Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on February 05, 2021

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.

Why do people take valerian?

A number of studies suggest that valerian does 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.

How much valerian should you take?

There is no standard dose of valerian. For insomnia, many studies have used between 400 milligrams and 900 milligrams of valerian up to two hours before bed. Ask your doctor for advice.

Can you get valerian naturally from foods?

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

What are the risks of taking valerian?

  • 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 headache, upset stomach, uneasiness, irregular heartbeat, or other symptoms.
  • Interactions. If you take any medicines regularly, 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 combining valerian with any medications that have sedative effects.
  • 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.

Show Sources

Longe, J., ed. The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, second edition, 2004.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center web site: "About Herbs: Valerian."
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine web site: "Herbs at a Glance: Valerian."
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database web site: "Valerian."
Natural Standard Patient Monograph: "Valerian."

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