Ingredients for relaxation, improved mood, and better sleep are wide ranging, providing supplement makers with a wealth of options that include plant-derived, animal-derived, microbial, and mineral-based solutions. Botanicals appear to offer the greatest number of products for this category, and consumer demand for herbal and botanical supplements in general is holding strong, with the American Botanical Council’s HerbalGram journal reporting total U.S. retail sales of all herbal supplements at nearly $7 billion in 2015. From this same report, relaxation-related botanicals such as valerian root ranked among the top 40 best-selling herbal supplements in the U.S. mainstream multioutlet channel that year.
U.S. sales of valerian-root supplements reached about $6.2 million in the natural channel in 2015, a nearly 6% increase over the previous year, according to HerbalGram. Studies suggest that valerian is generally safe for use by most healthy adults for short periods of time, and “it has been shown to improve sleep in people with sleep problems,” states Michael Grandner, PhD, assistant professor of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Medicine, and director, Sleep & Health Research Program, University of Arizona College of Medicine. Indeed, a review of the existing scientific literature on valerian’s effectiveness for improved mood and sleep published in 2011 concluded that “there seems to be some evidence of the effectiveness of valerian for treating insomnia, which is limited by the quality of existing studies. Valerian root is well tolerated and safe, with infrequent and benign side effects.”(5) And an editorial published in the journal Menopause the same year maintains that valerian is also “safer than other sleeping pills. It does not impair morning reaction times, concentration, or coordination. Its most notable adverse effect is occasional mild headaches.”(6) (Valerian seems not to have attracted a lot of attention from the research community in the past five years or so, based on a review of the PubMed database.)
While evidence doesn’t yet fully support valerian’s use as a treatment for insomnia, the plant has “a long history of use in adults,” says Erin Stokes, ND, medical director at MegaFood, which markets Dream Release sleep formula. Its contemporary uses include those for anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, and menopause.
5. Taibi DM et al., “A systemic review of valerian as a sleep aid: safe but not effective,” Sleep Medicine Reviews, vol. 11, no. 3 (June 2007): 209-230
6. Regestein QR, “Is there anything special about valerian?” Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society, vol. 18, no. 9 (September 2011): 937-939
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