What is Valerian Essential Oil?
Valerian essential oil is the volatile extract obtained by steam distillation of roots and rhizomes of the herb Valeriana officinalis L.
Its color is amber to brown, and gets darker with age. The aroma of valerian oil is bitter, earthy, warm and woody with balsamic undertones.
The essential oil of valerian blends well with: frankincense, black pepper, pine, sweet orange, lemon, mandarin, neroli, melissa, rosemary, lavender, marjoram, patchouli, spikenard, vetiver, cedarwood, sandalwood and rosewood essential oil.
About Valeriana officinalis L.
Valeriana officinalis L. (valerian) is a well-known and frequently used medicinal plant, which has a long proven history of efficacy.
Valerian is a perennial plant belonging to Valerianaceae family, which grows up to 1.5 meters in height. It has a white-pink flowers and its leaves are pointed and toothed. The grey-yellow rhizome, from which is extracted the essential oil, is covered with long and thick roots.
Although known as European valerian, this plant is native to, and grows wild, in Asia and is closely related to Spikenard.
Nowadays, the herb is cultivated as a medicinal plant on a commercial scale in the northern parts of Europe and America.
Valeriana officinalis has been shown to encourage sleep, improve sleep quality, and reduce blood pressure.
The root of valerian has sedative, mild anodyne, hypnotic, antispasmodic, carminative, and hypotensive properties and traditionally, it has been used for hysterical states, excitability, insomnia, hypochondriasis, migraine, cramp, intestinal colic and rheumatic pains, among others.
Modern interest in valerian preparations is focused on their use as a sedative and hypnotic, since valerian root extracts are often used as a milder alternative or a possible substitute for stronger synthetic sedatives in the treatment of states of nervous excitation, and anxiety-induced sleep disturbances.
Dried roots of valerian attract rats and cats, it can be used as a bait to lure them away from other areas.
The sedative activity of valerian root has been attributed to both the essential oil and iridoid valepotriate fractions.
The name Valerian is derived from a Latin adjectival form of the personal name “Valerius”, which comes from Latin verb “valere” that means “being well”, “Feeling good” and “having a good morale”, related to the medicinal benefits of this plant.
The composition of valerian oil significantly varied due to the cultivar type, plant age, and/or harvesting time. In addition, with further aging of the plants, the valerenal, valerenic acid, and α-humulene contents increase.
However, there are certain main recurring compounds in valerian oil, among these components are:
- Esters (Bonyl acetate)
- Ketones (valeranone)
- Alcohols (Valerianol)
- Aldehydes (Valeranal)
Properties of Valerian Essential Oil
Valerian oil is antispasmodic, bactericidal, mild analgesic, antimicrobial, antioxidant, hypotensive, hypothermisant, carminative, and a potent nervine-sedative agent.
In addition, it has relaxing properties that support tension and anxiety states, either psychological or physical.
The essential oil of valerian, also has antidepressant, antitumor (against adenosine A1 receptors), and cytotoxicity activity, and possesses certain positive effects for cardiovascular disease treatment.
Uses of Valerian Essential Oil
In manufacturing, the extracts and oil obtained from valerian are used as flavoring in foods and beverages. Normally, it is used in the elaboration of products such as ice cream, baked goods, condiments, etc.
Valerian oil is also an important ingredient in perfumery and soaps fabrication, due to its musky balsamic and pleasant aroma.
Regarding to its therapeutics uses these include:
- Lowes blood pressure.
- Eases colic, stomach upset and nervous indigestion.
- Relieves cramp and spasm.
- Fight insomnia, sleeping disorders, neurasthenia and restlessness.
- Relieves menopausal symptoms, and menstrual and premenstrual disorders.
- Alleviates headache and migraine.
- Calms anxiety and nervous tension.
- Fight chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
- Helps to treat depression symptoms.
- Soothes tachycardia, slows down respiration and motor activity.
- Eases mild tremors.
- Alleviates muscle and joint pain.
- Supports treatments of epilepsy (convulsions) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Powerful natural sedative and tranquilizer.
Emotionally and energetically, it promotes relaxation by stabilizing, supporting and grounding the senses. Besides, valerian oil enhances emotional equilibrium and purifies the mind improving concentration. It is great as a meditative aid, as has the ability to induce deep tranquility of mind.
Benefits of Valerian Essential Oil
According to a 2015 review article called: “Chemical Components and Cardiovascular Activities of Valeriana spp.“, valerian essential oil possesses a wide range of bio activities, which mainly affect the cardiovascular system.
Some of them include:
- Reduction in blood pressure.
- Level and heart rate.
- Antimyocardial ischemia reperfusion injury.
- Antiarrhythmia, regulation of blood lipid levels.
Anxiolytic and sedative effect
Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), is a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter that inhibits nervous system activity, producing a relaxation effect.
The oil of valerian root has been shown to increase GABA levels in the brain. This can help with feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear, and may also help to prevent seizures.
In addition, valerian essential oils are reported for their sedative and anxiolytic activity, whereas valepotriates are known to exert a regulatory effect on the autonomic nervous system (Hendriks et al., 1981).
The oil of valerian acts more as a nervous system depressant than as a muscle relaxant to cause its sedative effect (Hattesohl et al., 2008).
The use of valerian as an anxiolytic is experimental, but its use as a hypnotic is better supported.
In Germany, for example, Commission E has approved valerian as a naturopathic supplement to treat sleep disorders, and research evidence from numerous studies with adults supports its effectiveness. However, scarce studies have been done with children or adolescents.
A systematic review of randomized clinical trials, some of which were placebo controlled, revealed that valerian extracts (such as essential oil) are an effective treatment for insomnia. Besides, repeated short-term use reduced sleep latency, improved quality of sleep, and promoted sleep maintenance (Stevenson & Ernst, 2000).
Another meta-analysis examined 16 studies that researched the use of valerian with a total of 1093 patients, and found similar results, although a wide range of dosages were evident, making it difficult to form recommendations about effective doses (Bent et al., 2006).
Other studies have reported similar results. In a multicenter, placebo-controlled study of 121 patients, Vorbach et al. (1996) found that about two-thirds of the patients reported significant improvement on valerian, while less than one-third improved on placebo.
Positive effects of using valerian have also been reported to be related to a change in sleep architecture, including decreased time in Stages 1 and 2 of sleep, and increased duration of REM sleep (Schulz et al., 1994).
Warnings and Precautions When Using Valerian Essential Oil
The essential oil of valerian is non-toxic, non-irritating and is classified as GRAS (generally regarded as safe). However, it may be sensitizing if used for long time.
It is highly recommended to blend valerian essential oil in low doses. Excessive or large doses may become stupefying and overpowering.
Patients with open wounds, skin conditions, high fever, severe infections and severe heart and circulation problems should not have therapeutic baths with valerian essential oil.
Due to its sedative effects, consuming large amounts of valerian along with alcohol might cause sleepiness and drowsiness.
Sedative medications such as Benzodiazepines and CNS depressants also might interacts with valerian oil. Likewise, sedative medications used in surgery might cause prolonged sedation.
Some other sedative medications include alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), midazolam (Versed), temazepam (Restoril), triazolam (Halcion), pentobarbital (Nembutal), phenobarbital (Luminal), secobarbital (Seconal), thiopental (Pentothal), fentanyl (Duragesic, Sublimaze), morphine, propofol (Diprivan), and others.
Interactions are also possible with anticonvulsants (medicine to treat seizures) such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and valproic acid (Depakote). In addition, valerian oil can also interact with antihistamines (drugs for seasonal allergies).
The use of valerian oil or other valerian extracts during pregnancy can reduce the effect of dietary supplements like kava, melatonin, skullcap, sage, catnip, calamus, St. John’s wort and others. On the other hand, it may over-increase sleepiness.
It is important to consider that there is not enough research available on the safety of valerian oil when using on pregnancy or breastfeeding. Therefore, it is advisable to obtain advice from a certified aromatherapist.
Where to Buy Valerian Essential Oil?
Usually, good quality and therapeutic grade oils, that is, 100% pure and not mixed with other substances, can be found in specialized natural herb stores.
If you can not reach a trusted naturist or herbalist shop near you, here are some recommendations:
Valerian Essential Oil from StarWest Botanicals:
Our 100% Pure Essential Oils are extracted from the root, bark, wood, seed, fruit, leaf, or flower of a freshly harvested plant.
We source only the finest quality essential oils from highly regarded suppliers and distillers from around the world, many with whom we’ve worked with for decades.
Our essential oils retain the essential odor, aroma, taste, medicinal, and therapeutic properties of the plant, resulting in a superior quality and highly concentrated essence. Shop here.
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Tips for a better performance and duration of your oils:
- Store them in a dark glass bottle, never plastic, not even when blended with a carrier oil.
- Keep them in cool, dark places, away from sources of heat and light.
- Maintain the container that holds it tightly closed, since they are very volatile and also, their properties would be lost or modified.