The Spartan Guide to Valerian
The Claim Medicine made from the herb’s root works like a sedative: It chills out your brain and relaxes your body, helping you sleep better and feel more blissed out.
The Evidence Valerian appears to reduce excitement in the nervous system and brain. That’s not as scary as it sounds: Clinical trials covering more than 12,000 people have concluded that short-term use seems quite safe. (Long-term use hasn’t been studied much, but experts say their patients continue to see good results.) “This is a very calming, soothing herb used all over the world,” says Svetlana Kogan, M.D., a family physician in New York City and author of Diet Slave No More. “It’s great for panic attacks and anxiety, and it’s very beneficial for people with insomnia.”
What does the research show? As with many herbs, the government still deems the evidence insufficient for treating anxiety, restlessness, and stress. A mounting pile of data suggests that valerian can help relieve insomnia, but not as quickly as sleeping pills; you may have to use it for a month before the effects become apparent.
How to Use It A standard dosage is 400-900 milligrams of valerian extract taken between 30 minutes and two hours before bed. You can also try valerian in tea form at bedtime. Because it can make you feel drowsy, it’s important not to take it before operating heavy machinery (or running a Spartan Race, for that matter), and since it slows the central nervous system, you should quit taking it at least two weeks before undergoing anesthesia. Also talk to your doctor before combining it with alcohol or any prescription sedatives (including Xanax), since the combo might make you too drowsy.