Choosing the best valerian supplements requires finding a tincture with low alcohol content or finding capsules or tea mixtures with no more than two additional herbs. It is customary to mix valerian with a wide variety of other herbs like passionflower and kava; these combinations often lead to serious side effects such as liver poisoning and interfere with prescribed medication. Also, valerian in liquid mixtures like tinctures can have alcohol percentage levels ranging from 10 percent to 90 percent; the high-alcohol tinctures, according to some medical studies, can induce bouts of nausea. Another factor to consider when choosing is whether the active ingredients include valerian extract or valerenic acid, which are highly concentrated and more beneficial than simple valerian root.
Alternately called vandal root and capon’s tail, valerian is often used in alternative medicine as a calming or sleep-inducing aid; high doses of valerian of nearly 3,000 mg are generally necessary for such an effect. Patients suffering from mania, stress, hyperactivity, and attention deficit disorder (ADD) may use valerian as a natural way to manage symptoms since it reportedly leads to better mental focus and emotional balance. A few reports suggest valerian supplements can mitigate some menopausal symptoms. Results are usually best for these conditions when the supplement is used daily for at least a month, allowing the herb to build up in the body.
Valerian supplements have also been credited with curing gastrointestinal problems and skin conditions, like wounds, acne, and rash. Some studies suggest valerian supplements can strengthen the cardiovascular system, prompting alternative medicine practitioners to recommend the ancient herb for hypertension and angina. Urinary tract disorders are also treated with this herb.
When used in dried root form for making tea or tonic, the standard daily dosage for valerian supplements is 3g. Liquid doses, including extracts and tinctures, range from 300 mg to 1,000 mg daily. Tablet and capsule forms are available, offering daily doses ranging from 200 mg to 2,000 mg of the herb. Herbalists typically advise against taking alcohol while using valerian, especially if an alcohol-laden tincture is used.
Side effects of valerian supplements can include dizziness and headaches for sensitive users. Hypothermia, irritability, and the inability to sleep may also be hazards after four months of consistent use. Halving daily doses can alleviate most of these side effects. Some users elect to quit using valerian supplements for two to three weeks to clear build-up in the body before restarting the herbal treatments. Occasionally, however, those who halt supplementation face new problems such as mental confusion and irregular heartbeats, which are symptoms of herbal withdrawal.