Insomnia affects more than one third of adults according to recent reports. Sleep aids are big business because many of them cause side effects that are unwanted, and some of them simply don’t work for everybody. What if I told you there’s an all-natural solution that’s proven to work without any negative side effects for most people?
Valerian root, Valeriana officinalis, also known as the root of tobacco, is a well-known herbal remedy used in anxiety treatment. However, it makes the user comfortable and drowsy at appropriate doses, thus promoting uninterrupted, high-quality sleep.
In fact, studies show users are get more relaxing and restorative sleep and waking up feeling energetic and ready to face the day. That’s possibly due to valerian promoting REM sleep. REM sleep is the essential part of sleep and is characterized by rapid eye movements. This is the sleep part where dreams arise and memories are written down. The brain analyses the day before, and prepares the body for the next day.
How Does Valerian Root Work?
The gamma aminobutyric acid ( GABA) levels in the brain are naturally increased by the valerian root. Rising GABA levels are calming the body and promoting sustained sleep. They not only help you go to sleep, but they also allow you to sleep without interruption for longer periods. Some traditional anxiety and insomnia prescription medications also raise GABA levels in the brain.
How to Use Valerian Root for Insomnia
Valerian root is prescribed for anxiety typically at lower doses of 50 mg or more. While higher doses are completely safe, they are undesirable because they make the user too sleepy for daytime use. Nevertheless, it is possible to treat insomnia by 400 to 600 milligrams (mg) of the valerian root used at bedtime. Some patients find no advantages when taking less than 300 mg for insomnia. Higher doses, 900 mg or more, may lead the next morning to a bubbly, “hungover” feel.
I recommend using a 400 mg capsule for easy use, but you can also take 10 to 15 minutes of 1 cup of valerian root tea made from 2 to 3 grams of dried valerian root. I’ll give you instructions below on how to make your own capsules.
In some people, the root takes longer to work, while others get near-instant results. Taking the valerian root 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime is general advice. Initially, I will take it 30 minutes before bed, then change the timing, if necessary. Before you take it, you should be home and winding down. Never take it before you drive or perform any tasks which require your full attention.
The Valerian root effects appear to be cumulative. When taken regularly, it works best and does not achieve maximum effects for two weeks to a month, so don’t give up on it too soon.
Is Valerian Root Safe?
According to the US, Valerian root is “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS) according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, several users have reported mild side effects, including headaches , dizziness, disturbed stomach, restlessness, and odd dreams.
If you are pregnant or nursing you should not take valerian root and you should not give it to young children.
Do not take valerian root if you are using alcohol or taking sedatives, anti-depressants, or other sleep aids. Consult the doctor whether you are taking prescription medical drugs for long-term use or before taking it.
Valerian root is a sedative, so please tell your doctor and anesthesiologist before any surgery or anesthesia that you are taking valerian root.
Growing Valerian Root
Valerian grows wild and is sometimes considered invasive so growing successfully takes very little care. Some people have problems growing it from seed because the seeds need to be freshly planted and often birds eat them. The best way to grow valerian root is starting it from a root runner or root division. You possibly have wild plants growing nearby. The plants can be ordered online, too.
The roots are small during the first growing year and it’s best to wait until fall for harvesting to begin. Meanwhile, you can buy your valerian as tablets, capsules or as a dried powder. You will harvest roots in the spring and fall during the second year.
The plants grow to about 5 feet tall and 12 to 18 inches long, so keep this in mind when planning space. The plants in zones 4 through 9 are hardy, and can normally live through winter. Give the plants a spring and fall layer of organic mulch, and water them during drought times.
Harvest the root by thinning the plants in the spring and fall, letting others grow and spread. If you want to confine them to the allocated area, the flowering heads should be removed when the flowers start to die. The plants can spread rapidly when left to grow seeds.
Harvesting Your Valerian Root
Cut off the flowering tops as they appear during the summer before harvesting. That allows the roots to expand rather than put energy into the production of seeds. Cut off the top of plants just above ground level in September or early October, and dig up the entire plant. Dig deeply to have the roots all over.
Wash them thoroughly, then thinly slice the roots into tiny parts and dry them for potential use on a dehydrator. They may take 12 to 24 hours, or even more, to dry depending on the humidity and size of your slices. Within a cool cupboard, I store the dried parts sealed in a pot. When I am ready to make capsules, I grind them into a fine powder in a coffee grinder, which I use only for spices.
Making Your Capsules
I pack the weighed dosage into a capsule and put the lid on it. When you’re going to make a lot of capsules you’re going to want to invest in a shipping tray capsule. There are many types of these, and they really make the job so much easier. Long-term they also save you money.
By growing your own herbs or buying the powder by the pound and making your own supplement capsules, you’ll save a lot on your supplements. This is so much cheaper than buying prepacked capsules or tablets.
You’ll find videos on YouTube demonstrating how these packing capsule trays work. Only make sure to buy capsules of the right size for the tray you are using. Try investing in the 100 capsule tray, if you use supplements on a daily basis.