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Medically reviewed on Jun 25, 2018

What is Valerian?

Members of the genus Valeriana are perennial herbs widely distributed in the temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. Of the approximately 200 known species, the Eurasian V. officinalis is the species most often cultivated for medicinal use. The dried rhizome has a distinctive, unpleasant odor. The hollow stemmed plant can grow up to 2 m and is branched at the terminal end with opposite leaves and small white or pink flowers. Fruits are oblong, 4-ridged, and single seeded.

Scientific Name(s)

Valeriana officinalis L. Family: Valerianaceae. A number of other species have been used medicinally, including V. wallichi, V. sambucifolia Mik., and the related Centranthus ruber L.

Common Name(s)

Valerian also is known as baldrian, cat's love, cat's valerian, garden heliotrope, garden valerian, kesso root, radix valerianae, St. George's herb, valerian fragrant, valerian, vandal root.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Despite its odor, valerian was considered a perfume in 16th century Europe. The tincture has been used for its sedative properties for centuries. It is still widely used in France, Germany, and Switzerland as a sleep aid.

General uses

The evidence to support the common use of valerian in insomnia remains weak. However, as valerian preparations seem to have a wide margin of safety, further trials for insomnia and anxiety may be warranted.

What is the recommended dosage?


Valeprotriates 150 mg/day in 3 divided doses for 4 weeks has been used in a clinical trial. Other trials used the dried herb 0.5 to 2 g, extract 0.5 to 2 mL, and valerian tincture 2 to 4 mL for anxiety.


Valerian extract 400 to 600 mg/day taken 1 hour before bedtime for 2 to 4 weeks has been used in clinical trials. Single-dose studies have consistently found no effect for single doses of valerian in insomnia.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Side Effects

In general, clinical studies have found valerian to have a wide margin of safety, be devoid of adverse effects, and have fewer adverse reactions than positive control drugs, such as Valium. Headache and diarrhea have been reported in clinical trials, but hangover is seldom reported.


Valerian has been classified as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) in the US for food use; extracts and the root oil are used as flavorings in foods and beverages. The observed toxicity of valepotriate compounds to cells may not be relevant to human use because of limited absorption.


1. Valerian. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons Online. March 2010. Accessed April 20, 2010.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.