Valerian Root And Heart Rate

Valerian Root is a herbal supplement historically used to treat insomnia, heart palpitations, and anxiety. It has sedative, anti-inflammatory, and calming properties, and there is some research to suggest it may have functions in other areas such as cardiovascular health and relieving muscle and joint pains.1,6

Only a very small number of studies have considered using valerian root to potentially reduce heart rate and blood pressure. It may be that valerian root is able to reduce heart rate by relieving anxiety, rather than having an effect on cardiovascular health. Overall, there is not enough research to confirm that valerian root has any effect on heart rate.

What is valerian root

Valerian root is a herb native to Europe and Asia and is used as a dietary supplement. It can be taken as a tablet or capsule, as well as a tea prepared from valerian root or valerian liquid extract. This supplement has been used historically for many years for the treatment of insomnia, dating as far back as ancient Rome. In more recent years, the uses for valerian root have grown.1 

Valerian root has multiple components that may contribute to how it works in the body. One major component, valerenic acid or valeric acid, may be linked to valerian root’s sedative properties.5,6

How does valerian root affect heart rate?

The first time valerian root was used to treat heart conditions was in the 19th century when valerian root began to be prescribed for heart palpitations.1 In recent years, there have been a small number of studies looking at the effects of valerian root on heart rate. In a study with 54 healthy volunteers taking either 600 mg valerian root or a placebo for 7 days, they found a significant reduction in blood pressure and heart rate in response to stress in the volunteers that had taken valerian root.6 As valerian root is a mild sedative, this may indicate why this herbal supplement is used to relieve stress and the side effects of stress, such as an increased heart rate. 

Valerian root: uses and side effects

Valerian root is most commonly used to treat insomnia, but there are other uses for it. Often, it is combined with other supplements to increase its effectiveness. Generally, the dosage of valerian root required is approximately 300-600 mg per day to relieve the symptoms of insomnia.1 

Valerian root may also be able to increase the levels of an important chemical messenger called GABA that operates in your brain to reduce excitability and slow your brain down. This may mean that valerian root can increase the sedative effects of other medications that also work by acting on GABA.5,6

Uses of valerian root

The two main uses of Valerian root are in the treatment of insomnia and anxiety. These two disorders are often linked. Limited studies have researched whether valerian root can also affect blood pressure and heart rate. 


Insomnia means difficulty falling or staying asleep, and is a problem that affects many people worldwide. Current insomnia treatment uses medication such as benzodiazepines to help individuals fall asleep. However, they have associated side effects, such as feeling sleepy in the mornings. Valerian root may be able to reduce these side effects, although when taken at high doses, some people have also reported feeling sleepy the morning after taking valerian root.6

Some studies support the use of valerian root as an effective sleep aid. In a summary of 18 randomised clinical studies that used valerian root for insomnia, valerian root was only found to have helped with insomnia to a moderate degree. The collective studies concluded that there may be other more successful treatments for insomnia than valerian root.7


Medications that treat anxiety and insomnia are called anxiolytics. Similarly to insomnia, benzodiazepines are also used to treat anxiety. There is some research to show that valerian root may be able to help with anxiety, although this is not conclusive.6

Muscle and joint pain

Valerian root is taken by some people to relieve muscle and joint pain, as well as reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps and post-menopausal symptoms. One study found that taking 530 mg pills of valerian root two times per day improved emotional stability and cramps associated with menstruation, as well as improved sleep quality.9

It is better to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen for muscle and joint pain, or take more natural measures, such as a hot compress, stretching, or taking a hot bath.

Heart rate and stress

Valerian root may be able to lower the heart rate. The exact way this works is not understood. It is thought that valerian root may help lower an increased heart rate or blood pressure by relieving stress or anxiety, rather than acting directly on the heart rate or the blood pressure itself.3

For now, general blood pressure medications such as beta-blockers, diuretics, and ACE inhibitors are much more effective, and are backed up by conclusive research to support their use in the treatment of cardiovascular issues, including reducing the heart rate and blood pressure.


Preparations of valerian root are often made with other calming herbs including lemon balm, passionflower and hops but there are many more combinations available.10 Valerian root may also be used alongside other medications to increase the effect of a treatment. Valerian root has been used with St. John’s Wort to increase its antidepressant effect and could be an effective treatment for depression with anxiety.8

Side effects of taking valerian root

As with all medications and supplements, there can be some side effects. Valerian root may interact with some medications and alter their metabolism in the body, meaning it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking valerian root.

Furthermore, it is thought that valerian root may increase the sedative effects of some medications. It may also increase the sedative effects of alcohol. Please do not take valerian root with any of the following:4

  • Antidepressants
  • Other sleep aids
  • Sedative drugs such as barbiturates or benzodiazepines
  • Alcohol
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Other soothing herbal remedies including lemon balm or chamomile10

Experiencing side effects of valerian root is rare, but the symptoms may include:1

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Gastrointestinal issues

If you experience any other side effects of Valerian root, please seek medical advice or speak to a healthcare professional immediately. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should avoid taking valerian root unless you are advised to do so by a doctor.


Valerian root is a safe herbal supplement for insomnia that can improve sleep length and quality. There is some research to suggest it may be effective to treat stress and anxiety. It may also be useful in reducing symptoms of the menstrual cycle or menopause. However, there is not much research to show that valerian root can reduce heart rate and blood pressure, but it may be able to reduce stress which then in turn causes a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure. Valerian root generally does not produce many side effects, but some patients have reported headaches, dizziness and gastrointestinal issues. Please discuss using valerian root with your healthcare practitioner before taking this supplement, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.


  1. National Institutes of Health. Valerian [Internet]; 2013. Available from: 
  2. Chen H, Wei B, He, X, Liu Y, Wang J. Chemical components and cardiovascular activities of Valeriana spp. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Vol 2015
  3. Cropley M, Cave Z, Ellis J, Middleton RW. Effect of kava and valerian on human physiological and psychological responses to mental stress assessed under laboratory conditions. Phytother Res. 2002;16:23-7
  4. St. Luke’s Hospital Possible Interactions with: Valerian [Internet]; 2007. Available from:
  5. Yuan C, Mehendale S, Xiao Y, Aung HH, Zie J, Ang-Lee MK. The gamma-aminobutyric acidergic effects of valerian and valerenic acid on rat brainstem neuronal activity. Anesth Analg 2004 98(2):353-358
  6. Hadley S, Petry JJ. Valerian. American Family Physician 2003; 67(3):1755-1758.
  7. Fernández-San-Martín M, Masa-Font R, Palacios-Soler, L, Sancho-Gómez P, Calbó-Caldentey, Flores-Mateo G. Effectiveness of Valerian on insomnia: A meta-analysis of randomized placebo controlled trials. Sleep Medicine 2010, 11(6): 505-511. 
  8. Muller D, Pfeil T, von den Driesch V. Treating depression comorbid with anxiety - results of an open, practice-oriented study with St. John's wort WS5572 and valerian extract in high doses Phytomedicine. 2003;10(S4):S25-S30
  9. Moghadam ZB, Gholami RS, Kheirkhah M, Haghani H. The effect of Valerian root extract on the severity of pre menstrual syndrome symptoms. J Tradit Complement Med 2016; 6(3):309-315.
  10. Mount Sinai. Valerian [Internet]; undated. Available from:,methysticum)%20to%20mask%20the%20scent. 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Laura Preece

BSc Pharmaceutical Sciences and MRes Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
I am a researcher and medical writer with a passion for pharmaceutics, disease and biological sciences. I am currently researching cellular and molecular biology, investigating the use of vitamin C as an adjunctive therapy for diabetes mellitus.

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