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.