be further evaluated.
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