Coastal Natural Health: Valerian and Insomnia - An effective and non-addictive therapy

Coastal Natural Health: Valerian and Insomnia - An effective and non-addictive therapy

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Valerian and Insomnia - An effective and non-addictive therapy

“Relief for Insomnia”: Valerian effective following benzodiazepine withdrawal

Use of benzodiazepine medications for sleep disorders has become more and more common, and is implicated in a long list of side effects and difficult withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepines are often found under the following names, Xanax (Alprazolam), Valium (Diazepam), Ativan, Alzapam (Lorazepam), Halcion (Triazolam), Klonopin (Clonazepam), and Restoril, among others. Patients often find it very difficult to withdraw from these medications and at the same time long-term medication with these drugs is often discouraged due to the addictive nature of the drugs and the accompanying side effects. Therefore this study should be of great interest to people suffering from sleep disturbance who want to avoid the potential side effects of benzodiazepine medications.

This was a placebo-controlled study of 19 patients who complained of poor sleep, marked by reports of frequent waking, despite chronic benzodiazepine use. Subjects were taken off their benzodiazepine medications for about 2 weeks prior to beginning Valerian 100 mg tid or placebo. The fifteen days of treatment with Valerian improved subjective sleep quality, without affecting sleep onset.

Poyares DR, Guilleminault C, Ohayon MM, Tufik S. “Can valerian improve the sleep of insomniacs after benzodiazepine withdrawal?” Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 2002; 26(3): 539-545.

Editor’s Note: The study was done in Brazil using a standardized dry root extract of Valeriana walichii. This extract contained 80% didrovalerate, 15% valtrate and 5% acelvaltrate. [Valerian has dozens of compounds, known as valerenic acids, and many are considered actives, so a standardized extract must maintain a complete extract quality to protect all “actives” in the root.] Although this study used 100 mg tid, due to the short 2-week duration, it offers little insight regarding appropriate long-term dosages. However, this study adds to the total body of research on standardized Valerian extracts and the significant beneficial effect they have on sleep quality. The real service the researchers provided was to demonstrate the effectiveness of valerian root extract for people who had unrelenting insomnia and had been on Benzodiazepine medication for no less than 2.5 years. This is a tough patient base to treat, and the fact that valerian had a positive effect is impressive.

The product used in this study is currently unavailable in the U.S. However, European research conducted in 1996, utilizing a standardized valerian/melissa extract from Willmar Schwabe of Germany, noted similar effects in significantly improving sleep quality, but not sleep onset.

Dressing H, Köhler S, Müller WE. “Improvement of sleep quality with a high-dose valerian/lemon balm preparation: A placebo-controlled double-blind study.” Psychopharmakotherapie 1996; 6:32–40.

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Dr. Richard Maurer is a naturopathic doctor, he specializes in natural therapies for metabolic conditions including type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes and thyroid conditions. Through effective diagnosis and treatment; he helps people reverse the metabolic condition behind weight problems, migraines, cholesterol and other heart disease risks.  In kids, issues of growth and development like ADD and autistic spectrum disorder can be caused by reversible metabolic problems.  Dr. Maurer writes about his dietary guidelines at and has established the new Dr. Maurer earned his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in 1994. Dr. Maurer also holds a Bachelor''s in Music and pre-med from Temple University in Philadelphia. He supervises medical residents for the Maine Medical Center CAM residency/fellowship and he is adjunct faculty at University of Southern Maine.

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