Valeriana officinalis L.

Last updated: 07 Feb 2017

Scientific Name

Valeriana officinalis L.


Valeriana alternifolia Bunge, Valeriana alternifolia var. angustifolia (Kom.) S.H.Li, Valeriana alternifolia f. angustifolia (Kom.) Kitag., Valeriana alternifolia f. veticillata (Kom.) S.X.Li, Valeriana baltica Pleijel, Valeriana chinensis Kreyer ex Kom., Valeriana coreana subsp. leiocarpa (Kitag.) Vorosch., Valeriana dubia Bunge, Valeriana exaltata J.C.Mikan, Valeriana leiocarpa Kitag., Valeriana nipponica Nakai ex Kitag., Valeriana officinalis var. alternifolia (Bunge) Ledeb., Valeriana officinalis var. angustifolia Miq., Valeriana officinalis subsp. baltica Á. Löve & D. Löve, Valeriana officinalis subsp. exaltata Soó, Valeriana officinalis var. latifolia Briq., Valeriana officinalis var. officinalis, Valeriana stubendorfii Kreyer ex Kom., Valeriana stubendorfii f. angustifolia Kom., Valeriana stubendorfii f. verticillata Kom., Valeriana subbipinnatifolia A.I. Baranov, Valeriana tianschanica Kreyer ex Hand-Mazz. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Valerian, [2] garden hellotrope, garden valerian, Greek valerian, [3] all-heal, common valerian, fragrant valerian. [4]

Geographical Distributions

Valeriana officinalis is native to Europe and western Asia. [2]

Botanical Description

V. officinalis is a member of Valeriacaeae family. [2] It is an erect herbaceous perennial plant that can grow up to 1-4 feet in height. [3]

The stems are stout and hairy especially at the nodes. [3]

The leaves are pinnately compound, opposite, 11-21 toothed, lance-shaped with occasional hairs on the underside. [3]

The flowers are pale pink or white, 5-parted, funnel shaped, branched clustered, and fragrant. [3]

The fruit is consists of a small capsules of lance-shaped that produce an abundance of powdery seeds. [3]

The root system has small rhizomes with fibrous roots. [3]


V. officinalis is occasionally cultivated in Australia and New Zealand. [2]

Chemical Constituent

The essential oil extracted from V. officinalis roots has been reported to contain isovaleric acid, valerenic acid, acetoxyvaleranone, (Z)-valernyl acetate, bornyl acetate, valerenol, bornyl acetate, valerenic acid, (Z)-valernyl acetate, and acetoxyvaleranone. [5]

The essential of V. officinalis has been reported to contain valerenal, valerenic acid, valeranone, and isougenyl-isovalerate. [6]

The essential oil of V. officinalis has been reported to contain valerenal, bornyl acetate, 15-acetoxy valeranone, valerenic acid, camphene, valerenal, (-)-bornyl acetate, α-humulene, camphene, 15-acetoxy valeranone, and valerenic acid. [7]

Plant Part Used

Roots. [4]

Traditional Use

V. officinalis is used to control apilepsy, to treat hysterical states, excitability, insomnia, hypochondriasis, migraine, restlessness, cramp, intestinal colic, irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatic pains, dysmenorrhoea, nervous excitability, high blood pressure, asthma, shoulder and neck tension. [4]

Preclinical Data


Antimicrobial activity

V. officinalis has been demonstrated antimicrobial activity against Aspergillus nigerEscherichia coliStaphylococcus aureus, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. [7]

Central nervous system activity

Aqueous extract of V. officinalis root extract has been demonstrated to exhibit brain activity on the uptake and release of GABA insynaptosomes isolated from rat brain cortex.  Aqueous extract of V. officinalis inhibited the uptake and stimulated the release of [3H]GABA, either in the absence or in the presence of K+ depolarization. [8]

Antispasmodic activity

V. officinalis essential oil decreased potassium-induced spasm in guinea pig ileum, in vivo. The chemical constituent valeranone inhibited contractions. [9]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

Cardiovascular activity

Essential oil of V. officinalis has been studied clinically to test the effect of cardiovascular activity in 82 patients with CHD. The study design treated two groups: one with V. officinalis oil and the other with a salvia miltiorrhiza treatment. Both groups demonstrated significant improvements but the V. officinalis group demonstrated greater improvements in decreasing the attack frequency and shortening the duration of angina, among other parameters. [10]

Sedative activity

V. officinalis root has been studied for its sedative effects and ability to improve sleep quality without the side effects commonly associated with conventional sedatives in double blind study.  When compared with placebo it showed a good and significant effect on poor sleep (p less than 0.001). Forty-four percent reported perfect sleep and 89% reported improved sleep from the preparation. [11]

Aqueous extract of V. officinalis roots has been demonstrated to improve sleep quality in 128 peoples. Result obtained show that V. officinalis produced a significant decrease in subjectively evaluated sleep latency scores and a significant improvement in sleep quality. [12]

Aqueous extract of V. officinalis root has an effect on sleep in two groups of healthy, young subject which is one group sleep at home whereas the other group sleep in the laboratory. Under home conditions, both doses of V. officinalis extract (450 and 900 mg) reduced perceived sleep latency and wake time after sleep onset. Night-time motor activity was enhanced in the middle third of the night and reduced in the last third. The data suggest a dose-dependent effect. In the sleep laboratory, where only the higher dose of V. officinalis was tested, no significant differences from placebo were obtained. [13]

Psychomotor activity

V. officinalis extract has been studied whether it has altered mood and/or impaired psychomotor or cognitive performance in young healthy volunteers. The effects of V. officinalis extract (600, 1200, and 1800 mg) and 10 mg diazepam (positive control) compared to placebo in 10 young healthy volunteers was examined. The V. officinalis extract had no significant effects on any of the dependent measures. Diazepam, though, produced subjective effects as measured by four different rating scales, and impaired psychomotor or cognitive performance. The data suggest that acute administration of V. officinalis does not have mood-altering or psychomotor or cognitive effects in young healthy volunteers. [14]

V. officinalis extract tested in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, four-way crossover study of nine healthy subjects did not showed to alter mood or impair psychomotor and cognitive performance. [15]


V. officinalis is considered safe when used in accordance with proper dosing guidelines. If taking this herb to enhance sleep, doctors recommend to reduce the dosage if morning sleepiness occurs. This dietary supplement may cause drowsiness. [16] Use caution when driving and performing tasks that require alertness. [17]

This dietary supplement may increase the effects of alcohol. [18]

In a human study, it was noted that ingestion of V. officinalis oil did not have any negative side effects on the liver or kidneys. [10]

Side effects

No documentation.

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

No documentation.

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

No documentation.

Interaction & Depletion

Interaction with drug

An animal study reported that V. officinalis may increase the sedative effect of some of these medications, which may alter the effects of these medications and possibly the dose needed for treatment. These drugs include phenobarbital, pentobarbital, mephobarbital, amobarbital, secobarbital, butabarbital, thiopental, and methohexital. Use with caution. [19]

Studies report that V. officinalis may cause sedation, which may enhance the effects of these medications and possibly the dose needed for treatment. These drugs include acetylcarbromal, alprazolam, amobarbital, buspirone, butabarbital, chloral hydrate, clorazepate dipotassium, chlordiazepoxide, dexmedetomidine, diazepam, doxepin, estazolam, fluoxetine, flurazepam, fluvoxamine, glutethimide, hydroxyzine, lorazepam, meprobamate, mephobarbital, oxazepam, paraldehyde, paroxetine, pentobarbital, phenobarbital, quazepam, secobarbital, sertraline, temazepam, triazolam, amitriptyline, amoxapine, clomipramine, desipramine, doxepin, imipramine, nortriptyline, trimipramine, maprotiline, mirtazapine, trazodone, bupropion, venlafaxine, nefazodone, citalopram, protriptyline, phenelzine, tranylcypromine, isocarboxazid, zaleplon, zolpidem. Use with caution. [8][20][21]

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation.


No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Valeriana officinalis L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2017 Feb 07]. Available from:
  2. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research. Compendium of medicinal plants used in Malaysia. Volume 2. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC IMR, 2002; p. 413.
  3. USDA Forest, Service Health Staff. Garden valeriana (Valeriana officinalis L.). Newtown Square, PA. Available from:
  4. Lis-Balchan M. Aromatherapy science: A guide for healthcare professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 2006; p. 330-334.
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  6. Hendriks H, Bos R, Allersma DP, Malingre ThM, Koster ASj. Pharmacological screening of valerenal and some other components of essential oil of Valeriana officinalis. Planta Med. 1981;42(5):62-68.
  7. Letchamo W, Ward W, Heard B, Heard D. Essential oil of Valeriana officinalis L. cultivars and their antimicrobial activity as influenced by harvesting time under commercial organic cultivation. J Agric Food Chem. 2004;52(12):3915-3919.
  8. Santos MS, Ferreira F, Cunha AP, Carvalho AP, Ribeiro CF, Macedo T. Synaptosomal GABA release as influenced by valerian root extract – involvement of the BAGA carrier. Arch Int Pharmacodyn Ther. 1994;327(2):220-231.
  9. Hazelhoff B, Malingré TM, Meijer DK. Antiplasmodic effects of valeriana compounds: An in-vivo and in-vitro study on the guinea-piq ileum. Arch Int Pharmacodyn Ther. 1982;257(2):274-287.
  10. Yang GY, Wang W. Clinical studies on the treatment of coronary heart disease with Valeriana officinalis var latifolia. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi He Za Zhi. 1994;14(9):540-542. Chinese.
  11. Lindahi O, Lindwall L. Double blind study of a valerian preparation. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1989;32(4):1065-1066.
  12. Leathwood PD, Chauffard F, Heck E, Munoz-Box R. Aqueous extract of valerian root (Valeriana officinalis L.) improves sleep quality in man. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1982;17(1):65-71.
  13. Balderer G, Borbély AA. Effect of valerian on human sleep. Psychopharmacology (Berl.). 1985;87(4):406-409.
  14. Gultierrez S, Ang-Lee MK, Walker DJ, Zacny JP. Assessing subjective and psychomotor effects of the herbal medication valerian in healthy volunteers. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2004;78(1):57-64.
  15. Hallam KT, Olver JS, McGrath C, Norman TR. Comparative cognitive and psychomotor effects of single doses of Valeriana officinalis and triazolam in healthy volunteers. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2003;18(8):619-625.
  16. Donath F, Quispe S, Diefenbach K, Maurer A, Fietze I, Roots I. Critical evaluation of the effect of valerian extract on sleep structure and sleep quality. Pharmacopsychiatry. 2000;33(2):47-53.
  17. Upton R. Valerian root: Valeriana officinalis: Analytical, quality control, and therapeutic monograph. Santa Cruz, California: American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, 1999.
  18. Barnes J, Anderson LA, Philipson JD. Herbal medicines: A guide for healthcare professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 2002.
  19. Hendriks H, Bos R, Woerdenbag HJ, Koster AS. Central nervous depressant activity of valerenic acid in the mouse. Planta Med. 1985;51(1):28-31.
  20. Houghton PJ. The biological activity of valerian and related plants. J Ethnopharmacol. 1988;22(2):121-142.
  21. Houghton PJ. The scientific basis for the reputed activity of Valerian. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1999;51(5):505-512.