Valerian, or Valeriana officinalis, is a perennial herb native to Asia and Europe. Its roots are used as a mild sedative and sleep aid. Valerian use has advantages and disadvantages.
WebMD indicates that valerian acts like a sedative on the brain to cause drowsiness and relieve insomnia. Valerian is commonly combined with other relaxing herbs such as lemon balm. Some users add valerian to bath water to help with sleep disorders. Others use valerian as a treatment for anxiety, hypochondria, and depression, among other conditions.
Valerian is generally well tolerated. Children under 3 and pregnant or nursing mothers should not take valerian. Several mild side effects include itching, stomach upset, dizziness, and headaches. Avoid alcohol while using valerian root. In addition, WebMD recommends against combining sedative medications with valerian because of excessive drowsiness.
WebMD indicates that valerian does not work as quickly as a sleeping pill for relieving insomnia. Patients must use the herb for anywhere from several days to four weeks before feeling any positive effects.