Last Updated on January 17, 2020
Reviewed by Donna Schwontkowski, DC, MS
There are many types of sleep aids — both natural and prescription-based — that can help treat insomnia and other sleep disorders. But few are as gentle and non-invasive as valerian root.
Renowned for its calming and sedative qualities, this ancient plant might be a good option especially if you've had only limited success using other natural sleep aids.
In this post, you'll discover the unique properties of valerian root, how to choose a high-quality valerian root supplement, and conclude with the best valerian root supplements on the market today.
- 1 What is Valerian Root?
- 2 How to Choose a Valerian Root Supplement
- 3 How Should You Take Valerian Root?
- 4 Reviews of the Best Valerian Root Supplements
- 5 Conclusion
Planetary Herbals Valerian Extract Supplement
Gaia Herbs Valerian Root Liquid Phyto-Capsule
Herb Pharm Liquid Valerian Root Extract
Herbal Secrets Valerian Root Capsules
Pure Mountain Botanicals Valerian Capsules
What is Valerian Root?
Valerian, also botanically known as Valeriana Officinalis, is a tall, European flowering perennial with scented white flowers that can grow up to six feet long. Celebrated as a medicinal plant, valerian root contains an active compound that helps restore a sense of calmness and relaxation, which makes it particularly effective for treating anxiety and sleep disorders such as insomnia (source).
Apart from its calming effects, valerian plant roots can also help suppress various health symptoms such as coughing, nasal congestion, stomach cramps, headaches, seizures, and even menopausal-related issues.
While its mellow, aromatic flowers and long stems have a beautifully elegant look, valerian's medicinal properties are mostly found in its plant roots. Comprised of a complex root system with many smaller rootlets, these roots are first harvested then sun-dried before crushed into powder for use.
Traditionally, valerian plant roots were mixed or boiled in water to prepare as a tea or concoction and then consumed for sleeplessness and anxiety. More modern variants, however, come as tablets, capsules, or tinctures, which are generally more effective and convenient for everyday use.
Here's an interesting video that shows the wonders of valerian root in action:
How Does Valerian Root Benefit Sleep?
For centuries, valerian root has been commonly used to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders thanks to its sedative effects. This calming plant compound works by naturally inhibiting the neurotransmitter in the brain known as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), not dissimilar to how some strong sedatives operate.
As a result, you're more likely to experience a positive change in your sleep pattern as well as significant improvement in insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.
How to Choose a Valerian Root Supplement
When looking for a natural sleep aid or a dietary supplement like valerian root, it's important to focus on high-quality products to achieve optimal results. While many brands tout themselves as "organic" or "all natural," not all valerian root supplements go through the same manufacturing process. That's why it's worth diving a bit deeper to more accurately differentiate quality products from mediocre ones.
To this end, here's a list of factors to pay attention to as you make your decision:
Look for USP/Consumer Lab/NSF Labels
Generally speaking, natural drugs and supplements that feature an NSF, USP, or Consumer Lab label are considered top-tier in the market and meet some of the highest quality standards set by the Council for Responsible Nutrition trade association (CRN). These third-party labels provide quality assurance and ensure that only the best ingredients are used. So you want to be sure to check for these labels.
Read the Ingredients
Make it a practice to always read the ingredients before buying a valerian root supplement. As a rule of thumb, supplements that contain root extract are more effective and unspoiled than those made with root powder. This is because dried roots have a higher chance of heavy metal contamination during the powdering process.
Check the Active Ingredient Percentage
Valeric or Valerenic acid is the active ingredient found in valerian root supplements. The potency of the supplement depends on the amount of valerenic acid it contains. A range of 0.5 to 1 percent of the active ingredient is generally considered best.
How Should You Take Valerian Root?
Valerian root supplements are often taken either in liquid form as a cup of tea or concoction, or more commonly as supplemental capsules, pills, or tinctures. Due to the high percentage of active ingredients in valerian dietary supplements, they absorb in the body more rapidly and thus act faster.
With that said, here are a couple guidelines to follow when taking a valerian root supplement:
Stick to the Recommended Dosage
Generally, the body tends to tolerate the effects of valerian root quite well regardless of the form its taken in.
When taking capsules, it's best to aim for 250mg to 600mg before bedtime to treat insomnia. The dosage can be increased up to 3-5 times during the day depending on your needs. That said, experts strongly suggest starting with a small dose and increasing the dosage as needed (source).
If you're only using valerian as a calming and anti-anxiety agent, limit yourself to 120mg to 200mg per session at a lower daily dosage.
When taking valerian root as a liquid tincture, most brands suggest a dosage of 20-40 drops with a little water up to five times per day.
Be Wary of Potential Side Effects
Classified under the GRAS category by the Food and Drug Administration (Generally Recognized As Safe), valerian root-based products can be safely used in supplement form, dietary food additives, or as medication.
While valerian root isn't generally known to produce side effects, valerian supplements or root extracts may cause mild headaches, dizziness, stomach disorders, and itching in some individuals (source).
Moreover, select clinical trials report that when taken with strong nervous system depressants, valerian root may produce significant harmful effects. Thus, valerian root should never be combined with drugs containing benzodiazepines, morphine, phenobarbital, or barbiturates. It may also cause strong reactions when combined with alcohol.
Note: We highly recommended consulting your physician before starting a valerian root supplement, especially if you're currently taking any prescription medications.
Reviews of the Best Valerian Root Supplements
This valerian root supplement features a unique formulation of 0.8 percent valerenic acid with an additional 200mg of crushed valerian root extract — the most potent non-liquid root supplement to benefit sleeplessness.
With a higher percentage of active essential oil extracted from the valerian roots, this supplement acts as an effective calming agent responsible for a restful and uninterrupted sleep. That said, some users have reported experiencing a residual hangover afterward.
It comes in tablet form with each pack containing 60 counts, enough for a two-month supply. For optimal results, it's best to take a tablet 30 minutes before bed.
This supplement by Gaia Herbs consists of easy-to-absorb liquid phyto capsules made from plant-based gelatin. Certified organic and 100 percent vegan, the product is free from pesticides and heavy metals and has gone through minimal processing during the manufacturing procedure.
The 1.8mg of valerian root extract per capsule is enough to restore calmness, promote healthy sleep, and treat occasional sleeplessness at a safe dose.
Certified organic and ranked as a top-rated herbal extract in US Natural Food, Herb Pharm uses its sustainable farm-grown valerian roots to extract the active compound that makes this supplement. It comes in an alcohol-free liquid form, which absorbs in the body faster than tablets or capsules, thus offering you quicker results.
The dosage is 30-40 drops with a little water and can be taken up to five times per day as needed. Apart from treating insomnia, this supplement may also be effective for adrenal fatigue and panic attacks.
GMP-certified and free of artificial additives, sweeteners, and flavors, Herbal Secrets is manufactured in a high-quality setting to maintain and preserve the natural goodness of the valerian extracts.
The supplement contains a unique formulation of valerian root powder, which can be taken in its capsule form or to make a calming valerian tea using just the powder.
Each 500mg capsule contains a recommended dosage of valerian root powder that naturally helps you fall asleep and promote a healthy sleep habit while also helping to relieve stress and anxiety.
Vegetarian, gluten-free, kosher, and free of harsh chemicals, preservatives, and additives, these organic dietary capsules contain 500mg of active valerian root powder tested for optimal potency.
Backed by a 100 percent money back guarantee, the Pure Mountain Botanicals supplement works naturally with your body, promoting relaxation and minimizing symptoms of insomnia for better sleep.
The suggested dosage of this herbal formulation is two capsules an hour before sleeping.
After comparing the five valerian root supplements reviewed above, the clear winner among them is the Planetary Herbals Valerian Extract Supplement. For one thing, its 0.8 percent of active valerenic acid combined with the extra 200mg of crushed valerian root extract is a powerful, effective blend to promoting better sleep. Moreover, the dosage is as moderate as its price.
Now Over to You!
What are your thoughts about our choices for the best valerian root supplement? Do you have any questions that we haven't addressed? Leave your comments below!