Valerian is an herb that people have used for centuries for sleep problems, migraines, fatigue, and stomach cramps. It comes from the root of the valerian plant, found in areas of North America, Europe, and Asia.
Valerian is available in many forms. These include valerian tea, dietary supplements, and liquid or powder extracts.
Why It Is Used
Some people use valerian for anxiety, depression, headaches, menopause symptoms, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), or sleep problems. But so far there isn't clear proof from science that taking valerian helps with these or other health problems.
Side effects from valerian are rare but can include mild headache or stomach upset, abnormal heartbeats, insomnia, and (less commonly) liver damage. If you are taking valerian, you shouldn't drink alcohol or take sedatives. You also should not take valerian if you will be driving or need to be alert.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements in the same way it regulates medicine. A dietary supplement can be sold with limited or no research on how well it works.
Always tell your doctor if you are using a dietary supplement or if you are thinking about combining a dietary supplement with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on a dietary supplement. This is especially important if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
When using dietary supplements, keep in mind the following:
- Like conventional medicines, dietary supplements may cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions, or interact with prescription and nonprescription medicines or other supplements you might be taking. A side effect or interaction with another medicine or supplement may make other health conditions worse.
- Dietary supplements may not be standardized in their manufacturing. This means that how well they work or any side effects they cause may differ among brands or even within different lots of the same brand. The form you buy in health food or grocery stores may not be the same as the form used in research.
- The long-term effects of most dietary supplements, other than vitamins and minerals, are not known. Many dietary supplements are not used long-term.