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Why Should I Not Combine Valerian and Alcohol?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Valerian is an herb that has been in use for several millennia, and in modern times it is often a remedy for anxiety or sleeplessness. There is evidence that the herb is relatively effective and safe for most adults to take. Though this is an herbal remedy, certain precautions should be observed. Valerian and alcohol or any other sedatives should be not be combined because they can create too much sedation and potentially pose problems.

The main reason to avoid using valerian together with alcohol is that both of these drugs affect the central nervous system (CNS), and are called CNS depressants. A single CNS depressant in an appropriate dose is unlikely to create problems, but it will cause symptoms like sleepiness, slightly slower breathing, and general sedation. Combining valerian and alcohol means subjecting the body to two CNS depressants at the same time, and this can result in too much sedation. Concern exists that breathing can become seriously impaired under these circumstances, and enough of both substances used together poses a potentially small but real risk for death.

A similar caution to that issued for valerian and alcohol exists for virtually any sedative used with this herb. Medicines for sleep, drugs like benzodiazepines, most medications used in the treatment of depression, psychosis or mood disorders, and the majority of opioid pain relievers are best not combined with valerian. There are some fine distinctions here, since many people use a combination of psychiatric medicines and valerian together. Essentially the warnings are worded to suggest that valerian only be used under medical guidance with other CNS depressants or psychiatric medications, but that a combination can be appropriate at times.

In the case of valerian and alcohol, the warning is much stronger. It’s really advised people not combine these two substances, as they may pose an unnecessary risk to health. Risk increases with each substance that is added, so that if a person who regularly uses valerian and a benzodiazepine has a drink too, he or she is in greater danger of adverse effects. Essentially, it is simply better not to mix CNS depressants unless monitored by a doctor, and in these cases, doctors would not recommend valerian and alcohol or most combinations of alcohol and sedatives.

There are other reasons to avoid alcohol while using herbs like valerian. Consuming alcoholic beverages doesn’t assist insomnia and anxiety. Both of these conditions can worsen with regular alcohol use, and though initial consumption may seem to allay symptoms, over time alcohol use may create greater sleeplessness or more anxiety and depression. Using an herbal remedy or a medication prescribed by a doctor is generally more effective and lacks the pitfalls of alcohol use.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon982346 — On Dec 18, 2014

Yes, valerian works quite well, for sleep problems -- too well, sometimes. I wish the dangers were publicized better. Before I figured out that valerian was the culprit, I came close to falling into a coma several times! I awoke gasping for breath. The doctor even had me on an oxygen concentrator, yet I had an episode of dangerously low blood pressure/respiration during sleep while using the concentrator! Alcohol combined with valerian (I took only 500 mg., with some brandy) is very, very risky. Please, people, don't underestimate valerian. Remember that it accumulates in the body, so you shouldn't take it every night for weeks on end!

By anon971215 — On Sep 24, 2014

I took too many valerian pills. I was unaware of the side effects when taken with a large amount of alcohol. At some point, I woke up suddenly and thought the dream I saw was an alternate reality in which I'd like to live and ready to trade my current life for it.

Before that, I had a severe panic attack which had lasted for at least 24 hours. Afterward, I figured it to be some kind of psychotic and/or split personality phenomenon, being a total jerk to people I don't even know. I've had severe psychosis before, and this was the last time for such a combination.

By anon254344 — On Mar 12, 2012

Well I take valerian at fairly large doses (750mg three times daily, and beyond). I feel I started taking the herb this way to see if it really did anything. I can confirm that for me, Valerian has significantly reduced me anxiety levels by removing the "live streak" of anxiety that I feel in my body (just my way of describing it).

Valerian root has also improved my sleep. I feel that my sleep is deeper and that I'm awakening more refreshed and with more energy. Of course there is substantiation behind valerian root. It's been used for millennia; it's just that people these days rely on quick and trialled fixes from doctors. My advice would be not to underestimate the power of a valerian root preparation, especially when combining it with alcohol!

By fLEXI — On Apr 14, 2011

@thetiger - I agree. A large problem is that a lot of people who take valerian root regularly have depression or anxiety problems, which is why it’s so helpful. But people with these kinds of mental illnesses can also be much more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs, so there is a much higher chance that the complications mentioned in the article will arise.

It's kind of scary when you think about the fact that valerian interactions aren’t really well known. For the relatively small part of the population that has had bad experiences with these situations, this kind of information should be more available!

By TheTiger — On Apr 12, 2011

Valerian root is commonly called “nature’s valium”!

I’m pretty sure it’s relatively harmless at lower doses, but higher doses of it can affect a person a lot more. I knew someone who would drink tea with valerian for depression. It helped him a lot, but he started taking a lot more of it and it started to mess with his health. I think anything like Valerian needs to be taken in moderation, but when it’s something herbal a lot of people don’t realize how strong it can be. It’s especially scary that, when taken with alcohol, it can be so dangerous.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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