Valerian in capsule form
Even though herbs are natural, when they are used as remedies they are still considered medicines. Like medicines, they can cause side effects. However, side effects are generally infrequent. Being aware of the possibility of side effects is especially important when using an herb for the first time. Always discontinue use immediately if you experience any negative reaction.
Valerian has been used for centuries to treat various conditions. It is considered safe in recommended amounts for healthy adults who are not taking other sedatives. Some research done showed no harmful effects if used during pregnancy, but it is still advised that it be avoided by pregnant or nursing women.
It is on the Food and Drug Administration’s list of herbs generally regarded as safe. Germany’s Commission E has approved valerian as a mild sedative. It considers the tea very safe and recommends drinking it up to several times a day for nervousness, anxiety and restlessness.
Some allergic reactions to valerian have been reported, but they are a rare occurence. Like with any medicine, responses are varied in different people. Some have reported feelings of sedation from just a low dose, while in a few people, it produced a stimulant effect resulting in increased anxiety and restlessness.
Valerian extract can cause drowsiness. Caution is advised when driving or operating machinery. It is considered non-habit forming, unlike many prescriptions for sleep and anxiety. However, if you convince yourself that you can’t sleep without it, psychological addiction can occur. Withdrawal symptoms are rare but may occur after long periods of use. Headache, irritability, rapid heartbeat and insomnia have been reported with sudden cessation of use. When discontinuing use, it is best to gradually lower the dose, rather than stopping it abruptly.
Using the recommended dosage of any medicine is important. Using excessively large amounts can lead to side effects. Headache, blurred vision, restlessness, nausea and morning grogginess have been reported with the use of large amounts of valerian extract. It is recommended that it be taken in small doses throughout the day. The use of valerian on a continual basis may cause headaches. This can be avoided by discontinuing use for a few days every two weeks or so.
Do not use valerian with any other medications or if you have an existing unrelated health problem, without first discussing it with your healthcare provider. It may increase the effects of other sedatives and alcohol. Valerian is broken down in the body by liver enzymes. For this reason it may cause an interaction with other medications that are also broken down by these enzymes.
No reports of toxicity from valerian have been clearly identified. Overall, it has a very high level of safety, supported by extensive research.