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Valerian Root for Anxiety and Adrenal Fatigue

Valerian root, anxiety, and Adrenal Fatigue. Natural remedies such as using valerian root for anxiety can smooth the recovery process.When done regularly and at the proper time of day, using valerian root for anxiety can have outstanding results for Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome sufferers. It is completely natural, has very few possible side effects, is easy to digest, and readily available for purchase over the counter. Before we look at how this root can help you, let’s discuss, exactly, what you are using it for.

What is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome?

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) is a state of fatigue that is brought on by stress. It can completely take over your life. Your fatigue is unmatched by any other you have experienced. You will constantly feel like you need a nap, coffee, or caffeinated soda. Sleep does not resolve your symptoms and stimulants do not help. AFS is a constant emotional battle because people do not understand what you are truly going through. It is not depression, it is not just missing a few hours of sleep, and it is not just poor nutrition. It is difficult to live with, and even harder to explain, so many suffer in silence to avoid unsolicited advice that just does not fit the syndrome.

Millions of sufferers seek help for AFS every year. In severe cases, you go through life barely able to function, have a hard time even getting out of bed in the morning, and you are literally so tired it hurts. As the syndrome progresses, and your adrenal gland function reduces, every organ in your body is affected. This makes it nearly impossible to participate in everyday life. Your body loses function at the cellular level. This impacts metabolism, cholesterol, electrolyte balance, and your cardiovascular system.

Boosting immunity and reducing stress can be helpful in preventing severe symptoms, but it is difficult to sleep and nearly impossible to completely eliminate stress. The presence of constant stress could be an indicator that your body is not producing the correct amounts of cortisol at the right times. Without your body’s natural ability to ward off stress, you can experience a stronger than usual fight or flight response.

There is no instant relief for AFS. You cannot just take a pill and go to work the next day. AFS is debilitating, depressing, and makes you feel hopeless. You are not just tired. Your body is shutting down and you are progressively incapacitated over the advancing stages.

As adrenal fatigue advances, sleep may be, and often is, a big issue. Cortisol levels can become imbalanced at night causing disruptive sleeping patterns such as difficulty falling asleep and frequent waking up. Cortisol is the body’s most important anti-stress hormone. It needs to be high during the day to help you get through work, but needs to be low at night in order for your body to relax and rest. If the cortisol level remains high at night, falling asleep will be difficult. If the cortisol is too low, epinephrine is released, as a compensatory response, and wakens you while you are sleeping. This is often accompanied with heart palpitation, a sense of hunger, and anxiety. Cortisol balance is a self-regulated event. In AFS, the self-regulation is not functioning well. Insomnia is a classic sign of this imbalance.

So where do you turn? There is a growing interest in homeopathic and herbal treatments for many ailments, including AFS. Could you balance your body from the inside with natural remedies? Many sufferers and therapists think there might be an answer in herbal supplements, particularly valerian root.

What is Valerian Root?

Valerian root contains many beneficial compounds to relax the body.Valerian Root is a very fragrant flowering plant, the root of which is used to create herbal remedies. Its use has been known since ancient Greece and Rome. Hippocrates referred to it, describing its medicinal properties. Considered a poor man’s drug in the 16th century, valerian root was boiled and added to licorice extract and other tinctures to relieve coughs, dizziness, plague, and insomnia. Valerian root includes a variety of physiological active compounds.

  • Alkaloids – These are neutral amino acid derivatives with strong physiologic activity (some examples are morphine, strychnine, quinine, ephedrine, and nicotine).
  • Isovaleramide – An anticonvulsant molecule isolated from Valeriana pavonii that inhibits the liver alcohol dehydrogenases.
  • Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) – This is an amino acid that inhibits nerve transmission in the brain.
  • Isovaleric acid – This is a fatty acid with anticonvulsant properties and strong, cheesy odor/taste.
  • Iridoids – These are secondary metaboloids commonly bound to glucose bearing anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Sequiterpenes – These are hydrocarbons with anti-inflammatory and tumor reduction properties.
  • Flavanones – These are aromatic ketones, promoting cardiovascular health, and supporting all elements necessary to the human body.

Today, you can easily find the medicinal root in capsule form, classified as a nutritional or dietary supplement. They are typically large capsules with a fairly strong odor, thanks to the isovaleric acid; so take with a full glass of water to wash it all down. The best method of delivery is to take fermented valerian root. Fermented herbs, in liquid form, have a higher bioavailability as many compounds found in the plant are broken down to micronutrients. Following fermentation, the herb is more easily assimilated and absorbed by the body.

Valerian Root and Adrenal Fatigue

It is vital to keep the central nervous system calm during adrenal fatigue. The autonomic nervous system, the central nervous system, and the gut, regulate the neuroaffective response system. Anxiety and difficulty falling asleep, or staying asleep, are common symptoms seen in the setting of adrenal fatigue. This is because your neuroaffective response system is not well balanced due to, among other factors, the cortisol imbalances mentioned above. As a result, the CNS is often times excited by norepinephrine and epinephrine. In order to counteract this, inhibitory neurotransmitters need to work in your CNS and calm the brain, and subsequently the body, down. GABA is an example of such a neurotransmitter.

Valerian root is thought to work by interacting with GABA receptors, the receptors responsible for interacting with Gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is known to inhibit the central nervous system. In short, valerian root naturally contains GABA and acts on the central nervous system to induce calm and balance, thus helping to normalize the neuroaffective response.

Valerian Root for Anxiety and Sleep

The same properties that make it beneficial to take valerian root for anxiety help to calm down the body and prepare it for a restful sleep.Because of the calming effect on the central nervous system, valerian root is known to help with insomnia. Since your adrenal glands are responsible for the production of the anti-stress hormone cortisol, and your cortisol levels are lowest while you are sleeping and highest first thing in the morning, it is imperative that your circadian rhythm is in balanced so your body can perform the necessary release of cortisone at the right times.

In fact, insufficient sleep is the major contributor to many ailments that come along with AFS. When you do not sleep properly or cannot calm your central nervous system long enough to get a solid night of sleep, your body will continue to weaken as it cannot find the time to repair itself and is constantly on the go 24/7. As this continues, adrenal fatigue will worsen and more advanced symptoms will start to present themselves.

Once you begin taking valerian root for anxiety and AFS, you may start feeling calm enough to sleep. After several days of getting good, hard REM sleep (deep enough to dream), your adrenal glands will be able to begin the production of the proper balance of hormones, and your body can start to heal.

The healing process starts with the body turning down the flight or fight response and putting out the proper amount of cortisol as needed. Cortisol controls your ability to handle stress, so it is one of the most vital hormones to have in check. The sedative properties of valerian root will aid in this production by calming the body down and allowing it time to heal and build up a nutritional reserve. As the body calms down and the neuroaffective response normalizes, the body begins to stabilize and become grounded. Mood and sleep disturbances will start to diminish as neurotransmitters and hormones in the body realign in the proper proportions.

Other Benefits of Valerian Root

Once you have solved the sleep issue with the use of valerian root, you may find additional collateral benefits as well.

Cravings often result from a stressed out body seeking to stock up on energy. Using valerian root for anxiety blunts stress and can reduce cravings.For example, when your body has a craving but does not receive the necessary balance of nutrition and hormones, you can become addicted to substitutes, such as carbs (for energy) and high fat foods (for hormones). As the body stabilizes, your cravings for these foods reduce. As your blood sugar becomes more balanced, your body strengthens. Valerian root also contains flavanonones as well as sequiterpenes. In adrenal fatigue, sequiterpenes can play an important role in reducing inflammation in your body. Inflammation is one of the body’s primary defense mechanisms and constantly needs to be regulated. The need to manage inflammation in your body is an ongoing battle and can be stressful for the body. In the setting of adrenal fatigue, it is vital to reduce stress as much as possible, whether from external sources or from within. Sequiterpenes help your body do that, thereby helping to fight adrenal fatigue. Flavanones are also great to keep your heart healthy during adrenal fatigue, when norepinephrine levels increase making your heart pump faster and harder.

Valerian Root Caution

Do not take valerian root with any other sleep, anti-anxiety, antidepressants, or pain relievers without first consulting your primary physician. Do not take valerian if you have to drive, operate machinery, or otherwise need to be alert. It is best to take valerian at night, close to bedtime, because of its mild sedative effect.

While using valerian root for anxiety can greatly improve your quality of life, there are side effects and possible drug interactions.Valerian root side effects can occur at high dosages and can commonly include upset stomach. Valerian does have tranquilizer-like properties, so you could experience dizziness or drowsiness as with a sedative. Adjust the time of your dosage if you are still drowsy when you wake up. Simply adjusting the dosage can reduce these common side effects. If you experience hives, swelling, wheezing, or blurred vision, please seek medical attention, as these are rare and require immediate attention.

Other side effects can include headache, dry mouth, difficulty concentrating, a feeling of uneasiness, and strange dreams as you return to the REM sleep you’ve likely been missing out on. A small percentage of people may experience paradoxical reactions when taking valerian root. Instead of calming the body down, using valerian root for anxiety can actually make you feel more wired and anxious. This is rare and typically a sign of a severely congested body, typical of adrenal fatigue sufferers. It is best not to take valerian root in these cases, and instead work on decongesting and detoxifying the body so that it will be able to better receive nutrients and supplementation in the future. Professional guidance is necessary to avoid worsening of clinical symptoms.

Side effects are relatively few with valerian root, especially in fermented form – much less than with conventional pharmaceuticals. Valerian root can be taken as needed, so there are no side effects noted from missing a dose, other than perhaps difficulty sleeping. What you can expect to gain from the use of the root is well worth the possibility of the few negative reactions.

Other Sleep Aids

Aside from valerian root, there are many alternative natural sleep aids available. Passionflower and hops are two other herbs that act synergistically with valerian root to calm the body and improve sleep. Chamomile has also been widely used as a remedy for sleeplessness along with valerian root.

Other sleep aids are worth consideration. Magnesium has an excellent calming effect on the body and serves not only to reduce anxiousness but helps with sleep as well. Melatonin has been around for a while and aids sleep by synchronizing the circadian rhythm. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce norepinephrine in the body, thereby decreasing stimulation, as well as enhancing melatonin production. 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, one of the major sleep neurotransmitters. Serotonin is precursor to melatonin.


The general calming effect of using valerian root for anxiety soothes many of the unpleasant symptoms of chronic stress and Adrenal Fatigue.Valerian root can be helpful in relieving your symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. It can calm your central nervous system, allowing you to relax. It has a sedative effect that can help you sleep and stay asleep longer, helping your body produce the proper balance of stress and thyroid hormones. With the proper balance of hormones, you are likely to feel more energetic, more capable of handling stress, and less depressed or “blue.” Your hair may return to its former thickness and your nails will be less brittle. Your skin may start to look healthier and not require constant moisturizer. When your body gets the deep sleep it needs for cell recovery, you may find that you get sick less often and/or have a shorter duration of illness, and are able to bounce back faster. You may find your clothes fit better because of the anti-inflammatory properties of valerian. Perhaps you will see better cardiovascular health as well.

So, is it worth it to try valerian root as a therapy for Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome? The known effects of the chemical makeup of the plant seem to point in all of the right directions. Studies confirm the positive results of its use. And, most importantly, users say they have found relief with the aid of valerian root.

© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

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