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Study Finds Potential in Valerian as a Natural Treatment for Insomnia

Tuesday, January 08, 2008 by: Paul Williamson
Tags: insomnia, valerian, health news

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(NewsTarget) A paper published in the scientific journal PLOS One on October 17, 2007 titled, 'A Televised, Web-Based Randomised Trial of an Herbal Remedy (Valerian)for Insomnia', documents test results of valerian (valeriana officinalis). Valerian, a common herb, has been used to treat insomnia and has been suggested as useful in treating anxiety and depression as well. The trial was a joint collaboration between the Norwegian Center for Health Services and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. The internet was the medium used to conduct the clinical trial.

The working definition of insomnia included difficulty falling asleep as well as remaining asleep. It included indication of daytime impairment as a result of difficulty with sleep. Many prior studies have shown that up to one third of a given population experiences difficulties with sleep and 9 to 21 per cent experience serious daytime impairment. Insomnia is associated with psychiatric problems but physical medical problems can be a cause as well.

Many who suffer from insomnia resort to herbal medications, and valerian has been used by many in Norway and other countries where it is generally available without a prescription. The Valerian is grown in North America, Asia and Europe. It is frequently combined with other herbal remedies when sold to consumers. It is a very commonly used herb.

The study, which took place in Norway, concluded that valerian was unlikely to reduce the time it takes to fall asleep but that it may have a small impact on the quality of sleep. Valerian is unlikely to ameliorate insomnia in all but a small percentage of people. Testing indicated that valerian was generally safe but, at best, affords modest benefits to those suffering from insomnia.

The American Academy of Family Physicians, in providing information about valerian, notes that in a prior study, involving 128 volunteers, the effects of valerian were evaluated with respect to sleep latency, sleep quality, sleepiness on awakening, night awakenings, and dream recall. Statistically significant improvement was observed for sleep latency and sleep quality but not for the other parameters.

The National Institutes of Health, a U.S. government agency, cautions that some people should not take valerian. They include women who are pregnant or nursing and who take valerian without medical advice. There is insufficient data on risk to fetuses, infants and children younger than three years of age. Also cautioned are those, whose use of valerian, could have cumulative sedative effects when taken with alcohol or sedative drugs like barbiturates and benzodiazepines.

About the author

Paul is a science freelance writer.

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