Product Spotlight: Valerian for Sleep

Valerian officinalis is primarily used to help people fall asleep and stay asleep. It has a long history of use in Western and Chinese medicine and was cited for medicinal use by Hippocrates, the father of medicine (ca 460-377 BC.)  Valerian root contains more than 150 chemical constituents. Although some supplements are standardized to valerenic acid, no one component has been identified as solely responsible for the sedating effects; instead, it seems to be a synergistic effect of the whole plant that regulates the nervous system and causes sleepiness. There are many supplemental sleep blends that include valerian, but we recommend you try valerian on its own first, to discover your response. Considering that many have experienced adequate results with valerian alone, there’s no need to introduce unnecessary elements.

This herb has a distinctive scent that some people find repugnant. It is a distinctive, sharp, earthy smell that comes from the high essential oil content in the herb. These essential oils provide part of the sedative effect on the nervous system and are an integral part of the medicine. If your product does not have a distinctive earthy valerian smell, it may be of poor quality. So embrace the smell, but you may want to avoid breathing through your nose when you take it.

Dosage and Timing

Valerian can be taken as a capsule, tablet, tea, or tincture. The valepotriates hydrolyze quickly in water, thus some of the effects may be lost in tea/tincture form. The suggested dosages are as follows:

  • capsule/tablet: 300-600 mg dried herb before bed. Sleepiness/grogginess the next morning has been reported over 900mg.
  • tea: 2 tsp dried valerian root steeped in hot water for 15 minutes
  • tincture: 1/2 – 1 tsp before bed, and an additional teaspoon if not falling asleep within 15 minutes.

There are various opinions about when to take sleep-supportive herbs. Some experts suggest 1-2 hours before bed to induce sleepiness; others suggest taking it when settled in bed to signal and confirm the “sleep time” message to your body. Ultimately valerian is a very safe herb, and what works for one person may not work for another. Experiment with dosages and dosing strategies and see what works for you.

As with all botanical medicine, it is important to take enough of the herb to have a clinical effect. It’s also important to continue the treatment for at least 2-4 weeks to accurately determine response and give your body a chance to respond to the herb’s regulatory effects. Some people may experience relief immediately, while others won’t notice a difference for three weeks. So have patience. Start with a low dose to test your body’s sensitivity, and increase as needed for clinical response.

Additional Benefits

Valerian can also have a calming effect on anxiety. Those who suffer from insomnia as a result of anxiety will probably experience greater relief from valerian.


Valerian root and valerian root extract are both officially in the current United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary as there has been significant clinical evidence supporting its use for insomnia and anxiety. This herb is also included in several European national pharmacopeias including Germany, a world leader in botanical medical research. Valerian is on the FDA’s Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list, and allergic reactions are rare.

Valerian has been the subject of many studies which have concluded that the herb is safe. In some cases, gastrointestinal upset was experienced. It’s possible that valerian can have additive sedative effects on alcohol or sedative drugs. Always consult with your doctor or pharmacist if you’re concerned about interactions.


  1. 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
  2. “Valeriana Officionalis.” Thorne Research, 1 Jan. 2004. Web. 27 Oct. 2022.
  3. Blumenthal, Mark. “Valerian.” The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. Austin: American Botanical Council, 2003. 353-355. Print.

About the Author

Kim Crabb

Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness Staff

Kim is the marketing director at Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness and has been in the pursuit of wellness for decades. She led a workplace wellness program for over 12 years where she discovered that she loved helping people make positive healthy changes. You can often find her mired in information rabbit holes while researching answers to seemingly straightforward questions. It's ok; she loves it because it means she can share new-found knowledge with lovely people like yourself!

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