A native of Europe, this perennial plant grows wild in grasslands but is also used as a garden decoration. It grows to around 2 feet in height and its straight stems have umbrella shaped heads and dark leaves.
The root of the Valerian plant is pressed into a fresh juice or made into a powder and used for medicinal purposes. This extract is available in several forms including capsules, tablets and tea. It is mainly used to aid sleep and promote a feeling of calm.
Valerian has a very long history of use; it has been taken to treat insomnia, nerve conditions like anxiety and restlessness dating back to the second century and in Europe, it found new popularity during the 17th century.
While all herbal remedies need to be treated with a degree of caution, it has been approved in Germany as a mild sedative and regarded as generally safe by the food and drug administration in the United States.
Health Benefits of Valerian Root
Experts are certain that it is effective but are less sure of exactly how it works. Many scientists believe it elevates levels of a chemical known as GABA or gamma aminoburtic acid.
GABA regulates the nerve cells and benefits those with nervous conditions by calming anxiety. Popular pharmaceutical anxiety drugs like Xanax and valium work in exactly the same way by increasing GABA levels within the brain though valerian offers a weaker yet more natural and less addictive remedy.