Valerian Tea Benefits and Side Effects

Valerian Root Tea May Help You Sleep

'Valerian tea, Valeriana officinalis'
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Valerian tea is an herbal beverage made from the roots and underground stems of the valerian plant. Possible benefits of drinking the tea include improved sleep, decreased stress, menstrual symptom relief, and even a reduction of menopausal symptoms. But not all valerian tea benefits are supported by strong scientific evidence. 

What Is Valerian Tea?

Although commercially sold valerian tea products may contain a range of different herbs, the primary ingredient is usually valerian. The valerian plant (Valeriana officinalis) grows in North and South America but is native to Europe and China. The plant is famous for its distinct smell that many describe as similar to dirty socks. 

Valerian is often called a magic sleep potion and according to some reports is the number one non-prescription sedative in Europe. But not everyone consumes valerian in tea form. Some consumers buy the product in pill or capsule form.

Many describe the taste of valerian tea as woodsy. The plant grows well in moist, grassy areas so the tea has an earthy quality that is distinctive. The longer you brew valerian tea, the more intense the taste will be. 

How to Prepare Valerian Tea

Valerian root tea—or valerian tea—is sold most often in tea bag form, but you can also find some vendors that sell the loose leaf variety. You prepare this herbal tea as you would prepare most traditional teas. 

5 Steps to Prepare Valerian Tea

  • Place a valerian tea bag or a tea infuser containing about one tablespoon of loose tea leaves in a teacup. You can also simply place loose tea leaves at the bottom of a cup.
  • Heat water to 90-95º Celsius or 194-205º Fahrenheit. If you don't have a temperature-controlled teapot, bring water to a boil and then let sit for a minute to reduce the temperature just slightly. 
  • Pour eight ounces of water over the tea bag, infuser, or tea leaves.
  • Let tea leaves steep for as long as desired. Some drinkers prefer a lighter tea, so a two-minute steep is sufficient. A 3-5 minute steep will brew a stronger cup of tea that provides more intense effects
  • Remove the tea bag or infuser or strain loose leaves from the cup before drinking

Tea experts often recommend that you combine valerian tea with other ingredients to "soften" the taste. You may want to add milk or honey to sweeten the flavor. Some people also add mint or chamomile, but since those teas may also provide a calming effect, you may want to be cautious about blending them.

Valerian Tea Health Benefits

The most widely acknowledged benefit of valerian tea is its sleep enhancing properties. According to the Therapeutic Research Center Natural Medicine database, some evidence shows that taking valerian can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and may also improve sleep quality. But most studies are done on valerian in pill or capsule form, not specifically on tea which is likely to provide a lower concentration of valerian. 

Some believe that valerian tea may decrease anxiety or psychological stress, but scientific studies have not provided consistent evidence to support this benefit.

Limited lab studies have shown that valerian may help relieve menstrual cramps and two studies have shown that valerian may improve hot flashes and insomnia in postmenopausal women, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. 

Valerian Tea Side Effects

Since valerian tea has sedative properties, it is not smart to combine this drink with alcoholic beverages or with other pills or medications that promote sleep or muscle relaxation. 

In some people, valerian can cause side effects including headache, stomach problems, fogginess, uneasiness, heart disturbances, and even insomnia. If you take valerian to sleep, it is possible that you will feel sluggish the next day.

You should not drink valerian tea or take valerian if you are taking a medication used to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures, or other psychiatric disorders. Valerian may interfere with these or other drugs, so it is always important to talk to your doctor before using this or any herbal treatment.

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