I Tried Valerian Root To Help Me Sleep for a Week—Here’s What Happened
When melatonin, ear plugs, and a weighted blanket didn't help this health reporter who sometimes struggles to fall asleep, she sipped valerian root tea before bed—and says she's "blown away" with the results.
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When you live in the city that never sleeps, it sort of feels like you really never do get a good night’s rest. With so much noise from honking horns, sirens, and late-night New York City energy in general, I sometimes find it difficult to get a quality night of sleep. Sure, I’ve lived in cities for more than 10 years, and I definitely would say I have a tolerance for noise compared to the average person. But as I’ve gotten older, my ability to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep has slowly diminished, so I find myself experimenting with different solutions. I’ve tried melatonin supplements, ear plugs and eye masks and weighted blankets. I even ditch all my screens at least an hour before bed. While some of these practices have helped, today I’m here to report that nothing has quite worked quite as well as valerian root.
Valerian root is a perennial flowering plant that is typically dried out and used in teas, tinctures, capsules, or tablets. According to the Sleep Foundation, valerian root has been used for centuries as a solution for migraine, tiredness, stomach cramps and insomnia. It has also been linked with improved anxiety symptoms, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopause, depression, and headaches.
I’d honestly never heard of this sleep aid until recently, when I was presented with a chance to sample valerian root tea. I’m a big tea drinker who loves to wind down with herbal tea, typically something with chamomile to calm me. Chamomile tends to help, but often not on days when I’ve got too much on my mind to feel drowsy. So when I received the offer to try valerian root tea, I was skeptical—but still curious enough to give it a go.
How I felt after a week of drinking valerian root tea
When it’s time to wind down for the night, I typically power down my devices, get into my pajamas, and brew a cup of tea to sip while I read a book. As I went through the motions of winding down for the night, I brewed a cup of Valerian Dream by Luxmi Estates. In addition to valerian root, this tea is made with all-natural ingredients that include chamomile, licorice, rose petals, peppermint, and lavender. I’d heard that valerian root often doesn’t have the loveliest smell—but I found that combined with all of these other herbs and flowers, this particular tea is quite pleasant to smell and sip.
Twenty minutes into tea time and reading, I noticed that I started to feel sleepy. My eyes were drooping, my body was relaxed, and I felt ready to hit the hay. I closed my book and shuffled my way over to the bed, tucked myself in, and instantly fell into a luxurious, deep sleep.
When I woke the next morning I felt elated. I’d had fantastic sleep, I felt well rested, and I wasn’t groggy as I slipped out of bed. I moved through the day with a lot more energy, and wondered if my little nighttime tea and my restful night of sleep were to thank for my energy. So the next night, I tried it again. And the night after, again.
In the end, I experienced a week of excellent sleep. The tea helped get my body relaxed and ready to tuck in, and I woke up each morning feeling well-rested and ready to take on the day.
Still, as a health writer who likes to do my due diligence, I was curious whether drinking valerian root tea each night was safe. The tea I chose is an herbal concoction of a lot of different ingredients and not exactly a straight tincture or supplement…even so, I wondered if my new routine would benefit me long-term. I decided to ask a specialist.
A sleep doctor’s take on using valerian root for sleep
Chester Wu, MD, a double-board certified in psychiatry and sleep medicine and Rise Science medical reviewer, says that while I may experience restful sleep by drinking a valerian root tea, the science behind this particular herbal supplement is very much still in the air.
“Valerian root comes from the valerian plant, so it’s often marketed as a natural option that’s safer than synthetic sleeping pills,” says Dr. Wu. “While it’s been used for centuries to help lull people to sleep, there’s not a lot of evidence it’s actually effective.”
Dr. Wu explains how valerian root has been linked to some side effects including headaches, daytime drowsiness, vivid dreams, stomach upset, heart palpitations, brain fog, anxiety and itchy skin.
He also points to a 2006 meta-analysis of over 300 articles and 16 controlled trials in The American Journal of Medicine, which concluded that while valerian root has been linked to improved sleep quality, the methodology behind these studies isn’t strong enough to make firm conclusions. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine likewise suggests there is low certainty on whether the use of sleep aids—like melatonin supplements, valerian root, or diphenhydramine—can treat sleep problems and insomnia.
Dr. Wu adds that the long-term effects of valerian root on sleep are still unknown. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, research suggests that valerian root is generally safe when evaluating 28-day studies, but the long-term effects are still up in the air. Turns out, the same goes for chamomile tea as a sleep aid, as well as melatonin supplements. Long-term effects have yet to be determined.
I personally am not dealing with a diagnosed case of insomnia, and I’m not turning to valerian root tea as a medical solution but rather as an over-the-counter sleep aid that—based on what I’d researched about it— seemed to be worth a try. And after my week-long experiment with drinking valerian root tea, I don’t feel the need to have it every night. I do find this particular herbal blend soothing when I want to wind down. But like any supplement that is used, I’m not turning to it as a solution for my problems—just an added benefit to my typical routine.
If you’re curious to try it for yourself, more than 7,000 Amazon shoppers have rated Numi Sweet Slumber valerian root tea with an average rating of nearly five stars. The brand reports that the tea is Fair Trade Certified organic, and that the “potent” valerian root blend also contains chamomile, lavender and licorice root for a soothing and enjoyable taste and aroma.