1. Naturally Aids Sleep Studies show that valerian reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and improves sleep quality, so if you can’t sleep, it may be just what you’re looking for. Unlike many prescription sleep medications, valerian has fewer side effects and is a lot less likely to result in morning drowsiness. In one double-blind study conducted by the Foellinge Health Center in Sweden, the effects of valerian on poor sleep were significant. Of the study participants, 44 percent reported perfect sleep while 89 percent reported improved sleep when taking valerian root. In addition, no side effects were observed for this group. Valerian root is often combined with other sedating herbs, such as hops (Humulus lupulus) and lemon balm (Melissa officianalis), to treat insomnia. In one study of children with minor sleep problems published in Phytomedicine, 81 percent of those who took an herbal combination of valerian and lemon balm reported sleeping much better than those who took a placebo. How does valerian root help you sleep so well? Valerian contains a chemical called linarin, which creates a sedative effect. Valerian extract can cause sedation by increasing your brain’s GABA level. Gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. In large enough quantities it can cause a sedative effect, calming nervous activity. Results from an in vitro study suggest that valerian extract may cause GABA to be released from brain nerve endings and then block GABA from being taken back into nerve cells. In addition, valerian’s valerenic acid inhibits an enzyme that destroys GABA, another way that valerian can improve your GABA levels and promote a great night’s rest. 2. Calms Anxiety Scientists have found that valerian root increases the amount of a chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) through GABA receptors. GABA helps regulate nerve cells and calms anxiety. Drugs such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium) also work by increasing the amount of GABA in the brain. The valeric acid, valerenic acid and valerenol contained in valerian root extract act as anti-anxiety agents. It’s pretty amazing that an herbal remedy like valerian root can have the same anti-anxiety effects of prescription drugs without all the serious side effects of psychotropic drugs. If you are taking other calming medications or antidepressants (such as tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline or tetracyclic antidepressants), do not take valerian at the same time. 3. Lowers Blood Pressure Now that you know that valerian root can be so calming to the mind and body, it’s probably not surprising to hear it can also help lower blood pressure, improving heart health. The same active components that make valerian root so effective for stress and anxiety management can also help the body properly regulate its blood pressure. High blood pressure is something you definitely want to avoid since it increases the chance of stroke and heart attack. Valerian root supplements can help naturally reduce blood pressure and keep it at a healthy level, which has a direct positive impact on your heart health. 4. Eases Menstrual Cramps The relaxing nature of valerian root can make it a smart choice for natural relief of menstrual cramps. It can reduce the severity and discomfort of menstrual cramps, which is a common problem for women who suffer monthly from PMS. How exactly can valerian root help? It’s a natural sedative and antispasmodic, which means it suppresses muscle spasms and acts as a natural muscle relaxer. Valerian root can effectively calm the severe uterine muscle contractions that cause the terrible pain many women experience during menstruation, as a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study from Islamic Azad University in Iran showed. 5. Improves Stress Management By reducing anxiety and improving the length and quality of sleep, valerian root can significantly help with daily stress management. Chronic stress can make you feel anxious, but anxiety can also make you feel more stressed out. By improving GABA levels, valerian makes it easier for both the mind and body to relax. Since relaxation is the antithesis of stress, valerian root is an excellent natural way to help keep your stress down and your quality of life up. Further, valerian root has been shown to suppress both physical and psychological stress by helping to maintain levels of serotonin, according to research in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. Valerian vs. Melatonin Melatonin is a hormone made in the pineal gland and is highly correlated with the body’s sleep-wake cycle. When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal is “turned on” by the SCN and begins to actively produce melatonin, which is released into the blood. Usually, this occurs around 9:00 p.m. As a result, melatonin levels in the blood rise sharply and you begin to feel less alert. Sleep becomes more inviting. Melatonin levels in the blood stay elevated for about 12 hours — all through the night — before the light of a new day when they fall back to low daytime levels by about 9:00 a.m. Daytime levels of melatonin are barely detectable. Low melatonin levels are linked to insomnia. Valerian is a sedative herb that has been used for centuries for the treatment of insomnia. Because valerian increases GABA levels in the brain, it helps reduce brain activity and allow users to fall asleep more easily.