Valerian root comes from a flowering plant and has been used medicinally for over 2000 years to support sleep and relaxation. It has also been used as a treatment for those who suffer from anxiety, insomnia and ADD.
The root can be made into a smelly tea but can do wonders for the mind
When prepared as a tea, it is slightly sweet and spicy with a touch of bitterness, making it palatable to some, but not all individuals. It is traditionally used to support healthy sleep and relaxation, though clinical trials regarding its efficacy have shown mixed results.
The roots have a pungent odor, considered unpleasant by many and sometimes compared to the smell of sweaty socks. Cats are highly attracted to the scent in the same way that they are catnip, having a tendency to bite the root and rub against it. The odor is also attractive to rats, as legend has it that the Pied Piper of Hamelin used valerian to attract the rats when luring them out of town.
Valerian root is often used for brain boosting qualities
Valerian has been used in alternative medicine as a possibly effective aid in treating sleep problems (insomnia). Other uses not proven with research have included treating anxiety, stress, depression, attention deficit disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, tremors, epilepsy, menopause symptoms, and other conditions.
It is also sometimes used as an alternative for sedatives, such as benzodiazepines, in the treatment of certain anxiety disorders. An article in the Medical Science Monitor states that based on cellular and animal studies as well as human clinical trials the literature supports a role for these preparations [including valerian root] as useful alternatives in the management of the stress and anxiety of everyday life. However, another systematic review, published in 2007 in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews, concluded valerian was safe but not clinically efficacious for insomnia.
Valerian root's effectiveness is reliant on GABA receptors
Because of valerian's historical use as a sedative, antiseptic, anticonvulsant, migraine treatment, and pain reliever, most basic science research has been directed at the interaction of valerian constituents with the GABA receptor. Many studies remain inconclusive and all require clinical validation. The mechanism of action of valerian in general, and as a mild sedative in particular, has not been fully elucidated. However, some of the GABA-analogs, particularly valerenic acids as components of the essential oil along with other semivolatile sesquiterpenoids, generally are believed to have some affinity for the GABAA receptor, a class of receptors on which benzodiazepines are known to act. Valeric acid, which is responsible for the typical odor of mostly older valerian roots, does not have any sedative properties. Valeric acid is related to valproic acid, a widely-prescribed anticonvulsant; valproic acid is a derivative of valeric acid.
Side effects do exist with Valerian Root Supplements
Although valerian is thought to be fairly safe, side effects such as headache, dizziness, stomach problems or sleeplessness may occur. Valerian may not be safe if you're pregnant or breast-feeding. And it has not been evaluated to determine if it's safe for children under 3 years old. If you have liver disease, avoid taking valerian. And because valerian can make you drowsy, avoid driving or operating dangerous machinery after taking it.
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