Valerian tea, made from the roots of the valerian plant, is popularly used for various medicinal purposes. Its sleep inducing property makes it to be referred to as ‘nature’s Valium’. Both the fresh and dried roots are used for making the tea with the latter having a pungent odor. This herb has been listed in the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) category by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
History and origin
This plant being found in Asia, Europe and North America, was extensively used by the Romans, Indians, Greeks and Chinese as a mild sedative for thousands of years. Hippocrates described its therapeutic property whereas, the Greek surgeon Galen, prescribed this herb for insomnia in the 2nd century. During the seventeenth century it gained popularity in Europe.
Possible health benefits of valerian tea
Aids in sleeping: Several clinical studies have found mild hypnotic and sedative properties of valerian root tea, thereby making it beneficial in combating insomnia, helping to get a good night’s sleep. It is often more effective than other drugs taken for sleep as it comes without any side effects like morning drowsiness or sluggishness. According to researches, 44% people confirmed of getting better sleep after consuming this herbal tea.
Aids in digestion: This root tea is effective for treating stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, intestinal colic and other disorders of the digestive system. Its anti-carminative property helps in controlling flatulence, also preventing gas formation in the gastrointestinal tract.
Relieves anxiety and stress: Researches have confirmed that the anti-anxiety property inherent in valerian is a result of its interaction with a neurotransmitter present in the brain. This gives the herb mild benzodiazepine-like properties. Tea or any other decoction of valerian is effective in treating nervous disorder symptoms like excitability, irritability, hysteria, tension and panic attacks (e.g. epilepsy). This herb acts as an effective anti-depressant, thereby often being preferred over pills like xanax, zoloft and citalopram.
Effective for menstrual symptoms: It has been seen in many studies that the decoction or tea of valerian facilitates in treating dysmenorrhea, relieving pain and cramps during menstruation.
Helps in weight loss: Owing to its diuretic property, valerian tea, as well as its other forms (capsule, liquid extract), may help in shedding the extra calories, though there is no concrete evidence regarding the same.
Reduces high blood pressure: The presence of valerenic acid increases the gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) levels, thereby reducing blood pressure. Its stress reducing and sleep regulating property also has an indirect effect on high BP levels.
Relief from muscle cramps: Its antispasmodic properties help it to reduce muscle cramps and relieve pain.
How to make valerian root tea
Unlike most herbal teas, it is recommended to avoid using boiling water for making this tea to preserve its beneficial essential oil content.
- Take about 170 ml of warm water heated to about 85 °F.
- Add one level teaspoon of fresh or dried valerian root.
- Allow it to steep for 10 minutes.
- Strain the mixture.
- Honey, milk, lemon or any other sweetener may be used to add taste to the otherwise bitter tasting tea. Addition of mint can enhance the flavor.
Valerian tea safety and precautions
Consumption during pregnancy
Pregnant women are recommended not to drink the tea as it may be harmful for the fetus. Nursing or breastfeeding mothers should also avoid its consumption.
Probable side effects
It is advised not to drink the tea for more than two weeks at a stretch as over-consumption may result in vivid dreams, nightmares, headaches, dizziness, blurry eyesight, restlessness, nausea, hallucination and palpitation. It is also recommended to take the tea (or any other decoction) at least 1 to 2 hours before bedtime.
Though valerian’s effect in causing liver damage has not been proven, people with liver ailments should avoid its consumption. It is also considered unsafe for children.
Where to buy valerian tea
This herbal tea may be purchased from any herbal or health store selling medicinal tea, while it is available online as well. Valerian green tea bags made from green tea and valerian roots may also be purchased.
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