How is Valerian Root Used for Social Anxiety?

Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis)
Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Getty Images

Valerian root (valeriana officinalis) is derived from a plant that originally comes from Europe and Asia. The root of this plant has been used for thousands of years as a remedy for various conditions including sleep problems, digestive problems, disorders of the nervous system, headaches, and arthritis. We believe that valerian root has an impact on the availability of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain.

Even though valerian root is used for a variety of problems, there is not enough research to support the effectiveness of the herb. Use of valerian root as a sleep aid is supported by some evidence from clinical trials; however, these studies tend to be small and not conducted with strict standards. On the whole, research suggests that valerian root has mild sedative and tranquilizing properties—less than prescription sleep medication.

There isn't enough research evidence to support the use of valerian root in the treatment of anxiety disorders such as social anxiety disorder (SAD). However, some people who take the supplement regularly have shared that it makes them feel calm, and reduces nervous tension and stress.

Administration

Valerian root can be taken as a capsule, tea, tablet or liquid extract. It should be taken 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime.

Dosage Guidelines

Dosage for the treatment of insomnia ranges from 300 to 600 mg of liquid root extract, or the equivalent of 2 to 3 g of dried valerian root.

Lower dosages are typically used for the treatment of nervous tension and when the root is used in combination with other supplements. Before taking valerian root, you should read the product label and discuss the dose with a qualified health care provider.

Who Shouldn’t Take Valerian Root

You should not take valerian root if you are pregnant or nursing, or if you suffer from liver disease.

If you are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), other antidepressants and certain other classes of medication, Valerian root should be used with caution, and may not be appropriate in those cases.

Medication Interactions

Valerian root may make you feel drowsy if you take it with prescription medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), benzodiazepines, narcotics such as codeine, barbiturates such as phenobarbitol, and over-the-counter cold and sleep remedies.

In general, you should check the package insert and speak with a qualified healthcare professional and/or pharmacist about possible interactions.

Side Effects

Side effects of valerian root are rare but may include headache, upset stomach, daytime drowsiness, and dizziness.

Associated Risks

Unlike prescription sleep medications, valerian root is not believed to carry a risk of dependency. However, the supplement should only be used under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional, and caution should be used if you are taking the supplement over an extended period of time.

Do not operate heavy or dangerous machinery until you know how the supplement affects you.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the production of herbs and supplements. Most herbs and supplements are not thoroughly tested, and there is no guarantee about the ingredients or safety of the products.

Related Supplements

Sources:

Clarocet. Valerian Root. Accessed January 9, 2016.

Fugh-Berman A, Cott J. Dietary supplements, and natural products as psychotherapeutic agents. Psychosomatic Medicine. 1999;61:712-728. Accessed January 9, 2016.

Hadley S, Petry J. Valerian. American Family Physician. 2003;67:1755-1758. Accessed January 9, 2016.

Miyasaka LS, Atallah AN, Soares BG. Valerian for anxiety disorders. Cochrane Database System Review. 2006;4:CD004515.

Trompetter I, Krick B, Weiss G. Herbal triplet in treatment of nervous agitation in children. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2013 Feb;163(3-4):52-7. doi: 10.1007/s10354-012-0165-1. Epub 2012 Nov 22.

Nunes A, Sousa M. [Use of valerian in anxiety and sleep disorders: what is the best evidence?]. Acta Med Port. 2011 Dec;24 Suppl 4:961-6. Epub 2011 Dec 31. [Article in Portuguese]

Continue Reading