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Valerian is an herb that people have used for centuries for sleep problems, migraines, fatigue, and stomach cramps. It comes from the root of the valerian plant, found in areas of North America, Europe, and Asia.

Valerian is available in many forms. These include valerian tea, dietary supplements, and liquid or powder extracts.

Why It Is Used

Some people use valerian for anxiety, depression, headaches, menopause symptoms, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), or sleep problems. But so far there isn't clear proof from science that taking valerian helps with these or other health problems.


Side effects from valerian are rare but can include mild headache or stomach upset, abnormal heartbeats, insomnia, and (less commonly) liver damage. If you are taking valerian, you shouldn't drink alcohol or take sedatives. You also should not take valerian if you will be driving or need to be alert.

The Natural and Non-Prescription Health Products Directorate (NNHPD), within the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada, regulates natural health products in Canada. Natural health products, including valerian, must be reviewed and approved by the NNHPD before they can be sold in Canada.

Always tell your doctor if you are using a natural health product or if you are thinking about combining a natural health product with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on a natural health product. This is especially important if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

When using natural health products, keep in mind the following:

  • Like conventional medicines, natural health products may cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions, or interact with prescription and non-prescription medicines or other natural health products you might be taking. A side effect or interaction with another medicine or natural health product may make other health conditions worse.
  • Natural health products may not be standardized in their manufacturing. This means that how well they work or any side effects they cause may differ among brands or even within different lots of the same brand. The form you buy in health food or grocery stores may not be the same as the form used in research.
  • The long-term effects of most natural health products, other than vitamins and minerals, are not known. Many natural health products are not used long-term.


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