Valerian is a plant commonly found in Quebec, including along highways. It is a flowering plant (white flowers in bouquets) and can reach two meters in height. It would have been introduced from Europe where its use goes back as far as the time of the men of Cro-Magnon (found in the caves). Like the example given in a previous article (ginkgo biloba), valerian produces unique molecules that have great pharmacological potential. Since the root is used and it gives off foul odors, these molecules cannot be part of a balanced diet.
This is yet another example why some supplements were developed because these beneficial molecules, unique to certain plants, are not available in other types of food. Also, for serious health problems, supplements help make these molecules available at the dose needed for potential effectiveness.
A large number of studies
A systematic review, including a meta-analysis, was published in 2020 by Shinjyo and collaborators, Although there is a large number of publications, we will dwell on this last one to discuss the results of the many clinical studies with valerian. Shinjyo et al., (2020), identified 60 studies, including 49 randomized clinical studies and 8 observational studies specifically on sleep and anxiety. It goes without saying that to assert that there is no study in the field of natural health products can demonstrate a certain lack of knowledge on the subject as well as a poor opinion of the field which can conclude in false claims.
Shinjyo et al., (2020) point out, as is the case in multiple systematic studies and meta-analysis, that there are differences in efficacy reported by published clinical studies that may be related to variability in the quality of extracts used. To put it simply: it is possible to have good results as long as the product is of good quality.
What makes this literature review very relevant is that it considers the important facets of the study subgroups:
- Product quality,
- The use of the plant or extracts,
- The type of extracts used (made with water or with a mixture of water and alcohol),
- The population under study,
- The type of compilation of the results,
- The state of health of individuals (healthy or insomniac),
- The number of doses (single or repeated),
- The effects on sleep or anxiety separately,
- The plant alone or in combinations.
Too often in journal articles, the results of studies are simply compiled without taking the time to differentiate between these important elements. All of these points are significant and it makes you realize that to talk about one or more studies, it is important to understand what you are talking about.
Let’s start with sleep. A few studies have shown that a single dose can already give positive results, but in general, prolonged use seems preferable. There are of course negative studies and positive studies. The author reported the results of a meta-analysis carried out considering repeated use. 10 randomized clinical studies were included (considering 1065 individuals): the results were positive and confirmed the effectiveness of valerian for the quality of sleep. However, the meta-analysis reported significant variability in the results that the author attributed to the different types of products used.
For anxiety, the author reported positive results for 6 of the 7 studies considered. Among other things, two studies have confirmed the positive effect of valerian, in a single dose, in reducing anxiety 1 hour before a dental operation. One study also reported its positive use to reduce anxiety related to menstrual cycles. Again, the author reported by meta-analysis, the great variability among studies. This is possibly due to the types of products used since two of the 7 anxiety studies were done directly with the root of the plant and not with extracts.
In terms of mechanisms of action, two studies reported positive effects on anxiolytic activities in the brain. The observed effects suggest both short- and long-term impacts.
The author also reported the results of a large number of studies that have looked at valerian in combination with one or more ingredients. All 8 clinical studies on sleep were positive, as were 6 clinical studies on anxiety. Thus, it seems that valerian is more effective in combination than in use alone, both for sleep and for anxiety. However, be careful: it is common for products containing more than one ingredient to consist of small amounts of each of these ingredients. The amount of the ingredients present is important to allow effectiveness.
It is interesting to note that no serious side effects were reported during these 60 studies involving a total of 6894 people. The author mentioned that there would have been some paradoxical effects (effects contrary to those expected) and one study in particular would relate this effect at the dose used (the highest dose tested increased anxiety). However, it is not possible to draw any conclusion on this point, but be aware that it is possible that some people have paradoxical effects.
Regarding potential adverse effects, 6 studies have also assessed the risks of reduced cognitive or psychomotor performance. The author concluded that the use of valerian is safer than three reported drugs of common use.
Two studies also evaluated potential interactions with drugs by studying the effects of valerian on cytochromes P450 (a family of proteins that play a very important role in the pharmacokinetics of drugs and the detoxification of the body). The author concluded that there was no risk of interaction based on these results and that studies show that valerian is safe at any age.
Quality of sleep: the cornerstone of our health
Sleep problems reduce our resistance to stress, decrease our overall quality of life, create mood and memory problems as well as impair our abilities. They also contribute to metabolic problems, which include high blood pressure, blood lipid control, and the risk of type II diabetes. Note also that sleep problems increase the risk of dementia and nerve degeneration. It goes without saying: the quality of our sleep is the basis of our health.
Although valerian can be beneficial for sleep, an integrative approach focusing on all healthy lifestyles is preferred. Sleep hygiene, physical activity, diet, and meditation are all approaches that should be considered. It should be noted that sleeping pills have their purpose, but generally their use should be limited to short periods.
High quality Quebec products
We developed Vitoli products with the goal of providing more effective products for specific facets associated with healthy longevity. Thus, we use valerian in combination in two products: Vitoli® Sleep and Vitoli® Stress and Anxiety.
For sleep, Vitoli® Sleep contains melatonin and quality extracts of valerian, passionflower and olive (powerful antioxidants; olive polyphenols). These four ingredients work in synergy to help all facets of sleep: falling asleep, deep sleep, and a full night’s sleep. Note that it is possible to take up to two capsules, but usually one capsule is sufficient; 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime. Also, some people prefer to use Vitoli® Stress and Anxiety for sleep; this is a second option. It can be interesting to try both and see which one works best. Vitoli® Stress and Anxiety is also used with one or two capsules, usually one is sufficient, 30 minutes to an hour before sleeping.
Vitoli® Stress and Anxiety can be used during the day to reduce anxiety. While it is important to always be aware of the risk of drowsiness, Vitoli® Stress & Anxiety should not cause drowsiness if you sleep well. It contains L-theanine (an anxiolytic molecule identified from green tea) and high-quality extracts of valerian and olive (powerful antioxidants; olive polyphenols).
Here are the claims permitted by Health Canada for these two products:
- Helps reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.
- Helps increase total duration and quality of sleep for individuals with restricted or altered sleep schedules.
- Used in Herbal Medicine to help promote sleep.
- Helps relieve nervousness and stress.
- Provides antioxidants.
Vitoli® Stress and Anxiety
- Helps relieve anxiety and stress.
- Helps temporarily promote a state of relaxation.
- Provides antioxidants.
Other suggested articles:
- Stop Sleeping Pills in 5 Steps
- Vitoli Energy: For Difficult Times
- Natural Products for Stress and Insomnia; the Researcher’s Perspective
- Memory and Cognitive Health – Ginkgo biloba (1 of 2)
- Alramadhan E, Hanna MS, Hanna MS, Goldstein TA, Avila SM, Weeks BS. Dietary and botanical anxiolytics. Med Sci Monit. 2012 Apr;18(4):RA40-8. doi: 10.12659/msm.882608. PMID: 22460105; PMCID: PMC3560823.
- Guadagna S, Barattini DF, Rosu S, Ferini-Strambi L. Plant Extracts for Sleep Disturbances: A Systematic Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2020 Apr 21;2020:3792390.
- Kelber O, Nieber K, Kraft K. Valerian: no evidence for clinically relevant interactions. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:879396.
- Lakhan SE, Vieira KF. Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review. Nutr J. 2010 Oct 7;9:42.
- Pottie et al, 2018. Déprescription des agonistes des récepteurs des benzodiazépines. Guide de pratique Clinique.
- Shinjyo et al, 2020. Valerian Root in Treating Sleep Problems and Associated Disorders-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Evid Based Integr Med. 2020 Jan-Dec;25:2515690X20967323.
- Yurcheshen M, Seehuus M, Pigeon W. Updates on Nutraceutical Sleep Therapeutics and Investigational Research. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:105256.