What are the effects of valerian root tea on anxiety and nerves?
As my more learned co-authors and I documented in The Complete German Commission E Monographs, valerian extracts can relieve anxiety and depression without the side effects of sleepiness, drowsiness, or muscle weakness. Scientists have learned that compounds in valerian interact with an enzyme called glutamic acid decarboxylase in ways that in turn maintain GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain (as do extracts from chamomile and gotu kola).
And in Norway, a unique televised clinical study confirmed that valerian relieves insomnia.
Scientists recruited 405 volunteers through a national health program that airs weekly in Norway. These Norwegians aged 18 to 75 who had a history of insomnia took either valerian or a placebo for two weeks.
The results of the trial weren't spectacular, but they were positive. The study found that valerian was "modestly beneficial" in helping its users sleep through the night without waking up, sleeping longer, and feeling rested after sleep. There were no reports of side effects.
For treating insomnia, something "modestly beneficial" is probably what you want. You want to feel better through the day, not to sleep so much you don't feel like getting up.
So, does this mean you should take a valerian tea for anxiety and "nerves"?
The ancients referred to valerian by the name phu. The problem with valerian teas is, they are smelly. Valerian can sweetish or spicy, but the tea is an acquired taste. If you want to use valerian, brew a teaspoon (2-3 g) of the herb in a cup (240 ml) of hot (but not boiling) water in a teapot two to four times a day.
Most people find it easier to take a herbal extract, usually in a capsule. Most "valerian" products, however, combine valerian with chamomile, lemon balm, or gotu kola. All these herbs have similar actions, but you may have a different experience from drinking the tea.
Oxman AD, Flottorp S, Håvelsrud K, Fretheim A, Odgaard-Jensen J, Austvoll-Dahlgren A, Carling C, Pallesen S, Bjorvatn B. A televised, web-based randomised trial of an herbal remedy (valerian) for insomnia. PLoS ONE. 2007 Oct 17;2(10):e1040.