Curing insomnia and getting back to night after night of natural sleep can be difficult however, for many of us, the answer lies in using time-honored traditional herbal remedies such as valerian root.
Valerian, a hardy perennial flowering plant with sweet smelling white or pink flowers, can be grown in many parts of Asia and Europe and now also grows naturally in areas of north America. Other names normally used for valerian include: garden valerian, and garden heliotrope (not related to Heliotrope - Heliotropum).
Valerian is also known by various folk names: Amantilla, Fragrant Valerian, St. George's Herb, English Valerian, Set Well, Capon's Trailer, Sets Wale, Cat's Valerian, Phu, Bloody Butcher, All-Heal, , and Vandal Root.
The primary components used for medicinal purposes are the roots, rhizomes (underground stems) and stolons (horizontal stems). Normally harvested in September, the dried roots can be used to brew teas and tinctures, while the dried plant materials generally find their way into capsules or tablets.
There is reference to the use of valerian as a medicinal herb as far back as the time of ancient Greece and Rome. Hippocrates wrote of its therapeutic uses and, in the 2nd century, Galen prescribed valerian for insomnia. The 16th century saw it used to treat nervousness, trembling, headaches, and heart palpitations. In the mid-19th century, many people considered valerian a stimulant which caused a few of the same complaints it was thought to treat and held it in low regard. During World War II the English used it to relieve the stress of air raids.
Unlike many other natural herbal sleep aids, to gain the benefits of the effects of valerian it should be taken on a regular basis, with the full effects coming slowly and steadily over time.
Results will normally appear after about a month and regular use promotes natural sleep and deep relaxation. Several studies suggest valerian as far and away the best natural solution for insomnia and general sleeplessness for many individuals.
Research at the Nestlé Research Laboratories in Switzerland showed that a 450 mg dose of valerian in an aqueous extract is the optimum dose as an insomnia treatment. A larger dose ordinarily results in grogginess without any increase in effectiveness, and therefore care ought to be exercised when taking that valerian is a treatment for insomnia.
In addition, a double-blind crossover study of 128 individuals undertaken in 1982, found valerian root to not only be effective as a sedative for insomnia, but also to be helpful in increasing the overall quality of sleep in the participants.
Typically prescribed as a calming sleep aid, valerian also plays a helpful part in taking care of anxiety-related sleeping difficulties.
Unlike other commonly prescribed sleep medicines, valerian is not toxic, does not impair your ability to drive or operate heavy machinery and does not exaggerate the effects of alcohol.
It has been documented that valerian acts as a delayed stimulant for some people dependant on body chemistry. In the case of certain metabolic conditions, the effect is one of initially calming you down only to cause a surge of energy some hours later - not an effect desired by those people interested in using valerian as a nighttime sleep remedy.
Various professional herbalists recommend using fresh valerian root extract rather than an extract of dried valerian, as this is less likely to induce such a reaction.