Sunday, March 15, 2009

Catch Some Natural Zzzzs with Valerian Root

Most people have woken up to droopy eyes, a drowsy head, and/or a foggy brain only to spot the clock and realize that there is no more time for sleep and a headache-inducing busy morning ahead. Tossing and turning in your sleep or waking up repeatedly can be related to many factors: a poor or uncomfortable mattress, sinus or other breathing problems, a state of inebriation, stress, and poor bedtime habits. With any type of insomnia, no matter what the cause, a person enduring restless sleep at any time cannot fully enjoy the following day because of their sleep-deprived state. While there are many over-the-counter remedies for insomnia, from pills and teas, to syrups and oils, a popular natural sleep aid is called valerian root.

Valerian root, known scientifically as valeriana officinalis, is a perennial plant with flowering blooms of pink or white flowers with a pleasant sweet scent. Simply called valerian—native to regions of Europe and Asia—it was used as a perfume in the sixteenth century. The pharmaceutical-grade type of valerian is not found in the stalk, leaves, or flowers but only culled from the roots of the plant. It is often found as a dietary supplement in capsules, tablets, and liquid extract form in order to help in natural calming and sedation techniques.

Meaning “to be strong or healthy,” valerian comes from the Latin word valere, which many historians think can refer to either the healthy advantages it gives or simply just for its strong odor. According to folk lore, valerian was thought to turn everything painful into good, and it has also been used for medicinal treatment since ancient Roman and Greek times.

Traditionally used to ease gastrointestinal pain and irritable bowel syndrome, the root is primarily sold as a nutritional and dietary supplement in the United States. Valerian has been used for treating sleeping disorders and anxiety, restlessness and even taken as an organic muscle relaxer. Some studies have shown valerian has a better effect over a long period of time if used regularly but some users have claimed success as an immediate relief substance, although there is no scientific evidence to support such effects.

Science says that valerian root breaks down into isovaleric acid that triggers a relaxation agent throughout your central nervous system creating the ability to relax enough to sleep through the night. Double-blind studies show that valerian root’s effects as a sedative and has been prescribed by naturalists for tension headaches as well as mild insomnia. Released a few years ago, a natural supplement advertised to help you relax is called Sleepasil containing the three main organic ingredients of melatonin, chamomile, and valerian root and is approved for persons over the age of 12, with a dosage of one to two capsules half an hour before bedtime.

In support of valerian is the fact that the root has very few side effects. Valerian does not cause the user to become sluggish the following day and cannot become addictive unlike certain anti-anxiety medications and sleeping pills which can be dangerously addictive and have shown reports of destructive behavior as a result of over usage. However, physicians recommend that you see your healthcare provider before adding any new medications to your schedule and to please follow the instructions carefully in terms of dosage.

Whether or not you wake up and stay awake for long periods of time during the night, or if you are just moving around a lot and waking your body up, a good night’s sleep is your best defense against stress, colds, and the flu, and improves your sanity in order to function your best. However you choose to erase your sleeping problems, don’t forget to turn out the light and don’t let the bed bugs bite.

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