Pregnancy Use

No restrictions are known; however, safety has not been well established in pregnancy. No significant negative effects have been reported in toxicological tests with animals and none reported in clinical studies (Upton 1999).

PRACTICE POINTS/PATIENT COUNSELLING

• There is good scientific evidence to support the use of valerian as a treatment for insomnia; however, it appears that ongoing use may be more effective than singledose use and effects on sleep progress over several weeks.

• It appears to be best suited to reducing sleep latency (i.e. time taken until falling asleep) and improves subjective assessments of sleep.

• There is no evidence of next-day somnolence or significant adverse effects.

• Valerian also relieves symptoms of stress and anxiety, with several studies observing effects similar to benzodiazepines; however, further research is required.

• Due to its pungent odour, solid-dose forms may be preferable.

ANSWERS TO PATIENTS' FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What will this herb do for me?

Valerian is classified as a mild, sedative herbal medicine. It can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep at night and may also relieve stress and anxiety during the day. When added to a bath, it may increase relaxation, wellbeing and reduce some forms of pain.

When will it start to work?

For some, it works within an hour of the first dose; however, research suggests it works best after several weeks of regular use. Are there any safety issues?

From the available evidence, next-day drowsiness is uncommon and physical addiction highly unlikely. Taking high doses during the day may increase drowsiness, so care is needed when driving a car or operating heavy machinery.

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