10 Valerian Oil Benefits We Bet You Never Knew

Valerian is a well-admired herb for treating insomnia. Besides an incredible history, not many are aware of the various valerian oil benefits and the kind of curative properties it offers. It was used for its medicinal properties from ancient Roman & Greek times. Its medicinal properties were mentioned by Hippocrates. (1)

Fact: During the second century, Galen prescribed valerian for insomnia. During World War II, valerian was used widely in England to alleviate stress. (2)

Let’s understand valerian oil in detail.

What is Valerian Oil?

valerian essential oil

Valerian essential oil is extracted from its roots through the process of CO2 extraction & hydro-distillation.

For obtaining the oil, they dry its roots at 50˚C for 52 hours or at room temperature for 10 days. The valerenic acid content does not change in both methods. The essential oil content varies with the harvest times, growing conditions, age of the roots, drying procedure, and extraction techniques.

The quantity of essential oil obtained is higher when from the plants that are grown in phosphate-rich soils and in higher elevations with dryer environment.

The essential oil content is higher in roots of 1-year-old plants compared to that of 2-year-old plants. Valerenic acid content and valepotriate contents also follow a similar pattern. Plants harvested in September have the maximum volatile oil content ranging from 1.2 % to 2.1 % while valepotriates are maximum in plants harvested in February to March.

About the plant:

Valerian holds a high place in Ayurveda. The ancient medical science says that these roots were especially used for treating problems related to sleep. However, it is also well known for its flavor and scent.

 The root or rhizome of the valerian plant is the most medicinally useful. It is grayish brown and is about the size of your finger joint. It bears many rootlets too.

While the fresh roots of valerian have no odor, the dried root smells unpleasant like old gym socks, due to the presence of a compound called isovaleric acid.

The plant is 50 to 150 cm tall, bears white or pink flowers, and has pinnate leaves. The stem is upright and has no branches. It is also useful as a border in perennial gardens. It grows in moist woodlands, low lying lands, damp sandy humus with lime fertilizer.

Scientific Name of Valerian Oil

 The botanical name of valerian is Valeriana officinalis L.

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History of Valerian Oil

Valeriana officinalis belongs to the genus Valeriana and is abundantly found in North America, Asia, and Europe. The term “Valerian” is derived from the Latin word “Valere,” which means healthy and strong.

The herb started gaining popularity in the 16th century in Europe for treating sleep disorders. In medieval Sweden, they sometimes placed valerian in the groom’s wedding clothes to ward off "envy" of the elves.

Fact: In France, every year, more than 50 tons of valerian is sold.

Valerian is usually used in combination with other sedative herbs such as Passion flower, St. John’s wort, chamomile, lemon balm, hawthorn berries, and hops. A few also combine it with melatonin.

After extensive research of over 15 years, in 1985, the German commission also approved valerian as a sleep aid. Today, it is recommended for restlessness and sleeping disorders.

 In the year 1998, valerian was the tenth most prevalent herbal remedy in the U.S.

Valerian was also popular as a perfume in the 16th century. During World War I, they used valerian to prevent and treat shell shock in frontline troops, and during World War II, they used valerian to calm civilians subjected to air raids.  

Valerian has many popular names, which include:

  • Indian valerian
  • Fragrant valerian
  • English valerian
  • Heliotrope
  • Setewale
  • Capon’s tail
  • Setwall
  • Cat’s love
  • Vandal root
  • Vermont valerian
  • Common valerian
  • Wild valerian

Color, Consistency, and Smell of Valerian Oil

  • The color of Valerian oil is yellowish green or yellowish brown.
  • The consistency of Valerian oil is a little thick.
  • The smell of Valerian oil is foul.

Note: Valerian oil is highly volatile, meaning that it can easily evaporate at normal temperatures.

Properties of Valerian Essential Oil

  • Tranquilizer - Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Sedative - Induces peaceful sleep
  • Antimicrobial - Fights harmful bacteria
  • Muscle relaxant - Relaxes your muscles
  • Antihypertensive - Reduces high blood pressure
  • Antineuralgic - Fights nerve diseases
  • Antiepileptic – Prevents and eases epilepsy
  • Anxiolytic - Relieves anxiety

Besides the above, the other noteworthy properties include:

  • Relieves headache
  • Eases PMS/ hormonal disturbances before periods
  • Flavoring agent
  • Fights behavioral problems
  • Boosts concentration
  • Slightly soluble in water

Chemical Compounds in Valerian Oil

The primary components found in valerian oil are:

  • Bornyl acetate
  • Valerenal
  • Kessyl alcohol
  • Kessyl acetate
  • Trepans
  • Aldehydes
  • Ketones
  • Esters
  • Alerenal
  • 15-acetoxy valeranone
  • Valerenic acid
  • Camphene
  • Valerenal
  • Α-humulene
  • Camphene
  • (-)-bornyl isovalerenate
  • (-)-bornyl isovalereneic acid
  • 2-hydroxy valerenic acid
  • 2-acetoxyvalerenic acid
  • Valerenone
  • Valerenol pacifigogiol
  • Didrovaletrate
  • Isovaleroxyhydroxydidrovaltrate
  • Valtrate
  • Isovaltrate
  • Acevaltarate
  • Valepotriate hydrines
  • 8, 11 desoxididrovaltrate
  • 8,11 desoxihomodidrovaltrate
  • Patrinoside
  • Valechlorine
  • Valerosidate
  • Baldrinal
  • Homobaldrina
  • Actinidine
  • Isovaleramide
  • Chologenic acid
  • 8-hydroxypinoresinol

health benefits of valerian oil

Health Benefits Of Valerian Oil

  • An effective sedative
  • Fights a spastic bowel
  • Soothes your head
  • Reduces high blood pressure
  • Eases PMS (Pre Menstrual Syndrome)
  • Wonderful muscle relaxant
  • Eases a nervous stomach
  • Stops heart palpitations
  • Treats neuralgia
  • Relieves fibromyalgia pain

Though valerian oil benefits are abundant, here are the few noteworthy ones proved by different researchers in recent times.

1. An effective sedative

Valerian oil improves your subjective feeling if you take it for 2 weeks. It is useful for treating the milder forms of occasional insomnia.

Insomnia is accompanied by loss of sleep. Insomniacs either sleep less or they feel they lack the quality sleep. When it happens for at least 3 days in a week and consistently over a period of three months, it is known as insomnia.

Valerian oil’s isolated compounds such as valerenic acid, valeranone, valerenal, and isoeugenyl isovalerate have sedative properties, according to a few studies conducted in mice.

Unlike other sleep aids, valerian is not addictive and does not cause morning grogginess.

During a study, the researchers administered 400-900 mg of valerian extracts daily to healthy subjects for a period of 2 -3 weeks. They reported the following:

  • Decreased sleep latency (Sleep latency is the time you take to fall asleep.)
  • Decreased nocturnal awakenings (The time when you wake up a few times at night.)
  • Improved the quality of sleep

Valerian needs at least 2 -3 weeks to show its effects but note that it is highly potent. Few lab studies state that the mechanism valerian works on GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid), one of the crucial brain neurotransmitters and on nerve chemical.

Valerian: 

  • Increases the release of GABA
  • Decreases the reuptake of GABA
  • Reduces GABA degradation
  • Opposes the action of GABA-receptor complex

These actions decrease the activity of CNS (Central Nervous System) and causes sedation. When studied, it was found that valerenic acid, one of the major components in valerian oil, helps in increasing the sleeping time in animals. (3)

2. Fights a spastic bowel

Valerian can fight a spastic bowel. The Greek physician, Dioscorides, prescribed valerian root to treat digestive problems, including spastic bowels. (4, 5, 6)

Spastic bowel is also known as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). It has symptoms such as cramps, pain in the abdomen, frequent motion or constipation, redness, swelling of the colon, and bleeding stools at times.

3. Soothes your head

Valerian oil soothes your head. The roots and rhizomes are known to contain essential oils stored in the hypodermis.

Valerian essential oil also fights stress headache. Stress headache is also known as a tension headache. It occurs as a result of stress, depression, anxiety, or injury, wherein the scalp and neck muscles contract. (7)

4. Reduces high blood pressure

Valerian root extracts help in reducing high blood pressure. During ancient times, valerian was well known for promoting diuresis (reducing excess water retention via passing urine). Thus, it used to normalize blood pressure.

They included valerian in their herbal remedies to also treat cardiovascular (heart disorders) and reduce the effects of stress and tension on your heart.

  • SBP (Systolic Blood Pressure) is the pressure with which your heart pumps oxygenated blood to your body parts.
  • DBP (Diastolic Blood Pressure) is the pressure at which the blood enters the heart.

The normal SBP/ DBP is 120/ 80 mmHg. Anything above this range signifies a high BP, which can be deadly. The good news is that valerian extracts can help you to normalize your BP. (8)

5. Eases PMS (Pre Menstrual Syndrome)

PMS (Pre Menstrual Syndrome) is a state before the periods when women experience physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms such as agitation, increased irritability, and emotional outbursts.

During a study conducted in 2013, 100 female students with PMS enrolled for it to assess the effects of valerian root extracts on PMS.

There were two groups - Study group and the Control group. The study group received 2 pills of valerian root extracts a day for the last 7 days of their menstrual cycle for 3 consecutive cycles.

The researchers used the following data collection:

  • Daily symptom severity questionnaire
  • A provisional diagnosis of premenstrual syndrome questionnaire
  • Demographic information questionnaire

Using several questionnaires, the researchers assessed the participants’ PMS symptoms before and during the three consecutive months of treatment. The researchers concluded that the participants, who had valerian root extracts had a significant improvement in their PMS symptoms. (9)

6. Wonderful muscle relaxant

Valerian essential oil is a well-known muscle relaxant. When valerian oil and its isolated compounds such as valerenic acid, valeranone, valerenal, and isoeugenyl isovalerate were analyzed, the researchers proved that together, they work as an effective muscle relaxant. (10, 11) 

7. Eases a nervous stomach

Valerian is well-known to treat a nervous stomach. In fact, it has been used for the same from olden days. The Greek physician, Dioscorides, prescribed valerian root to treat digestive problems such as nervous stomach. (12, 13, 14)

Nervous stomach is gas and nausea/ vomiting sensation, which is unrelated to the GIT (Gastro-Intestinal Tract) conditions. Usually, GIT problems such as hyperacidity or indigestion cause such symptoms.

8. Stops heart palpitations

Valerian essential oil can stop palpitations. The Greek physician, Dioscorides, recommended valerian root to treat myriad disorders including heart palpitations. (15, 16, 17)

Palpitation is when you feel that your heart is beating more rapidly than usual. It could be too hard beating, too fast beating, fluttering, or skipping a beat. You might feel these changes in your throat, neck, and chest. This could be due to alcohol, nicotine (smoking), caffeine (excess coffee), drugs, or stress.

9. Treats neuralgia

Valerian essential oil helps you to fight nerve diseases such as neuralgia. It is known to work well with wintergreen essential oil, which is a well-known external treatment for neuralgia too. (18)

Neuralgia is a sharp pain in the nerve path, which occurs due to damage or irritation of the nerve. In earlier days, the Greek doctors used valerian for tackling Epilepsy, a nerve disorder, which is accompanied by uncontrolled, rapid, and repetitive movements of one arm or one leg. (19, 20)

10. Relieves fibromyalgia pain

Valarian eases fibromyalgia pain. This has been proven by different studies. (21, 22, 23)

Fibromyalgia is a disease, which is accompanied by muscle stiffness, pain all over the body, and fatigue (or extreme tiredness). The sufferer has an increased sensitivity to pain and finds it difficult to sleep. Besides these, the patient also experiences memory problems and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).

What Blends With Valerian Oil?

Valerian oil goes well with:

How To Use Valerian Oil?

how to use valerian essential oil

Valerian essential oils may irritate a few people. Therefore, a patch test is worth it. Mix valerian oil with a carrier oil and apply a tiny portion of it with using a cotton swab. Apply on the inside of your forearm. Observe for 10 minutes. If you do not see any redness, swelling, or irritation, the oil is safe on you.  

Like any other essential oil, valerian oil is highly potent and should be used with proper guidance.

  • Good sleep: Add a few drops of valerian oil to 3 tablespoons of coconut oil and blend well. Massage your body with this mixture before bedtime to enhance your sleep. You can also add 4 drops of valerian essential oil and 2 drops of lavender oil to your warm bath water and let yourself soak for 30 minutes. This also promotes good sleep.
  • Pain & tiredness: Put a few drops of valerian oil in whirlpool baths to help reduce pain and enhance sleep if you have fibromyalgia.
  • Heal wounds: Mix 3-4 drops of valerian oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil, almond oil, or jojoba oil. Use this diluted mixture on your wounds, insect bites, and eczema (red & itchy skin) to quicken the healing process.

Note:

  • Do not use the oil if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, are on any medication, have any diseases, or a senior citizen.
  • Also, avoid the usage of oil in small children.
  • Always talk to your doctor before you start using this oil.
  • Do not use the oil internally.

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Side Effects Of Valerian Oil

Few of the common side effects of using valerian oil (if used in excess dose or for a prolonged time or ingested) are:

  • Day time drowsiness
  • Strange dreams
  • Feeling uneasy or not excited
  • Thinking problems
  • Headache
  • Upset stomach
  • Dry mouth
  • Skin irritation

If you experience any allergic reactions such as hives, swelling in your face/throat/lips/tongue, and difficulty in breathing, talk to your doctor immediately.

If you experience any liver problems such as itching, jaundice (yellowish skin and eyes), clay-colored stools, dark urine, tiredness, loss of appetite (lack of hunger), pain in the upper stomach, or vomiting sensation, contact a doctor immediately.

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