Valerian Root is The Best Nootropic for Anxiety
Valerian Root, with the scientific name Valeriana Officinalis, is a medicinal herb commonly used for sleep disorders.  Valerian produces a sedative effect on the brain and nervous system. It has been in use since the times of ancient Greece.  This plant is native to North America, Europe, and Asia, but is now being grown all over the world for its anxiolytic effects.
This plant continues to be studied for its effects on sleep and is included in the pharmacopoeias in various countries. Pharmacopoeias are official guides on accepted medications and includes their indications and directions for use.
The plant itself is an herb, and the medicine used for treatment is extracted from the root of the plant. Preparations may be made as well from rhizomes, or the underground stem, and the stolons, or the horizontal stems. Dried roots can be made into teas, or tinctures. The dried plant and extracts are often made into tablets or placed in capsules.
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Why is Valerian Root the Best Nootropic for Sleep?
Valerian is often combined with other herbs that increase relaxation and reduce anxiety to produce a synergistic effect. The active nutrients from valerian are often used in place of sleeping pills and can also help those taper off of their addiction to sleeping medications.
Aside from helping those with sleeping disorders, valerian has also been found to be quite effective against anxiety, and even psychological stress. Although there are other various uses for Valerian, we will focus primarily on its effects on sleep, and anxiety. We cover how it’s able to help you sleep better, and control your anxiety.
For starters though, it's best to understand your sleep cycle...5 Stages of Sleep: An In Depth Look Into Your Sleep Cycle
Improving Sleep Quality with Valerian Root
Galen, a Grecian doctor in the Roman Empire, used valerian in treating insomnia. During the 16th century, this plant was used for addressing nervousness, trembling, headaches, and palpitations.
The effect of valerian on insomnia was of particular interest in a systematic reviews and meta-analysis studies done in 2006. An estimated 1/3 of adults are suffering from insomnia and potential treatments are of some significance. The evidence found showed that the use of valerian has a statistically significant benefit in terms of improving sleep quality. The available evidence they were able to determine out of the studies suggests that valerian can improve the quality of sleep of the users of valerian, without producing negative side effects. 
Whereas the side effects for Ambien(zolpidem) used primarily for sleep, and Xanax(alprazolam) for anxiety and sleep, are abundant. These drugs are in the class of hypnotic or soporific drugs and are considered psychoactive. In many cases they can cause extreme hallucinations, sleepwalking, heart palpitations, dizziness, weakness and even feeling drugged.
In another study in 2010, valerian has been found to be effective in subjectively improving insomnia.  They do state however that they were not able to quantitatively or objectively measure this effectiveness. Another study has shown that there is no conclusive evidence, to support the claim that valerian could improve sleep as measured by a quantifying tool in cancer patients; however, their analysis has led to the conclusion that valerian has an outcome that improves fatigue, and has suggested that physiologic effects of the use of this plant should be studied further. 
In children with intellectual deficits, valerian was found to produce significant reductions in sleep latencies and nocturnal time awake. It was also able to lengthen the total sleep time of those who took valerian, and sleep quality was also found to have been improved. These findings suggest that this herb is useful in the safe and effective long-term treatment of intractable sleep difficulties in children with intellectual deficits, and is a prominent subject for future investigations.
Valerian Root For Anxiety Disorders
Aside from valerian’s effect on sleep disorders, another condition treated with valerian is of particular interest – anxiety.
One study looked into how effective valerian is in reducing the severity of anxiety in women undergoing hysterosalpingography, which is an imaging evaluation of the uterus and fallopian tube cavities, which can be a stressful and painful procedure to undergo. The study found out that treatment with valerian resulted in a significant decrease in anxiety severity after treatment and was effective in reducing anxiety. 
One study looked into the effect of valepotriates, which is a valerian herb extract, and was able to obtain preliminary data that suggests the effectiveness of valerian extract is linked to its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects on the psychic symptoms of anxiety. 
How Does Valerian Extract Decrease Anxiety?
Two compounds within valerian root have been proposed to produce positive effects; valerenic acid, and iridoids.
The compound in valerian extract that produces the anxiolytic effect is valerenic acid. Valerian extracts allosterically modulate receptors for Gamma aminobutyric acid-A, or GABA, which induces anxiolytic activity. 
Iridoids, which include valepotriates and their derivatives were shown to have sedative effects when introduced to the body. There may be other compounds within the extract that produce these effects. These compounds are acting on their own or have synergistic effects among one another. 
The mechanism to which valerian extract is so effective is by increasing GABA. Valerian extract compounds cause this brain compound to be released from storages within the nerve endings and then block the compound from returning to the storage areas after it has been released. The return of these compounds back to nerve endings is a regulating mechanism by this signaling chemical compound. By increasing the release, and preventing its return, concentration outside the nerve endings increases the effect and prolongs the signal GABA makes. In addition to that, the valerian extract components prevent degrading enzymes from breaking down GABA. GABA, in turn, produces the calming effects we have come to expect from valerian root extracts.
Stacking With Valerian Root
Stacking is done by combining compounds to produce a synergistic effect by producing the same potent effect or to increase the effect of the primary compound while the added compounds multiply or increase the primary compound’s effects. An example of this is using valerian root as a base and adding to supplemental tablets or capsules extracts or other well-known compounds with the same effect. Some supplements combine compounds used for treating sleep and anxiety disorders to produce a compounded or multiplied effect. For instance Momental Mend combines valerian root with huperzine a, mg glycinate, 5-HTP, vitamin B6, zinc picolinate, and phenibut to round out a complete synergistic stress and anxiety reducer as well as a natural sleep aid.
Other calming herbs identified to have combined with valerian root extract are passionflower, hops, lemon balm, skullcap, and kava; all of which mask the sharp odor that valerian root has. These are found mostly in common supplements that have valerian root extract as a base compound. 
Professional Recommendation for the Best Sleep with Valerian Root
How is Valerian Root Prepared and Taken?
The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking valerian 1 to 2 hours before going to bed for the treatment of insomnia, otherwise take it 3 times a day, with the 3rd dose taken near bedtime. The effects are not immediately felt and may take several weeks before they are observed. Mend is however typically active the first night you take it. This is due in large part to the synergistic effects of multiple anxiolytics, and clean melatonin and serotonin precursors. If you find yourself groggy in the morning after a night of taking Mend try reducing the dose from 2-3 capsules to 1-2 capsules, and take 1-2 hours prior to bedtime. Even though Mend is non drowsy, and can be used throughout the day to decrease anxiety and stress it can make you feel drowsy in the morning if you take too much or too late. This is because you fall into such a deep sleep that it can be tough to wake up from. This isn’t the case for everyone though, and most will just feel really well rested the next morning.
Valerian root extract can be taken as a tea, wherein boiling water is poured over the dried root. Premade tinctures may be taken as much as 1 and ½ teaspoon for each dose. A fluid extract is one of the common preparations and can be taken as much as 2 teaspoons per dose. The dry powdered extract is also available, and 1 dose is around 600 mg.
In managing anxiety, the recommended dose of valerian root is about 120 to 200 mg, and to be taken from 3 to 4 times per day. Once sleep has started to show improvement, the supplement should be taken for 4 to 6 weeks more and then cycled off occasionally for a few days to a week. This will help to diminish habituation.
A summary of scientific research recommends taking 400-900 mg of valerian extract up to 2 hours before bedtime daily for about a month as a treatment for insomnia. 120 mg of the extract can also be added with 80mg of lemon balm extract, taken 3 times daily also for a month. A common combination of valerian extract and hops exist in tablet form, with valerian extract amounting to 187 mg and hops extract amounting to 41.9 mg for each tablet. Two tablets can be taken at bedtime, nightly and for as long as 28 days to help with insomnia.  These should be taken no more than 2 hours and no less than 30 minutes before going to sleep.
Valerian Root Side Effects Are Minimal
As with other medications used for sleep and anxiety many side effects have been observed. No adverse effect has so far been linked to valerian root extract intake though. This supplement has so far been deemed likely safe for the majority of the population when used in medicinal amounts as short term treatments. There is no study available yet to provide an insight on the long term side effects of the use of this supplement.
Some of the minor side effects of valerian root extract that have been anecdotally reported are headaches, excitability, and uneasiness. Some of these are inconclusive and have been seen to be the same problems experienced by research subjects who were given a placebo instead of valerian extracts.
High doses of the extract can produce an effect of sluggishness in the morning. As such it is not advised to engage in tasks and activities that require optimum attention if you aren’t feeling fully alert. Reduced reaction time and decreased wakefulness can be hazardous when performing tasks that require focus.
While there is no available evidence to determine the risk of valerian root to fetuses or to infants among pregnant and nursing women, it is advised that these groups do not take valerian root without the supervision of a medical professional, or without proper medical advice. There is no formal study yet to show whether it is absolutely safe to take this supplement for these populations. Children below 3 years of age should not be given valerian root as there is no study that has determined the compound's effects.
Summary | The Benefits of Supplementing With Valerian Root to Decrease Anxiety and Improve Sleep
Valerian root has been around for quite a long time, and it has been used for sleep and anxiety for centuries. While most of the evidence to support its beneficial effects is anecdotal, most recent studies have attempted to come up with quantifiable evidence to support the use of valerian root extract for insomnia and anxiety.
Valerian root extract has been found to be possibly effective against insomnia, improving both sleep latency and the quality of sleep. Some research has suggested that this supplement does not relieve insomnia as fast as other trusted sleeping pills, but also doesn’t come with the same terrifying list of side effects. Valerian root when used with other natural anxiolytics can have profound effects on anxiety and sleep habits.
Noticeable effects take 2-4 weeks or more when using just valerian supplements. Valerian root is particularly effective in improving the quality of sleep for those who are trying to taper off their use of sleeping pills.
In terms of treating anxiety, plenty of studies have shown valerian to be effective, whereas some have shown it to be not effective. Specific groups in studies have been shown to have a positive effect, such as those mentioned earlier who are undergoing hysterosalpingography.
While there may be conflicting evidence, the use of valerian extract has been found to be effective in some studies and has been found to be generally safe. Reputable online references also provide guidelines on how best to take valerian root extract. Combine this with proper medical professional advice, and guidance, overall users of valerian root extracts only stand to gain from the use of this supplement, barring of course the appearance of unwanted side effects. Any side effects will likely be mild if apparent at all.
It is best to combine valerian root with other well-known supplements to increase efficacy and obtain the maximum effects and benefits that they offer. These supplements may be prepared at home or may be obtained as liquid preparations, tablets, or pills that are available in stores that specialize in herbal medications. The use should be within the recommended amount and should be taken within the proper context and under the guidance of those who have the proper credentials.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised not to take this supplement without proper medical advice. Children under the age of 3 should also not be given this supplement. Within these groups, no proper study has been made to look into the potential problems that valerian root might cause. Until such evidence has been found, health professionals should be consulted first.
Overall, in the general adult population, valerian root can be a useful natural remedy to address insomnia and anxiety. It is safe to use by the general population. We recommend 100-200mg daily for stress and anxiety reduction. Take 2-3 capsules of Mend at least 30 minutes prior to bed for the best sleep. If you find yourself groggy in the morning, reduce to 1-2 capsules 1-2 hours before bed. Some people are just more susceptible than others, so it is best to experiment for yourself.