According to recent studies, Insomnia affects over one-third of adults. Sleep aids are big business, but many of them cause unwelcome side-effects, and some of them just don’t work for everyone. What if I told you that there is an all-natural alternative that is proven to work for most people without harmful side-effects?
Valerian root, Valeriana officinalis, also known as tobacco root, is a well known herbal supplement used to treat anxiety. However, at proper doses, it makes the user relaxed and drowsy while encouraging high-quality, uninterrupted sleep.
In fact, studies show that users get more relaxing and restorative sleep and wake up feeling energetic and ready to face the day. This is probably because valerian encourages REM sleep. REM sleep is the vital portion of sleep characterized by rapid eye movements. It is the portion of sleep where dreams happen and memories are written. The brain is processing the previous day and preparing the body for the next.
How Does Valerian Root Work?
Valerian root naturally increases the gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in the brain. Increasing GABA levels calms the body and encourages sustained sleep. Not only do they help you go to sleep, but they also help you sleep for longer periods without interruption. Some of the common prescription drugs for anxiety and insomnia also increase GABA levels in the brain.
How to Use Valerian Root for Insomnia
Valerian root is usually recommended at lower doses of 50 mg or more for anxiety. While higher doses are completely safe, they are undesirable for daytime use because they make the user too sleepy. However, 400 to 600 milligrams (mg) of valerian root used at bedtime is best for treating insomnia. Most users do not see any benefits for insomnia when taking less than 300 mg. Higher doses, 900 mg or more, can lead to a fuzzy, “hungover” feeling the next morning.
I prefer to use a 400 mg capsule for easy use, but you can also take 1 cup of valerian root tea made from brewing 2 to 3 grams of dried valerian root for 10 to 15 minutes. I’ll give you directions for making your own capsules below.
The root takes longer to work in some people, while others get almost instant results. General recommendations are to take the valerian root 30 minutes to two hours before bedtime. I would start by taking it 30 minutes before bed initially, then change the timing if needed. You should be home and winding down before you take it. Never take it before driving or doing any tasks that require your full attention.
The effects of valerian root seem to be cumulative. It works best when taken regularly and doesn’t achieve maximum effects for two weeks to a month, so don’t give up on it too quickly.
Is Valerian Root Safe?
Valerian root is “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS) according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, some users have reported minor side effects, including headaches, dizziness, stomach upsets, restlessness, and strange dreams.
You should not take valerian root if you are pregnant or nursing, 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 your doctor if you are taking prescription drugs or before taking it for long-term use.
Valerian root is a sedative, so please inform your doctor and anesthesiologist that you are taking valerian root before any surgery or anesthesia.
Growing Valerian Root
Valerian grows wild and is sometimes considered invasive, so it requires very little care to grow successfully. Some people have problems growing it from seed since the seeds need to be planted fresh and they are sometimes eaten by birds. The easiest way to grow valerian root is to start it from a root runner or root division. You probably have wild plants growing nearby. You can also order the plants online.
During the first growing year, the roots are small, and it is best to wait until fall to start harvesting. In the meantime, you can buy your valerian as pills, capsules, or a dried powder. The second year you can harvest roots in the spring and fall.
The plants grow to about 5 feet tall and 12 to 18 inches across, so take this into account when planning the space. The plants are hardy in zones 4 through 9 and can usually survive over winter. Give the plants a layer of organic mulch in the spring and fall and water them during periods of drought.
Harvest the root in the spring and fall by thinning the plants, leaving others to grow and spread. If you want to confine them to the allotted space, you should remove the flowering heads when the flowers begin to die. If they are left to produce seeds, the plants will spread rapidly.
Harvesting Your Valerian Root
During the summer before harvesting, cut off the flowering tops when they appear. This encourages the roots to grow rather than putting energy into seed development. In September or early October, cut off the top of the plants just above ground level and dig up the entire plant. Dig deeply to get all the roots.Wash them thoroughly, then slice the roots thinly into small sections and dry them on a dehydrator for future use. Depending on the humidity and the size of your slices they may take 12 to 24 hours or even more to dry. I store the dried pieces sealed in a jar in a cool cupboard. When I am ready to make capsules, I grind them into a fine powder in a coffee grinder that I use only for herbs.
Making Your Capsules
I pack the weighed dosage into a capsule and put the lid on it. If you are going to be making many capsules, you’ll want to invest in a capsule packing tray. There are several different varieties of these, and they really do make the job so much easier. They also save you money in the long term.
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 pre-packed capsules or tablets.
You’ll find videos on Youtube demonstrating how these capsule packing trays work. Just make sure you buy the right size capsules for the tray you are using. If you use supplements on a regular basis, consider investing in the 100 capsule tray.
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