Valerian Root for Anxiety: Does it Work?

Anxiety Disorder
Read Time: 5 Minutes
Written by:Talkspace

Published On: September 28, 2023

Medically reviewed by: Meaghan Rice, PsyD., LPC

Reviewed On: September 28, 2023

Updated On: September 28, 2023


Valerian root comes from the Valeriana officinalis plant. It’s been used as a traditional remedy and alternative medicine for various illnesses and conditions, such as insomnia and anxiety. Valerian root comes in multiple forms, including capsules, tablets, herbal tea, and tinctures. The use of valerian root dates back as far as the ancient Greeks and Romans, who historically used it to ease stress and promote relaxation. Today, the herbal remedy remains a popular choice for people seeking alternative treatments for relaxation, stress reduction, and anxiety relief.

Continue reading to learn how anxiety symptoms might improve by using valerian root. We’ll review the scientific evidence that backs up this herbal medicine, possible side effects and interactions, and how to use valerian root in your daily anxiety management routine.

How Valerian Root May Help with Anxiety

Is valerian root good for anxiety? Possibly — it has potential anxiolytic properties (which means they’re anxiety-reducing) that can be attributed to its active compounds (valepotriates) and sesquiterpenes (valerenic acid).

Studies suggest that the active ingredients found in valerian root increase GABA levels in the brain by inhibiting breakdown and reuptake processes. Higher GABA levels have been associated with reduced anxiety symptoms. Thus, taking valerian root supplements can potentially help alleviate stress-related issues.

Valerian root’s active compounds

The primary active compounds in valerian root include valepotriates, volatile oils (such as valerenic acid), and flavonoids. These compounds are believed to interact with neurotransmitters in the brain to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

  • Valepotriates: Compounds have been shown to contain soothing properties and help regulate GABA levels in the brain.
  • Valerenic acid: Compounds known for inhibiting the breakdown of GABA, which can result in higher levels that translate to a more relaxed state.
  • Flavonoids: Antioxidants that have been linked to improved mood regulation.

Does valerian root calm you down?

In addition to interacting with neurotransmitters responsible for mood, regulation, and stress response, valerian root also seems to have the power to influence physiological processes related to anxiety management. For example, some studies have found that valerian root can lower blood pressure and heart rate, which are often elevated during times of nervous tension and anxiety.

Scientific Evidence on Valerian Root for Anxiety

When trying to determine: is valerian root good for anxiety, it’s important to look at the evidence and research. There has been a growing interest in the potential of valerian root for anxiety. As such, researchers have conducted both preclinical and clinical studies in an attempt to understand its efficacy. While the evidence is far from complete, some of the findings have been pretty exciting.

Clinical trials and meta-analyses

Some human trials have explored whether or not, when taking valerian root, anxiety can be improved. One study found that participants who received valerian root extract saw a significant reduction in symptoms.

Limitations of current research and future directions

It’s important to point out that while some research supports the benefit of valerian root for anxiety, there are limitations to much of the research we have.

Many studies suffer from small sample sizes and inadequate control groups. There’s also an inconsistent dosing regimen that complicates findings. Finally, most trials thus far have focused on short-term outcomes rather than long-term effects, leaving ultimate efficacy in question. In short, more research is needed.

iconExpert Insight

“The meta-analysis at this point does not support a sufficient medical benefit to be considered as an agent for treatment of anxiety due to poorly designed studies and non-availability of regulated FDA approved supplements.”
Psychiatrist, MD, DFAPA Muhammad Munir

Possible Side Effects and Interactions

Valerian root is considered generally safe for most people, but it’s still important to be aware of potential side effects and interactions with other medications.

Common side effects

Valerian root is associated with mild side effects, including:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares
  • Drowsiness during daytime hours (see when taken at night)

If you experience any of the above symptoms while taking valerian root for anxiety, you might want to reduce your dosage or discontinue use. Always consult your healthcare provider before you make any changes to your treatment plan.

Potential drug interactions

Because of its sedative properties, valerian root can negatively interact with certain medications. Talk to your doctor before you use this herbal supplement if you take any of the following:

  • Sleep aids — this includes prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) aids
  • Benzodiazepines – Valium or Xanax
  • Sedatives — barbiturates
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety meds
  • Other herbal supplements with sedative effects include — kava, chamomile, passionflower

Combining valerian root with any of the above medications or herbs might increase the risk of excessive drowsiness.

Allergic reactions and precautions

Though rare, some people can experience an allergic reaction to valerian root. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include rash, swelling of the face or tongue, itching, breathing difficulty, or severe dizziness. If you suspect you might be having an allergic reaction to valerian root — or any other supplement — seek immediate medical attention.

It’s also important to know the following:

  • Due to limited safety data, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using valerian root.
  • People scheduled for surgery should discontinue valerian root at least 2 weeks before the procedure — valerian root might interact with anesthesia.
  • If you have liver disease or another serious health condition, consult your doctor before you take valerian root.

Adding Valerian Root to Your Anxiety Management Routine

If you’re thinking about using valerian root for anxiety, you should understand how to incorporate it and use it safely.

Choose the right form of valerian root

Valerian root comes in multiple forms, including capsules, tablets, tinctures or extracts, and as a dried herb.

To effectively incorporate valerian root into your anxiety management routine, consider the following:

  • Be consistent: Create a schedule where you take your valerian regularly. It can be part of your morning ritual or in the evening as a wind-down routine.
  • Experiment with different forms: If you dislike valerian root tea’s taste, you might try capsules or tinctures.
  • Be patient: Like most natural remedies for anxiety, valerian root can take some time before any noticeable effects are felt.
  • Mixing with other calming herbs: Some people find combining valerian root with other relaxing herbs, like passionflower or chamomile, can enhance its calming effects.

Incorporate lifestyle changes and stress-reduction techniques

While valerian root might help with anxiety, you can implement other lifestyle changes to reduce stress and anxiety symptoms further.

  • Exercise regularly: Exercise has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress levels while relieving anxiety symptoms. Shoot for 30 minutes of moderate to intense activity most days.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can stabilize blood sugar levels and support brain function. Avoid excessive caffeine intake, which can exacerbate anxiety.
  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness meditation is proven to help calm anxiety. By focusing on being in the moment, without judgment or distraction, you can reduce stress and improve your emotional well-being.
  • Keep healthy sleep habits: Poor sleep quality is linked to increased anxiety. Establish good sleep hygiene by keeping a consistent sleep schedule, having a relaxing bedtime routine, and avoiding screens before bed to improve sleep and overall mental health.
  • Seek social support: Connecting with friends and family or support groups can offer additional emotional support as you manage your anxiety symptoms.
  • Consider therapy: Evidence-based therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been found to be a highly effective therapy for anxiety. CBT works by helping you identify and change negative thoughts and behavior patterns that might contribute to your anxiety symptoms.

When to Consult a Mental Health Professional

You should always consult a doctor before you take herbal supplements. However, if a doctor advises that herbal supplements are fine to take and you still don’tt see improvements in anxiety, it might be time to seek professional mental health help at Talkspace. Don’t hesitate to contact a mental health professional who is experienced and skilled in treating anxiety.

The good news is anxiety is a very treatable condition. You can get control of it and get back to living a healthy, productive, relaxed lifestyle. Get connected with a therapist at Talkspace for help.

See References


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