Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Caley Scott, ND
With a long history in Eastern medicine and Greek and Roman cultures, valerian root has been in the mix as a natural supplement for centuries — but even with all the advantages of modern science, we still find value in these ancient techniques. Valerian root is the perfect example of this rediscovery, and we now know more than ever about this powerful natural compound.
Maybe you’ve seen valerian root included in your favorite sleepy herbal tea blend, or you’ve heard about it as a natural form of sleep support. These popular use cases are definitely effective, but they’re only scratching the surface of what valerian root can do.
Let’s dive into what valerian root is, exploring its various uses, benefits, and applications that will benefit your health and wellness.
What is valerian root?
Valerian is a plant native to Europe and Asia, known for its tall and sturdy steam and pinnate leaves. Its height and structure reveal the strength of its roots, which is where the famous herbal remedy is found.
Obtaining valerian extract isn’t exactly an easy process. The plants must be grown for up to three years before they can be harvested, then a lengthy drying process is used to reduce moisture content in the roots.
The roots are then prepared in different ways depending on the intended final product. Some find whole chunks and slices of valerian root to be more effective in homemade teas, while others prefer the convenience of powders, tinctures, and extracts.
Like all herbal remedies and natural medicines, finding the right valerian root serving size and method is key to maximizing benefits while reducing risks. Once you gain familiarity with the effects of valerian and how it works with your body, you’ll be glad you unlocked the power of this hidden herbal gem.
What are the top benefits of valerian root?
Because valerian root is such a versatile superfood, you’ll find different benefits depending on when, how, and why you take it. Here’s a closer look at the top 10 benefits this unique root brings to the table.
1. Supports sleep quality
It’s likely the first thing that comes to mind when you think of valerian root — better sleep. If you want to fall asleep faster (called sleep latency) and stay asleep longer, a single serving of valerian can help out.
But what makes valerian root supplements so widely known as the sleepy herbal remedy? The answer lies in valerenic acid, which is the primary active compound found in the valerian plant.
This chemical acts on the central nervous system and regulates neurotransmitter impulses, mainly the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). When GABA production is boosted, you can shift out of “fight or flight mode” and relax into an ideal state in preparation for sleep.
2. Supports emotional wellness and outlook
We usually associate valerian root with calm, relaxation, and a mild sedative effect. But as you wind down at the end of the day, you can also benefit from the subtle mood boost that valerian provides. This isn’t a chemically induced euphoria you might get from heavy barbiturates or benzodiazepines, but rather a chill, short-term uplifting effect that helps you rest easily.
Many find that low mood can actually interfere with sleep quality and lead to sleep disorders, leaving you with drowsiness despite sleeping through the night. Valerian helps ensure you’re in the proper frame of mind to fully relax and ease into sleep on your own terms.
3. Eases discomfort and tension
Like many herbal supplements, valerian has been shown to reduce feelings of discomfort and tension in the body, especially when paired with other forms of herbal medicine. Rather than tossing and turning as you try to fall asleep, valerian soothes the body from within, letting you release pent-up tension and allowing for deep sleep.
Most importantly, valerian root accomplishes this without habit-forming properties or psychoactive side effects. Instead, valerian root extract offers sustained and natural soothing benefits that work in a complementary manner along with good sleep hygiene and lifestyle structure. As always, all-natural is the way to go.
4. Supports cognitive function
Ever wake up from sleep with an overwhelming sense of drowsiness? It’s like you slept all night and didn’t get the cognitive benefits that you hoped to get. With valerian root, you can have an extra level of cognitive support even after you use it, with minimal side effects like brain fog the day after.
Valerian may help your body properly navigate the many phases of deep sleep, which are essential for you to feel rested and rejuvenated the next day.
5. May help ease menopause symptoms
Valerian root also shines when it comes to women’s health. For women struggling with menopause symptoms or even premenstrual syndrome (PMS), valerian root has been shown to help ease some of that discomfort. Many women report that hot flashes or cramps can keep them awake at night and contribute to sleep disturbances, compounding the stress that comes with an already uncomfortable experience.
Valerian root soothes the central nervous system and may work to ease some menstrual and menopause symptoms, helping you get through the night undisturbed. This can make all the difference when going through a challenging time and staying resilient in the face of stress.
That said, although valerian can help, it’s always best to prioritize medical advice from your trusted doctor or healthcare provider to prevent adverse effects.
6. Soothes muscle spasms
Muscle spasms are usually attributed to nutrient deficiencies or dehydration, but the GABA-supporting effects of valerian root can give you the edge. Whether it’s cramps, jitters, or distracting spasms, try adding some valerian root to your routine to help ease some of these unexpected movements.
Once again, valerian root saves the day when it comes time to sleep. This is when muscle spasms are most troublesome, as they can keep you from getting the rest you need. Supplement with valerian root extract and other essential oils like passionflower to keep spasms at bay and rest easy.
Of course, valerian is typically used in the evening, so avoid taking it for muscle spasms during the day. Hydration, hemp extracts, and other herbal remedies can help reduce spasms as you go about your daytime routine.
7. Maintains gastrointestinal health
If you’ve ever dealt with stomach problems late in the day, you’re not alone. Between the hustle and bustle of your daily routine and the stress of tomorrow’s task list, your gastrointestinal comfort might be compromised when you least expect it.
Remember that the gut and brain are more closely linked than we previously thought, so it’s no wonder that stress and nervousness can indirectly affect the stomach. Valerian root soothes your entire system from within and returns your body to the state of balance necessary for relaxation and rest.
Valerian root alone won’t fix gastrointestinal issues, however — only dietary changes and a holistic approach can do that for you. Still, supplementing with valerian in the evening can give you that extra support to fall asleep without stomach discomfort.
8. Aids in recovery and rest
Speaking of rest, valerian root has been shown to increase the quality of your sleep in addition to the quantity. Both are necessary to master sleep hygiene, and valerian root has all these bases covered.
While most adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep each night, those hours don’t mean much if they don’t take you through the proper sleep stages. REM sleep and deep sleep are essential to recovery and memory consolidation, especially if you’re physically and mentally exhausted at the end of each day.
With valerian root in your supplement stack, you can reclaim those crucial hours of sleep and get the results that make a difference in your day.
9. Supports your evening routine
It’s easy to fixate on the role of sleep itself when looking at your evening routine. After all, that’s the main event — but it’s what happens before you sleep that can make the biggest difference in your health and overall quality of life. The right wind down routine and sleep hygiene can help support a restful night of sleep, and valerian can play a major role in supporting your ability to wind down before bed.
For example, you can sip herbal tea with valerian and lavender a couple of hours before bedtime to accompany a warm shower or bath. From there, you can relax with your favorite music, enjoy your favorite show, or pick up a book. Meanwhile, the effects of valerian will slowly kick in, and you’ll have no trouble drifting off to dreamland before long.
10. Synergizes with cannabinoids
Valerian root can definitely make a difference on its own, whether you’re after sleep support or soothing effects — but to take things to the next level, cannabinoids like CBD or CBN can help amplify the power of valerian even further.
These natural compounds from the hemp plant work by balancing the body’s endocannabinoid system, a neurotransmitter network that branches from head to toe. CBD is known for providing whole-body wellness benefits, while CBN is specifically known as the “sleepy cannabinoid.”*
With valerian root and the right cannabinoids working in harmony, you have a powerful mix of compounds that will prime the body for sleep and have you waking up feeling refreshed. Our lineup of Sleep tinctures was created with this exact goal, combining hemp with valerian and other proven natural forms of sleep support.*
Cannabinoids can also be used for energizing and uplifting effects, so be sure you’re picking the right products that don’t interfere with sleep. Our products make it easy to make the right call and structure your daily routine accordingly.
What’s the best way to take valerian root?
Valerian root delivery methods vary based on preparations, amounts, settings, and combinations with other ingredients. For example, you can take the old-school approach and buy valerian root in its dried form, chopping it up and boiling it in a homemade brew.
If you’re not up for the extra legwork, pre-made valerian tea leaves and teabags are widely available for your sipping pleasure. You can even find valerian root extracts that simplify the process further, allowing you to drop a small amount of tincture in water or take it sublingually.
Our collection of Sleep hemp extracts gives you the choice — tinctures or gummies — based on your preferences and tastes. Some prefer the chilled-out ritual of sipping evening tea with our Sleep tincture, while others like the predictability and convenience of a nighttime gummy edible.
No matter how you take valerian root, make sure it’s part of your evening routine and not earlier. A few hours before bed is the perfect time to let the effects sink in and fall asleep in a state of total balance and relaxation.
The bottom line
From ancient Greece and Rome to today’s North America, the use of valerian has always been the norm. Now that we know the inner workings of this plant and how to best harness its powers, we can get more benefits than ever.
Valerian root has few side effects, pairs well with other compounds, and most importantly — it works. Make it part of your evening routine and experience the deep, restful sleep that you’ve been missing, along with plenty of other whole-body wellness benefits.
Your wellness doesn’t end with fixing your sleep, but it definitely begins there. Master sleep with valerian and other herbal remedies, and give yourself a head start on the healthy life you deserve to live.
A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Decentralized Trial to Assess Sleep, Health Outcomes, and Overall Well-Being in Healthy Adults Reporting Disturbed Sleep, Taking a Melatonin-Free Supplement | NIH