Vlada Korol: Keep Calm and Take Valerian!
In various parts of the world, the herbal called Valerian Root, is popularly taken to calm the nerves and to help fall asleep. In an international pharmacy setting, it is a very popular item, available in a liquid tincture, tablets, capsules, as well as a dry herb. In the United States, it is not as common, but for Europeans, certainly for Russian patients it is one of the most known products. Patients always wonder what anxiety feels like, they sometimes confuse it with depression or blood pressure related symptoms. Anxiety symptoms vary, commonly it’s a tight feeling in the chest, shakiness, an overall nervous feeling triggered all of a sudden. Insomnia presents in different ways as well, some patients have a difficult time falling asleep, while others wake up every few hours through the night. Many patients are concerned if to start on a prescription medication for anxiety or insomnia, hence, Valerian Root can be a good natural alternative to try as a first line agent. “Valerian has been used as a medicinal herb since at least the time of ancient Greece and Rome. Hippocrates described its properties.” (1) Regardless, if you are an avid user or have never ever taken Valerian Root, lets get to know about this plant and how it works!
How Does Valerian Root Work? (1)
Research shows that it works on the GABA neurotransmitter receptor system. Specifically Valerinic Acid (a component of Valerian) binds to the receptor. Common Prescription Medications called Benzodiazepines (Examples: Xanax, Klonopin, Valium), also work on the GABA receptors. More research is necessary to determine exactly which property of Valerian produces sedative/ sleep effects.
What is the Recommended Dose of Valerian? (1)
Depends on the dosage form (tablets, liquid) and depends on the manufacturer of the product. Since dosing/ directions may vary, best is to follow packaging directions.
American manufactured Valerian Root is usually sold in capsules. On the packaging of Valerian tablets by Russian manufacturers, it states to take 1-2 tablets (20 mg per tablet)…. two times a day after food. For the liquid Valerian root, for adults: Take 20-30 drops three to four times a day, for children: one drop per every year of their age (for instance 10 years old = 10 drops). Treatment is recommended for 4 weeks. If taking for sleep then take before bedtime, not during the day as for patients with anxiety
Is Valerian Root Safe to Take/ Which Patients Should Not Take Valerian Root? (2)
Valerian is LIKELY SAFE when taken in correct amounts, short term use. “Clinical studies have reported safe use of Valerian for medicinal purposes in over 12,000 people in trials lasting up to 28 days. The safety of long-term use is unknown.” (2) Valerian can cause headache. In some patients, Valerian can cause opposite effect than intended, like excitability or uneasiness. The morning after taking Valerian, one can feel tired, sluggish, hung-over, especially if too high of a dose was taken. Do Not Drive or operate heavy machinery after taking Valerian Root. When discontinuing taking Valerian Root, decrease the dose by small amounts every few days over a week or two, do not stop abruptly.
Avoid taking during Pregnancy and Breast Feeding Caution Before Surgery: If you have a surgery planned, discontinue using Valerian Root 2 weeks before surgery to prevent interactions with anaesthesia.
Which Medications types does Valerian interact with? (3)
Cholesterol Medications: simvastatin, lovastatin, atorvastatin, Erectile Dysfunction Mediacations: Viagra (sildenafil) Azole antifungals like ketoconazole. Medications and supplements that cause drowsiness such as: certain antihistamines, for example Benadryl/ diphenhydramine, anti-seizure drugs such carbamazepine, medicine for sleep or anxiety, muscle relaxants, psychiatric medicines, narcotic pain relievers (example codeine), herbal/dietary products, such as kava or melatonin, and certain ingredients in cough and cold medications.
Before using Valerian Root, let your doctor or pharmacist know of all the products you you take, including prescriptions, herbals, and over-the-counter. Do not change any doses on your own without consultation. At Kedvon Pharmacy we are here and ready to tailor your therapy for your individual needs, visit our Chicago and Wheeling locations!