Known interactions

Acanthopanax senticosus, Achillea, Achillea millefolium, African Pepper, Ague Tree, Alant, AllerMax, Amber Touch-and-Heal, Ambien, American Scullcap, Amobarbital, Amytal, Anthemis nobilis, Antispasmodic Elixer, Apricot Vine, Ass Ear, Atropine, Hyoscyamine, Phenobarbital, and Scopolamine Elixir, Atropine, Hyoscyamine, Phenobarbital, and Scopolamine Oral, Awa, Baikal Scullcap, Baikal Skullcap Root, Balm Mint, Banophen, Banophen Allergy Elixir, Bee Bread, Bellacane SR, Belladonna Alkaloids, Ergotamine, and Phenobarbital Tablets, Bellaspas, Bellergal-S, Benadryl, Benadryl Injection, Benadryl Liquid, Benadryl Topical, Bird Pepper, Black Root, Blackwort, Bloodwort, Blue Pimpernel, Borage, Borago officinalis, Bramhi, Bruisewort, Bugloss, Butabarbital, Butabarbital Oral Elixir, Butisol, Butisol Elixir, Calendula, Calendula officinalis, Capsicum, Capsicum annuum, Capsicum frutescens, Catmint, Catnep, Catnip, Catrup, Catswort, Centella asiatica, Chamomile, Chaparral, Chili Pepper, Ci Wu Jia, Cinnamon Wood, Comfrey, Common Borage, Common Bugloss, Common Comfrey, Common Scullcap, Consolidae Radix, Consound, Corona de Cristo, Creosote bush, Dalmane, Dehydroepiandrosterone, Devil's Bush, Devil's Leaf, DHEA, Diphen AF Liquid, Diphenhist, Diphenhydramine Injection, Diphenhydramine Liquid, Diphenhydramine Oral, Diphenhydramine Topical, Donnatal, Donnatal Elixir, Doral, Doxylamine, Elecampane, Eleuthero, Eleutherococcus senticosus, Elf Dock, Elfwort, Estazolam, Eyebalm, Field Balm, Field Wort, Flurazepam, Folergot-DF, Garden Marigold, Genahist, Genahist Liquid, Genuine chamomile, German Chamomile, GL701, Goat's Pod, Gold Bloom, Golden Marigold, Goldenseal, Gotu Kola, Granadilla, Greaswood, Green Arrow, Ground Raspberry, Gum Plant, Halcion, Hardhay, Healing Herb, Hediondilla, Helmet Flower, Holligold, Hoodwort, Hops, Horse-elder, Horseheal, Houblon, Huang Qin, Humulus lupulus, Hungarian chamomile, Hwanggum, Hydrocotyle asiatica, Hyosophen Elixer, Hypericum, Hypericum perforatum, Indian Pennywort, Inula helenium, Kava, Kava-Kava, Kawa, Kew, Klamath Weed, Knitback, Knitbone, L-tryptophan, Larrea divaricata, Larrea glutinosa, Larrea tridentata, Lemon Balm, Leonurus cardiaca, Lion's Ear, Lion's Tail, Luminal Sodium, Lupulin, Mad-Dog Weed, Marsh Penny, Marybud, Matricaria chamomilla, Maypop, MEL, Mebaral, Melatonin, Melissa, Melissa officinalis, Mephobarbital, Mexican Chillies, Midazolam Injection, Midazolam Syrup, Milfoil, Millepertuis, MLT, Motherwort, N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, Nembutal Elixir, Nembutal Injection, Nembutal Oral, Nembutal Sodium, Nepeta cataria, Nettle, Nettle Tops, Nosebleed Plant, Ogon, Orangeroot, Ox's Tongue, Paprika, Passiflora incarnata, Passion Flower, Passion Vine, Pentobarbital Injection, Pentobarbital Elixir, Pentobarbital Oral, Pentobarbital Suppositories, Phenerbel-S, Phenobarbital, Phenobarbital Elixir, Phenobarbital Injection, Piper methysticum, Pot Marigold, Prasterone, ProSom, Pushkarmoola, Quaker Bonnet, Quazapam, Red Pepper, Restoril, Roman Chamomile, Roman Nettle, Rosin Rose, Russian Root, Saloop, Salsify, Sarisol No.2, Sassafras, Sassafras albidum, Sassafras officinale, Saxifras, Scabwort, Scullcap, Scute, Scutellaria baicalensis, Scutellaria lateriflora, Secobarbital, Seconal, Shigoka, Siberian Ginseng, Siladryl Elixir, SJW, Skullcap, Slippery Root, Solfoton, Sonata, Spastrin, St. John's Wort, Starflower, Staunch Weed, Stinging Nettle, Stinkweed, Sweet Balm, Symphytum officinale, Symphytum Radix, Tabasco Pepper, Taiga, Temazepam, Thorny Pepperbush, Thousand-Leaf, Throw-wort, Tipton Weed, Tonga, Touch-Me-Not, Triazolam, Tryptophan, Tusstat Syrup, Unisom, Urtica species, Velvet Dock, Versed, Versed Syrup, Wallwort, Water Lemon, Wild Pepper, Wild Sunflower, Wogon, Wound Wort, Yagona, Yarrow, Yarroway, Yellow Starwort, Yellowroot, Zaleplon, Zanzibar Pepper, Zolpidem, Food and alcohol.

Description of Garden Heliotrope

Scientific Name: Valerian

Other Names: Baldarian, Garden Heliotrope, Valeriana officinalis, Valeriana sambucifolia, Valeriana wallichi, Valeriane

Who is this for?

Known for its calming effect, valerian is used orally for insomnia and associated conditions such as anxiety-induced headache, nervousness or "nervous" stomach. It is believed that valerian works in ways similar to the prescription drugs in the benzodiazepine class by increasing the body's supply of a neurotransmitter known as gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry messages from nerve cells to other cells. One of GABA's effects is to regulate nerve cells so they do not activate too often. Both valerian and benzodiazepine drugs may increase GABA production, decrease its re-absorption, and/or interfere with its break down. Unlike benzodiazepines, though, valerian may not have as much residual "hangover" effect on physical or mental functioning.

Several small studies involving humans have been conducted to test the effectiveness of valerian compared to placebo (sugar pills) and to prescription and non-prescription sleep aids. Most of the results show that valerian has some value for both insomnia and anxiety. However, these studies had very small sample sizes; they used many different doses of valerian; and they varied widely in both the length of time valerian was taken and the methods utilized to determine the results.

Although valerian is not usually applied topically, it may occasionally be added to bath water. Inhaling the vapor from the warm water is thought to help relieve nervousness and induce sleepiness. Similarly, shredded valerian root may be put into simmering water so the steam can be inhaled as a relaxant.

When should I be careful taking it?

Even though no reports of harm to a developing fetus or an infant have been linked to the use of valerian by pregnant or lactating women, laboratory studies have shown that it has some mutating effects on cells. Therefore, it should be avoided during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

What side effects should I watch for?

Extremely rare cases of liver damage have been associated with taking valerian, although the exact cause of the damage is unknown. Contaminants or substances other than valerian may have been involved. Liver damage can take years to develop. If you take valerian, inform your doctor so that your liver function can be monitored periodically. Notify your doctor immediately if you experience:

  • Excessive fatigue
  • Extreme widespread itchiness
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Pain or swelling in the upper right part of the abdomen
  • Yellowing of the skin or the white parts of the eyes

Case reports of valerian overdoses in up to 20 times the recommended dose have shown reversible effects such as:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Chest tightness
  • Inability to control muscles
  • Very low body temperature

Less Severe Side Effects

The more common side effects of valerian generally are mild and temporary. They may include:

  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Excitability
  • Headache
  • Insomnia

In a few instance, taking valerian has also been associated with:

  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach upset
  • Vivid dreams

What interactions should I watch for?

Prescription Drugs

When valerian is used with prescription drugs that promote sleepiness, the effects of the drug may be exaggerated, resulting in daytime drowsiness or mental confusion. Prescription drugs that can cause sleepiness include:

  • Anticonvulsants such as carbamazepine (Tegretol), phenytoin (Dilantin) and valproic acid (Depakote)
  • Barbiturates such as phenobarbital
  • Benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax), lorazepam (Ativan), and diazepam (Valium)
  • Drugs for insomnia such as zaleplon (Sonata) and zolpidem (Ambien)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline, amoxapine, doxepin, and nortriptyline

Because it is broken down by certain enzymes in the liver, valerian may possibly interfere with the use of prescription drugs that are processed by the same enzymes. Some of these drugs are:

  • Allergy drugs such as fexofenadine (Allegra)
  • Antifungal drugs such as itraconazole and ketoconazole
  • Cancer drugs such as etoposide, paclitaxel, vinblastine or vincristine
  • Drugs for high cholesterol such as lovastatin

Non-prescription Drugs

The sleep-producing effects of over-the-counter products like diphenhydramine can be enhanced by taking valerian at the same time. Diphenhydramine is contained in many over-the-counter sleep aids as well as in some cough and cold products, therefore caution should be used when taking these medications with valerian because excessive drowsiness may result.

Herbal Products

Valerian may cause excessive sedation if taken with other sedating herbs such as:

  • Catnip
  • Hops
  • Kava
  • St. John's wort


No interactions between valerian and foods have been reported, but drinking alcohol at the same time as using valerian internally may result in increased drowsiness.

Some interactions between herbal products and medications can be more severe than others. The best way for you to avoid harmful interactions is to tell your doctor and/or pharmacist what medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter products, vitamins, and herbals.

Should I take it?

Native to Europe, valerian is a perennial plant that can grow up to 4 feet tall. It has straight hollow stems and white or reddish, trumpet-shaped flowers that bloom in the summer. Most of the valerian used in herbal preparations is cultivated on farms, but it also grows wild in sunny, wooded areas. Related species grow in Africa, Asia, and North America.

The roots of valerian are used in medicine. Fresh roots have little or no smell, but the dried roots of valerian have a distinctive, sharp smell that has been described as similar to dirty socks. Fresh roots and flowers have been used in flavorings and perfumes.

Valerian's medicinal effects were described by Greek physicians as long as 1500 years ago. At various times since then, it has been used for complaints as diverse as depression, digestive conditions, headaches, and learning/behavior problems in children. None of these uses have been proved in clinical studies, however. Until drugs with more effectiveness were discovered, valerian was used most widely for sleep disorders and nervousness. With the introduction of prescription sedatives in the 1960s and 70s, valerian lost general popularity. In the last several years, valerian use has been regaining favor — especially among Europeans and Americans.

Dosage and Administration

Note: Different batches of valerian may differ considerably in strength and in the amounts of contamination with material from similar-looking plants that grow in the same areas as valerian.

Today, dried valerian is most often sold in combination herbal products because its smell is considered to be unpleasant. To make it more acceptable and also to enhance its sleep-producing effect, valerian is often mixed with a sweet herb such as catnip or peppermint that may also have some sedative effect. Valerian is also available as a single herb in a number of oral forms including capsules, liquids, tablets, and powders for tea. The liquid forms may be mixed into beverages or foods to mask the smell as well as valerian's bitter taste. If you decide to use valerian, follow the directions on the package of the product that you purchase.

In studies of valerian's effectiveness in treating insomnia, 400 mg to 900 mg of valerian were taken once a day, usually one to 2 hours before bedtime because it can take up to 2 hours to produce sleepiness. In addition, valerian may not reach full effectiveness until it has been taken regularly for several weeks.

For anxiety, general recommendations are that valerian doses of 200 mg to 400 mg may be taken up to four times a day.


Supported by some evidence from clinical studies, valerian is now promoted mainly for its sedative and soothing effects.


Rare instances of liver damage have been attributed to the use of valerian. If you are taking valerian, you should report jaundice, abdominal tenderness, or other signs of possible liver injury to your doctor immediately.

Ingesting large amounts of valerian may result in cramps, temporary loss of muscle control and very low body temperature.

Side Effects

In recommended doses, valerian could cause some residual drowsiness and intense dreams. For some people, it may produce a contradictory stimulating effect, which may even include insomnia, instead of relaxation.


Because it promotes sleepiness, valerian can increase the sedation associated with certain prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, other dietary supplements, and alcohol. Be careful when using it at the same time as you are taking drugs for anxiety, colds and coughs, epilepsy, or insomnia. Many other medications cause drowsiness, so check with your doctor before taking valerian with any prescription, non-prescription, or herbal product.

Valerian can also interfere with the way the body breaks down drugs in the liver. You should discuss your other medications with your doctor or pharmacist before you begin to take valerian.


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(Note: The above information is not intended to replace the advice of your physician, pharmacist, or other healthcare professional. It is not meant to indicate that the use of the product is safe, appropriate, or effective for you.)

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