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By Melissa G. Marko, PhD, Senior Clinical Scientist, Nestle Nutrition ; Ara DerMarderosian, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Biology and Pharmacognosy, University of the Sciences

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Valerian’s (Valeriana officinalis) root and rhizomes (underground stems) contain its active ingredients, including valepotriates and pungent odiferous oils.


Valerian is used as a sedative and sleep aid and is especially popular in Europe.

Some people take valerian for headaches, depression, irregular heartbeat, and trembling. It is usually used for short periods of time (eg, 2 to 6 wk), at dosages of 400 to 600 mg of dried root once/day 1 hour before bedtime.


In a 2006 meta-analysis of 16 randomized, placebo-controlled trials of valerian, the evidence suggested that valerian might improve sleep quality and shorten the time needed to fall asleep without producing adverse effects (1). However, there are still insufficient clinical data to confirm whether valerian is effective for insomnia (2-3). There is not enough scientific evidence to determine whether valerian works for headaches, depression, irregular heartbeat, and trembling.

Adverse effects

Studies suggest that it is generally safe to give valerian at the usual doses. Valerian may prolong the effect of other sedatives (eg, barbiturates) and affect driving or other activities requiring alertness.

Drug interactions

In vitro studies have suggested valerian to inhibit both CYP3A4 metabolism and p-glycoprotein activity (4), but no clinical studies have shown any drug metabolism interactions.

Valerian references