Medically Reviewed by Kumar Shital, DO on September 18, 2023
2 min read

For thousands of years, the herb valerian has been used as a sedative in Europe and Asia. Many people throughout the world use it to treat insomnia and anxiety.

A number of studies suggest that valerian may help with insomnia. It seems to give people a better quality of sleep. It may also help them fall asleep faster.

Scientific evidence is mixed on whether valerian helps with symptoms of anxiety. More research is needed.

There is no standard dose of valerian. For insomnia, many studies have used between 400 milligrams and 600 milligrams of valerian up to two hours before bed. Ask your doctor for advice.

There are no natural food sources of valerian. However, some manufacturers use valerian as a flavoring in foods and drinks.

  • Side effects. Valerian is usually well tolerated when used for a short time. However, it will likely cause sedation. Some people feel a "hangover" after taking valerian. It may also cause headaches, upset stomach, uneasiness, irregular heartbeat, or other symptoms, including insomnia.
  • Interactions. Talk to your doctor before you start using valerian supplements. Valerian could interact with some sedatives, narcotics, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medicines. Extreme caution should be used if you combine valerian with any medications that have sedative effects. It may also interact with some dietary supplements such as St. John's wort.
  • Risks. Because valerian may act as a sedative, avoid driving or using machinery after you use it. Taking valerian regularly may cause insomnia. It may also result in withdrawal symptoms after you stop using it. Valerian may strongly interact with alcohol and should not be used at the same time as alcohol. Check with a doctor before taking valerian if you have liver problems.

Given the lack of evidence about its safety, valerian is not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.