Sleep Remedies: Valerian Root

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valerian root

Nicknamed “nature’s valium,” valerian root is known for having relaxing properties for the mind and body. As such, many people swear it can help bring you to a relaxed state that’s more conducive to getting a good slumber.

But what is valerian root, and is it really as effective for sleep as some say? We’re answering these questions and more, including how to use it and potential side effects.

Note: The content on Sleepopolis is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t be taken as medical advice, and it shouldn’t take the place of medical advice and supervision from a trained professional. If you feel you may be suffering from any sleep disorder or medical condition, please see your healthcare provider immediately.

Long Story Short

  • Valerian root is an herbal supplement that comes from the Valeriana officinalis plant. 
  • It contains compounds called valerenic acid and valerenol that appear to target certain brain chemicals and are thought to be responsible for its calming and sedative effects. (1)
  • Much of the research on Valerian root is outdated, so it’s especially important to make any decisions about incorporating it into your bedtime routine with your healthcare provider. 
  • The long-term safety of valerian root is unknown, so it’s best used temporarily under the guidance of your healthcare professional and other lifestyle habits to improve your sleep. (2)

 What Is Valerian Root? 

Valeriana officinalis — from which valerian root is derived — is a perennial plant native to Asia and Europe that can grow up to 5 feet tall and bears fragrant pink or white flowers. It’s known by many names, like setwall, carpon’s tail, and heliotrope. 

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), various parts of the valerian plant are used in herbal applications: (3)

  • Dried roots are usually the base of valerian teas and tinctures. 
  • Dried plant materials — which include the roots as well as rhizomes (underground stems), and stolons (horizontal stems) — are combined with extracts to produce capsules and tablets. 

These parts of the plant are known for having calming properties, which is why valerian has been used for centuries to help with ailments like anxiety and difficulty sleeping. (2)

How Does Valerian Root Help You Sleep? 

Melissa Mitri, MS, RD, Nutrition Writer and Owner of Melissa Mitri Nutrition, says, “The mechanism behind how valerian works to support better sleep is not clear at this time, but it appears to have a therapeutic impact on brain activity and neurotransmitters.”

There are two main compounds in valerian root thought to be responsible for its calming benefits: valerenic acid and valerenol. These interact with certain brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) to possibly make you feel more relaxed and, potentially, help improve your sleep. (2)

The brain chemical most affected by valerian root is gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA-A), which helps keep your neurons from becoming too excited. (4) Neurons are specialized nerve cells in your brain that are in charge of communication throughout your body, like talking, breathing, and walking. 

When your neurons are too stimulated, you can be too — possibly making it much harder to relax and rest. Think of GABA like the pediatric sleep consultant who comes in and helps the rowdy young neurons chill out so their parents can rest. 

Additionally, valerenic acid and valerenol increase the amount of available GABA in your brain, making it more effective for calming your nervous system and reducing feelings of stress or anxiety. Valerian root may also prevent the breakdown of GABA in your brain so it can continue working for longer. (5)

How to Take Valerian Root for Sleep

Valerian root comes in various forms, such as tinctures, extracts, and powders, but is it better to use valerian root tea vs. capsules, for instance? Mitri says it’s up to you. “The extract is generally taken orally using a dropper, while the powder can be put into capsules, pills, and tea.”

She continues, “The optimal dose for valerian is around 400-600 mg when using an extract, or 0.3-3 grams when using the actual root. You can take this dose up to three times daily, with the last dose being 2-3 hours before bed.” Just note that the recommended valerian dosing for sleep is based on pretty dated research, as there isn’t a ton of more updated research out there at this time. 

Kimberley Wiemann MS, RDN concurs, saying, “Some studies show that doses up to 600 mg will not have any adverse effects like decreased alertness or concentration the morning after ingestion.” Furthermore, she notes, “When taken in tea form, it can have a very strong and bitter taste, so many people prefer to take valerian in capsule form.”

Additionally, Mount Sinai suggests the following dosages depending on the form, if approved by your healthcare provider. Again, this is based on older research that needs an update. (6)

  • Capsule or tablet: milligrams vary by manufacturer, but start with the smallest dose, usually 250–300 mg
  • Tea: One cup boiling water mixed with 1 teaspoon of valerian root/tea blend, then steep for 5–10 minutes.
  • Tincture: Approximately 1 to 1–1/2 tsp 
  • Fluid extract: 1/2 to 1 tsp 
  • Dry powdered extract: 250 to 600 mg

As you can see, doses can vary depending on the form you choose, as well as other factors — and it may be hard to know how much you’re taking even if you’re checking the amounts listed on the bottle. Wiemann says, “According to the National Institute of Health, levels of the plant’s constituents vary greatly and depend on when the plant was harvested. Therefore, it may be difficult to even know how much of the active components are in the supplementation.”

It’s also important to note that the exact dosage of valerian root should be based on your weight, and the herbal supplement itself has many known medication interactions that can potentially cause overdose, toxicity, or other health complications — for example, valerian interacts with benzodiazepines and phenobarbital, which are known as “central depressants” and are used to help manage seizures and anxiety. (2) (7)  This makes it especially important to talk to your healthcare provider before incorporating valerian root into your routine. 

The Potential Side Effects of Valerian Root

As with any supplement, there is potential for side effects from using valerian root that may vary between individuals. Some of these include: (3) (7) (8

  • Drowsiness: Valerian root’s sedative effects may cause drowsiness, including during the daytime. This can make it harder to concentrate or stay alert, especially if taken in high doses or with other calming substances.
  • Headaches: Some people may experience headaches or migraines as a side effect of valerian root.
  • Digestive discomfort: Valerian root can sometimes cause upset stomach, nausea, or abdominal pain.
  • Dry mouth: Dryness or an unpleasant taste in the mouth may occur after taking valerian root.
  • Vivid dreams or nightmares: Valerian root may cause an increase in the intensity or frequency of dreams, including vivid dreams or nightmares, especially when taken in high doses.
  • Dizziness: Some may experience dizziness or a feeling of lightheadedness after consuming valerian root.
  • Allergic reactions: Although rare, allergic reactions to valerian root may occur, which could lead to symptoms like rash, itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing.

If you’re experiencing any symptoms at all, stop taking valerian root and speak with your healthcare provider immediately. If you notice any potential signs of an allergic reaction or moderate to severe symptoms, seek medical attention right away. 

Mitri notes that it’s recommended to use valerian consistently for two weeks if you’re looking to see improvements in your sleep. However, the long-term safety and effectiveness of valerian root aren’t well-established. (3) She says, “Few long-term studies on valerian show its impact beyond six months. For this reason, it may be best to take a break after six months and reassess your current sleep habits.”

Furthermore, Mitri says, “It’s important to know that valerian isn’t regulated by the FDA [in the same way as pharmaceuticals], as is the case with herbal supplements. When possible, choose supplements that are third-party tested to ensure higher quality and safety standards are met.” 

Look for products that bear a seal from an independent testing organization like NSF International, ConsumerLab, or USP

Additional Benefits of Valerian Root

Regardless of its long history as an herbal remedy, valerian root still isn’t medically approved as a concrete method for treating other conditions, mainly because there isn’t enough existing evidence to prove valerian’s efficacy at this time. 

Essentially, more research is needed to know how effective valerian root really is. That being said, some of its other potential benefits include: 

  • Anxiety and stress support (9)
  • Mood balance (9)
  • Menstrual symptom relief (2)
  • Muscle relaxation (10)
  • Blood pressure-lowering effects (2)

We Tried It — Here’s What We Thought

Cody Gohl, former Sleepopolis staff editor: “Wow, this is one strong remedy! I felt immediately more relaxed and found it super easy to fall asleep after drinking this tea. Not only that, but I was able to stay asleep throughout the night. I’m not sure if I can attribute all of this success to the valerian root, but from where I’m typing, this remedy seems like a clear winner.”

“That being said, I’d give this hack 5 out of 5 Zzz’s — maybe not the tastiest, but certainly the most effective one I’ve tried yet.”

When to Talk to Your Doctor

Quality sleep is crucial to your health. This is a designated time for your body to repair, replenish, and rejuvenate itself. And when you’re not sleeping, you may almost immediately feel the negative effects, which can affect your well-being and quality of life. 

If poor sleep is an ongoing issue for you, especially if you’re not sure what the cause could be, talk to your doctor. They can offer a more comprehensive exam and help you figure out any underlying factors that may be involved. 

Perhaps an herbal sleep supplement like valerian root will be part of their recommendation, likely along with improved sleep hygiene habits and potentially medical interventions if deemed necessary. It’s always best to seek professional guidance rather than play the guessing game when it comes to your health. 


Is it OK to take valerian root every night?

While valerian root is generally considered safe for short-term use, taking it every night for an extended period may lead to tolerance, dependence, or undesirable side effects. Speak with a healthcare professional to determine the best way for you to use valerian and what other interventions may be less risky long-term for improving sleep. (3)

Is valerian root better than melatonin?

Both valerian root and melatonin are natural sleep aids, but their effectiveness can vary depending on the person. Valerian root may offer more gentle and holistic support for relaxation and sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that directly regulates your sleep-wake cycle. The safety and effectiveness of long-term use aren’t well-established for either one, so temporary use under the guidance of your healthcare provider is likely best.

The Last Word From Sleepopolis 

Thanks to its calming and sedative properties, valerian root has been used for a long time to help people relax. While the long-term safety and effectiveness are unknown, many people swear by the positive impacts of valerian root for sleep — including our own team members. Studies show that it acts on brain chemicals in a way that helps you calm down.

If you’re considering natural remedies for restfulness, valerian capsules or tea may be worth a shot. For longer-term interventions or more significant insomnia, it’s best to speak with your doctor about what else might be going on. 


  1. Khatkar S, et al. Chapter 3.1.7 – Valerenic and acetoxyvalerenic acid. Naturally Occurring Chemicals Against Alzheimer’s Disease, 2021:117-125. 
  2. Shinjyo N, Waddell G, Green J. Valerian Root in Treating Sleep Problems and Associated Disorders—A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine. 2020;25. doi:10.1177/2515690X20967323 
  3. Valerian. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Updated October 2020. Available from: 
  4. Hepsomali P, Groeger JA, Nishihira J, Scholey A. Effects of Oral Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) Administration on Stress and Sleep in Humans: A Systematic Review. Front Neurosci. 2020;14:923. Published 2020 Sep 17. doi:10.3389/fnins.2020.00923
  5. Bruni O, Ferini-Strambi L, Giacomoni E, Pellegrino P. Herbal Remedies and Their Possible Effect on the GABAergic System and Sleep. Nutrients. 2021;13(2):530. Published 2021 Feb 6. doi:10.3390/nu13020530
  6. Valerian. Mount Sinai. Available from: 
  7. Freitas C, Khanal S, Landsberg D, Kaul V. An Alternative Cause of Encephalopathy: Valerian Root Overdose. Cureus. 2021;13(9):e17759. Published 2021 Sep 6. doi:10.7759/cureus.17759 
  8. Valerian. In: Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed®). Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; May 17, 2021. 
  9. Tammadon MR, Nobahar M, Hydarinia-Naieni Z, Ebrahimian A, Ghorbani R, Vafaei AA. The Effects of Valerian on Sleep Quality, Depression, and State Anxiety in Hemodialysis Patients: A Randomized, Double-blind, Crossover Clinical Trial. Oman Med J. 2021;36(2):e255. Published 2021 Mar 31. doi:10.5001/omj.2021.56
  10. Caudal D, Guinobert I, Lafoux A, et al. Skeletal muscle relaxant effect of a standardized extract of Valeriana officinalis L. after acute administration in mice. J Tradit Complement Med. 2017;8(2):335-340. Published 2017 Oct 12. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2017.06.011

          Mitri, Melissa. Personal interview. May 8, 2024. 

          Wiemann, Kimberly. Personal interview. May 6, 2024. 

Lauren Panoff

Lauren Panoff

Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD is a Colorado-based health and nutrition writer who has been published with a number of trusted wellness platforms. She is a dietitian who specializes in plant-based living, as well as a mother of two humans and a dog.