March 21, 2017


Botanical name(s):

Valeriana officinalis, Centranthus ruber. Family: Valerianaceae

Other name(s):

all-heal, amantilla, carpon's tail, heliotrope, setewale, setwall, vandal root

General description

Valerian is a perennial plant. It has pink flowers. It grows in North America and Europe. The medicinal part is the fresh underground malodorous roots. It’s carefully dried below 40 degrees Celsius.

Valerian root contains two categories of compounds. The both have sedative properties. These compounds include sesquiterpenes (valerenic acid) and iridoids triesters (valepotriates). It’s widely used to produce a sedative effect during periods of agitation. It’s also used to make a stimulant effect in extreme fatigue. Valerian root is also said to lower blood pressure and relax muscles.

Medically valid uses

Valerian root has no known positive effect on any health condition.

Some studies suggest that valerian may help treat insomnia. But other studies haven’t confirmed this. There isn’t enough evidence to know if valerian is effective for any other health issues. 

Unsubstantiated claims

Please note that this section reports on claims that have not yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Valerian may act as a sedative. This calms the nervous system and reduces stress and nervousness. It may also as a hypnotic. This induces a deep state of sleep. It’s also said to act as an anti-spasmodic. This reduces muscle spasms or cramps in the muscles. It may also as a hypotensive agent. This lowers blood pressure. It’s also used as a carminative. This is an herbal remedy. It’s rich in volatile oils and stimulates the digestive system to work well.

Valerian may also be used to reduce tension, anxiety, stress, over-excitability, and hysterical states. It’s also used to treat insomnia, menstrual pain, intestinal colic, rheumatic pain, and migraine pain.

Dosing format

Valerian comes in the form of tea, tinctures, capsules, and liquid extracts. Note that it’s light sensitive. You should store it in a light-resistant container. Keep it in a dark area.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Valerian has a very strong smell that many people don’t like. Cats are attracted to valerian because it has a compound similar to catnip.

Don’t use valerian to treat infants. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their healthcare providers before taking any herbal medicines.

You shouldn’t use valerian with other sedatives.

There are no known food or drug interactions with valerian.


March 21, 2017


Treatment of Insomnia. UpToDate.

Reviewed By:  

Poulson, Brittany, RD, CDE,Wilkins, Joanna, R.D., C.D.